The city of Nuremberg, Germany – loved by tourists and residents for its expansive old town and scent-filled Christmas market – was one of 45 cities to have legal measures initiated against them by the nonprofit association Deutsche Umwelthilfe (DUH, Environmental Action Germany) in mid-2017 for exceeding thresholds of nitrogen dioxide (NO2), an irritant compound that attacks the skin and causes respiratory problems. The cities were given a deadline by the campaign group to unveil the short-term measures they will take to ensure target levels are met as of January 1, 2018. The legal action wasn’t the first against German cities for their air quality, and, most likely, it will not be the last.
In the case of Nuremberg, the city has a progressive environmental policy and is among the top 25 cities in the Mercer Quality of Living Ranking. It has been working for years to reduce air pollution and greenhouse gases. Nevertheless, due to local traffic, Nuremberg does not always meet World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations for air pollution levels, in particular nitrogen dioxide and fine dust particulates.
Unlike other cities targeted by DUH, Nuremberg can show environmental activists, citizens, and policy makers more than its short-term plan of action to lower air pollution: It now has predictions of air pollution levels in 2030, as well as calculations showing which policy and technology changes will lower which types of pollutants by how much and when.