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100 clean air activists flash mob world’s largest auto show

Following German Chancellor, Angela Merkel’s opening tour of the IAA international auto show, 100 Greenpeace Germany activists staged a performance to demand protection from the health impacts of diesel pollution. Dressed as sick patients, peaceful protestors gathered in silence in one of the exhibition halls and staged a theatrical performance. Later, they burst into a coughing fit and they left behind their breathing masks at the stands of car manufacturers.

Frankfurt – WEBWIRE

Greenpeace Germany aims to highlight that, while the car industry at the IAA is announcing the launch of many new electric car models over the coming years, it still intends to focus on selling cars with diesel and petrol engines for years to come. Cars with combustion engines have grave implications for people’s health.

Diesel cars are the main source of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) in cities. The toxic gas causes respiratory diseases like asthma and threatens the health of children and elderly, in particular. A study commissioned by Greenpeace Germany has shown that even a small increase of 10 micrograms per m3 raises the likelihood of asthma in children by 15% on average. [1] According to the European Environment Agency, NOcauses 68,000 premature deaths per year in the EU. [2]

Despite apparently having “understood the message”, car company executives still talk about diesel engines being “essential” and “clean” and are still presenting numerous large diesel SUVs and limousines at this year’s IAA as a sign of their continued commitment to dirty and health-threatening technology.

“Adding an electric option to each model is not enough,” said Andree Boehling, Greenpeace Germany Transport Expert. “What’s really needed is a commitment to put an end to the production of polluting cars fuelled by diesel and petrol.”

While diesel cars are getting cleaner on paper, the air in cities remains dirty. Real life emissions are still much higher than those under official testing conditions. Tests by the International Council on Clean Transportation ICCT have shown that even Euro 6 diesel cars have emissions that are on average still nearly five times over the legal limit. [3] 

“Diesel cars are as appropriate in inner cities as smoking areas in a hospital,“ Boehling continued. “No one should be fooled by the ‘clean diesel’ claims made at this show, manufacturers still sell millions of diesel cars that are a threat to our health. The diesel car must disappear and European governments must hold car companies accountable.“ [4]


[1] The study in German as well as a short Greenpeace briefing based on the study can be found here.

[2] The European Environmental Agency, Air quality in Europe Report 2016 can be read here.

[3] The ICCT press release about the testing results can be read here.  

[4] In 2016, 49.9% of vehicle registrations were diesel and only 1.1% were electric in the EU15 according to the European Automobile Manufacturers Association.


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