: Can you describe the beginning of your profesional
Initially I was interested to study meteorology with the focus on weather forecast at the university in Berlin – it was very specific situation because not official authority but university managed and provided weather services, weather forecast. So it was good to be so closed connected to research. The Institute for Meteorology included the weather service. Later after East and West Berlin was united, that has changed. After I graduated, I had the choice either to stark working for Berlin’s environment administration on air quality management or to spent two years in Arctic doing research on atmospheric tracer pollutants and climate change. After all, I decided to start managing smog-alert for Berlin´s administration.
: What was the air quality situation in Germany during
In West-Berlin there was a traffic ban for few days per year because of sulphide dioxide and dust and it was not very efficient because traffic was not the main source of this pollutants. It was rather residential heating, heating plants and power plants in Eastern Germany and Eastern Berlin, where they were running without any filters at that time. It was comparable with Beijing. It rapidly changed after the Wall came down. West Berlin extended the air quality network to East Berlin. The stationary resources had to shut down or were forced to buy new technology. It took four, five years. It was rapid success and we could stop to use smog-alerts.
: So Berlin has had no problem with air quality since
middle of 90´s?
The EU air quality directive came into force in 1999 as itwas developed during the 1997. That was the time I came to European Union Commission in Brussel. So I participated in the preparation of this directive and drafted another Directive on tropospheric ozone with the target values and legally binding air quality standards, e.g. limit values for PM10 and NO2 are from that time. Look – it was end of the 90´s but up today we have not met them yet. In 2001 I went back to Berlin and it was necessary to start thinking about the strategy how to reduce particle pollution PM10 and NO2
in order to meet these limit values by 2005 and 2010, respectively.
: How pollution sources during the beginning of Millennium in Berlin changed?
It was always clear that you have mix of sources – imported pollution (half of total amount of PM10 in Berlin) and local pollution. The local pollution means 2/3 by traffic,
and the rest was single and local heating systems and factories. Transforming local heating systems from solid fuels to gas or electricity was easy because it provides
comfort to people. Although it was a little bit expensive it was easy to gain benefit in this area. Traffic is more difficult. We had still summer ozone episodes because of NOx
emission. So we needed to break down NOx made by petrol cars. Catalytic convertors were developed in the 90´s and we had campaign slogan „Ohne kat nicht in die Stadt“
(cars without a catalytic converter are not allowed to enter the city) but we could not apply this because of lack of legislation. And it was the time when idea of low-emission
: How much time has the realization of low emission
zone in Berlin taken?
We needed a labelling system for vehicles depending on their emissions, in order to enforce the low emission zone, where vehicles with high pollutant emissions would be banned. But vehicle labelling had to be national law adopted by national government at first. We led very intensive lobby to establish it in our national legislation. Since 2007 our government has established the labelling - sticker system in our national law. I´m proud of this because we were the first with idea of low emission zones via labelling system, we led very intensive lobby to established it in our national legal system and we realized it. We managed 10 years lasting strategy for better air quality in Berlin, we launched catalytic convertors and national labelling system and we did it. With regard to particle emissions of vehicles the low emission zone was a big success, because it required about 70 000 vehicles (i.e.every fifth Diesel vehicle registered in Berlin) to be retrofitted with a Diesel particle filter. As a result, Diesel soot emissions and the concentration in the air fell by more than 50 %. However, with respect to NOx-emissions we could see from our calculated scenarios what would happen in 2010 and it was clear we would have problems with diesel vehicles. There were no retrofit available for them and the real driving emissions of new Euro 5 Diesel cars turned
out to be even higher than those of older vehicles. So, the benefit of low emission zones with regard to NOx emissions was almost none. Moreover, there was no limit for direct emissions of NO2 of diesels. Again, new diesel vehicles had a much higher share of NO2 in their exhaust gas than the older ones. It was the first phase of diesel-gate. It was a chain of fails.
: What is happening now in Germany around diesel cars?
There is a large national forum about diesel cars industry – Ms. Merkel, NGO´s, car industry associations participated on it. And I´m suggesting – we need to have a retrofit option to reduce NOx-emissions of Diesel cars already on the road - as we had it ten years ago for particles filters for diesel cars. This is technically compelling, but let´s follow Toyota’s slogan – Nothing is impossible. So let us invest to the development
of a retrofit system for new cars and develop better defeated devices which are not switching off at temperatures below 8° C. I´m not naive, it will be a big fight.
: What about NGO´s and courts? We know about some
successful cases from Germany.
Yes there are a few successful cases, calling for more ambitious action as fast as possible. European Commissionpushes us via infringement to arrange measurements for better air quality as soon as possible. And it is a desperate situation to try to find the swift solution.
: Brno has problems with PM10. What about Berlin
We solved the problems with PM10, so the infringement started just because of NO2. The infringement against Berlin because of PM10 was suspended. We did a lot around
construction machines; we controlled emission standards in personal cars filters. Low emission zones helped us to deliver about 10 % of particles – so it had major contribution. Transformation from local heating toward natural gas continued.
The old power plants had to be closed and we have to build new on natural gas now. The big problems come from Poland.
: Has modal split in Berlin changed in the last 10 years?
Yes. Personal car goes down since 2003/4 by 10–14% and since 2012 has stagnated. But there is a rise of vans because of delivery to the houses from e-shops, couriers’
services. But there is a big lack of flats for new inhabitants in Berlin. Prices are going up and it is a big political issue to build houses for people and this could result in an increase in traffic. But there are alternatives to use a car. Berlin is the town of universities, cultural, creative and IT business because of cheap office rooms. These people are not very proud to have a car. They love cycling. In that sense, we have very good boundary conditions for supporting car-free modes of transport.
: I visited Berlin last year and met a few cycle activists.
They ask administration for better infrastructure. Yes, the cycling has by 10-15% of modal split. The infrastructure is not reconstructed quickly enough. We had public
referendum thanks to very smart and quick public campaign. These people collected 100 000 signatures during two weeks. This was a clear signal to the politicians. This
was launched before local election so it had super timing and effect. We have new coalition established in autumn 2016 and we have a huge programme – we want to spend 50 000 000 Euro for cycling infrastructure during the next 5 years. I´m a little bit worried about this because we lost a lot of people and knowledge last decade because of the budget cuts. On the other side – Green party has three senators on Berlin´s municipality responsible for transport, climate protection and environment, for economy and consumer protection and for the justice finally. So, these are favourable conditions for a pro-bike policy.
: What about public transport in Berlin?
As the public bus fleet is still running on Diesel, we need to think about means to reduce the emissions of the public bus fleet. As a result, more than 500 buses (of 1300) are being retrofitted with a NOX-catalysator. At the same time, Berlin will start buying electric buses to substitute older Diesel buses. Electricity from renewable resources is better for it because of climate change. But there are no large buses using electricity on the market yet. CNG buses could be a clean interim solution until more electric bus types will become available on the market. But the use of CNG is considered critical by our minister as she thinks gas should be used primarily in the energy and heat sector, rather than for road transport.
: You spent only 3 days in Brno but what are your recommendations for the city?
It seems to be good to get cars from sidewalks, to define streets devoted especially for people and bikes and those for cars.
Students have to have obligatory annual ticket for public transport for free as it is in Berlin and to support multimodal systems as this is meaningful. And take care about trolley buses on renewable energy to be cool in the time of climate change.
We have long term strategies and action plans for wide spectrum of measurements in Berlin, about 40 sensors in monitoring system all around Berlin and it is easy to evaluate all measurements you arranged. And if it is good for us before we go to the court. We can prove what we have done for better air quality. You have a lot of young and educated people in Brno; courts, research institutes – it is a promising constellation to change your situation here.