“As much as I would like things to improve on their own accord, I can’t see how we would achieve this without limits,” city mayor Dieter Reiter told the newspaper on Wednesday of a possible diesel ban.
The mayor said that he hoped to have draft legislation in place by the end of the year. But the plan could face resistance from the conservative Christian Social Union (CSU), who govern Bavaria and who have previously voiced opposition to a diesel ban. There is also a powerful car lobby in Munich, where auto giant BMW has its headquarters.
"These things are always about weighing up different interests - and for me the health of our residents comes first," said Reiter.
Research by the SZ shows that air pollution in Munich is a far more serious issue than previously thought, with levels of nitrogen dioxide on even some residential streets breaching EU limits.
This backs up a Federal Environmental Agency (UBA) report from January which showed that in Munich's Landshuter Allee the average nitrogen dioxide level was also 80 micrograms per cubic metre (µg/m³) in 2016 - double the EU limit.
Measurements by the UBA show that in 2016, 57 percent of German city streets with high traffic had levels of nitrogen dioxide that were higher than the safe limit of 40 µg/m³.
High levels of nitrogen dioxide can lead to breathing problems as well cardiovascular disease.
Reiter told the SZ that a ban on diesel engines is the only effective option for reducing the level of pollutants in the air. He dismissed the idea of charging diesel car owners to drive into the city centre, arguing that most drivers would rather pay the charge than give up their car.
Roughly 40 percent of the 720,000 cars registered in Munich have diesel motors, and of these between 133,000 and 170,000 could be affected by a ban, the SZ estimates.
If Munich were to bring in a wide-scale ban on diesel cars, it would be the first German city to take such a drastic decision. Stuttgart is the only other city to have made steps in this direction. As of January 2018, older diesel cars will be banned from the city centre on days when pollution levels are particularly high.
A federal court ruling in June 2016 ordered Munich to improve its air quality within 12 months or face a fine of €10,000. The city has until June 29th to present proof of its improvements.