German cities and towns have been told they can ban diesel cars to protect the health of their citizens.
The country’s Federal Administrative Court upheld a lower court’s decision that local authorities can act when air pollution massively exceeds allowable levels.
Stuttgart and Dusseldorf previously said they wanted to ban diesels, but they were challenged by other local authorities who wanted Germany’s national government to bring in laws first.
Stuttgart has said it intends to stop vehicles that have a lower rating than Euro 6 using its streets from 1 September, 2019.
The court in Germany ruled that cities that implement a ban would not need to compensate drivers for being unable to use their diesel vehicles.
Other German states, cities and communities will be now also be able to bring in similar bans to that being implemented in Stuttgart without needing the permission of Germany’s federal government.
ClientEarth’s lead clean air lawyer Ugo Taddei said: “The win is a tremendous result for people’s health in Germany and may have an impact even further afield.”
The mayor of Munich said he may use the powers as his city was one of 70 in Germany which failed its air quality targets in 2017.
The Federal government said it remained committed to preventing any bans being brought into force.
Environment minister Barbara Hendricks said: “My goal is and remains that driving bans should never have to come into force, because we can manage to keep the air clean in other ways.”
Stuttgart said it needed to bring in a ban because it had experienced the worst for air pollution in Germany for nearly a decade.
Car industry manufacturers such as Daimler are located in the area.
Concerns over air pollution have intensified since 2015 when Volkswagen was exposed to have been designing engines that tricked the emissions testing system – a scandal known as dieselgate.
German motor manufacturers’ representative body the VDA said “new paths” were being taken after the scandal and urged local authorities not to ‘confuse drivers’.
Most areas of Germany recorded average of nitrogen dioxide levels that were above EU thresholds in 2017.
A number of other cities around Europe, including Athens and Copenhagen, have said they intend to ban diesel cars by 2025.
In the UK, London mayor Sadiq Khan introduced the T-charge last November for those vehicles which do not reach the standard of the Euro 4/IV.
The UK Government confirmed in its recent 25-year environment plan it would ban the sale of new diesel and petrol cars from 2040.
Budapest prepares for Pride but for many LGBT+ people it is a worrying time to be in Hungary | World News
As she walks down the street to greet us, Dora Duro raises a hand of greeting.
She is quiet and friendly, a mother of four young children who jokes about the challenges of balancing childcare and work.
We talk about Hungary’s football team, of her efforts to speak English, and then the conversation swings to an altogether more contentious subject.
Mrs Duro has become a leading figure in Hungary’s far-right political movement, synonymous with her mistrust of the country’s LGBT+ community.
As we speak, Budapest is about to hold its Pride celebration (which she thinks should be cut back) and the country is digesting new laws designed to curtail so-called “homosexual propaganda”.
And while many, including European leaders, have berated those laws as profoundly offensive, Mrs Duro thinks they’re the least the country needs.
It was she who publicly destroyed a copy of a book, called Fairytale Land Is For Everyone, because it included gay and transgender characters.
She has long pursued a change to the law that would restrict education about LGBT+ in schools, or promotion of LGBT+ characters on TV or in adverts.
And now, that has happened – the very law she proposed has been enacted by Hungary’s populist prime minister, Viktor Orban.
Except she thinks it should have gone further, with tougher punishment on “gay activists”.
So why, I ask her, does she have such disdain for LGBT+ people?
She tells me that, while she accepts some people (“an extremely small part”) are “born as a homosexual”, she thinks that it generally comes down to lifestyle, which is why she sees the fairytale book as a nefarious piece of “homosexual propaganda”.
“It is very important how we influence the children, how we lead them to a way of lifestyle, how to live their life,” she tells me.
“These kinds of publications, or these kinds of events, obviously stimulate them to start to live this kind of lifestyle, to choose this life. We think this is a wrong way.
“No one has the right to falsify our fairy tales, to try to occupy Hungary, to settle here (as) migrants, and to make changes to our traditional social structure which is based on Christian family model, and which maintained our-thousand-year-old Hungarian statehood, and allowed the Hungarian people to survive.”
For many people, these views will be unpalatable – redolent of a homophobic streak that has largely disappeared from societies in Britain and much of Europe.
But in Eastern Europe, notably in Hungary but also in Poland and the Czech Republic (all of them member states of the European Union), there is a growing animosity towards the LGBT+ community.
In Hungary, that has manifested itself in the new laws. A referendum is planned for next year on “child protection” issues, with such leading questions as: “Do you support minors being shown, without any restriction, media content of a sexual nature that is capable of influencing their development?”
But is Mr Orban really so fearful of the progress of LGBT+ rights? Perhaps not.
His time as prime minister has in fact been peppered by battles – about migrants, or the Roma people, and always against what he sees as the pervasive rise of liberal values.
Next year, he faces another election and it’s apparent that the bedrock of his support lies beyond the country’s biggest cities and in its more rural, and sometimes less educated, areas.
And it is there where his anti-LGBT+ ideas have chimed loudest, and also where there is the greatest mistrust of the EU, which the prime minister portrays as a nest of interfering, expansionist liberal do-gooders.
Put simply, Mr Orban appears to see a sort of vote-winning virtuous circle – he castigates and vilifies the LGBT+ community, and gains more support from his loyal voters. Then he gets berated by Brussels politicians, which further endears him to his supporters.
And so it is against this backdrop that Budapest will start its annual Pride event. It will, of course, be loud, cheery and raucous. But amid the party will be a protest, tinged with great nervousness.
Among those there will be Emmett Hegedus, a transgender man who told me he is now angry and uncertain.
“Every time there is a new law, I think that it can’t get worse, but they always do.
“I’m afraid because, around the world, there are 70 countries that don’t want me to exist and I hope that we will not end up like that in Hungary.
“I really hope that it’s not going to get worse. But – deeply – I feel like I should run for my life out of here because it will get worse.”
Tokyo Olympics: Opening ceremony was ‘respectful, hopeful but sombre night’ | World News
Olympic opening ceremonies are something of a unique art form. Playing to a global audience but with the host nation wanting to make the night their own.
Japan chose sombre. It was a respectful, hopeful but above all sombre night. They didn’t want to show off when everyone has lived through such hardship – and while so many people continue to do so.
Their display using 1,824 flying drones combining like a swarm of giant worker bees to create a giant globe stood out.
So too Japanese tennis superstar Naomi Osaka who was given the honour of firing up the hydrogen-fuelled Olympic cauldron.
But it was their courteous bow towards the pain of the pandemic that defined the evening.
Video montages of empty cities during lockdowns, and athletes cobbling together training regimes in their back gardens – it all made for an understated opening ceremony.
Outside, the protests in the streets continued among those still vehemently against the Games taking place while Tokyo remains in a state of COVID emergency.
There were also people outside who just felt drawn to the Olympic stadium – to come and wave to the very select numbers of VIPs and media going inside. It was as close as they could get to the Games that they had waited almost a decade for.
While these Olympics will feel unusual there were reminders too of the magic they can create.
There was a towering Tongan taekwondo player who strode into the stadium with his bare oiled chest puffed out as he carried his island nation’s flag like a warrior on a mission.
The Olympics can still produce special moments like that and there will be plenty more over the coming weeks.
There will be more COVID-19 disruption too but the Games of 2020 are finally open, just one year late.
Business leaders have ‘obligation to speak up’, ex-Unilever boss says amid Ben & Jerry’s row | Business News
Unilever’s ex-boss has said business leaders have an “obligation to speak up” after his former company became embroiled in a row with Israel over its Ben & Jerry’s business.
Paul Polman mounted a defence of the need to “fight for what is right” in remarks to Sky News after the ice cream brand said it would stop selling its products in the occupied Palestinian territories.
Ben & Jerry’s is owned by consumer goods giant Unilever – whose array of brands ranges from Marmite spread to Dove soap – but has an independent board to take such decisions.
Its announcement is one of the strongest steps taken by a well-known company over Israel’s settlements, which are widely seen as illegal by the international community.
The move drew condemnation from the Israeli government, whose new prime minister Naftali Bennett said this week that Israel would “use the tools at its disposal – including legal – on this issue” and that those taking such action “need to know that there will be a price to pay”.
Mr Polman, speaking to Sky’s Ian King Live, said it would be inappropriate to say how he would have handled the issue had he still been in charge of Unilever.
But he added: “What is very important is if we want humanity to function for the long term we need to be sure that we fight for the basic values, the basic values of dignity, respect, equity, compassion.
“If we see these values being violated anywhere in the world I think we have an obligation to speak up.
“What we’ve seen in the US in the last few years – too few people, also from the business side, spoke up against things that then bit by bit moved the boundaries and put us in a very difficult situation.
“So, fight for what is right and one of the few things we should fight for always is, these basic human rights.”
Mr Polman was speaking a day after current Unilever boss Alan Jope, in a conference call to discuss latest results, said the company remains “fully committed” to doing business in Israel but gave no indication that Unilever would press Ben & Jerry’s to reverse the decision.
Mr Jope, who has spoken to Mr Bennett on the phone to discuss the matter, said that it was a “complex and sensitive matter”.
Budapest prepares for Pride but for many LGBT+ people it is a worrying time to be in Hungary | World News
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