( AFP ) - Three German cities, including the capital Berlin, began implementing a new air pollution system on Tuesday that bans the dirtiest vehicles from their centres.
Drivers in Berlin, Cologne and Hanover are now required to display a coloured badge showing the level of pollution caused by their vehicle, with a scale of red, yellow and green.
Some vehicles, notably an estimated 1.7 million old diesel cars and vans, will not qualify for even the most polluting red badge and will be prohibited from driving in central areas.
Drivers without a badge caught in the city centre will face a 40-euro (60-dollar) fine and will be docked a point on their driving license.
The system is to be extended to about 20 German cities in the course of the year, including Stuttgart and Munich.
It applies to all vehicles, including those registered outside Germany, but some officials have indicated that foreign cars will be treated with leniency.
In Berlin, city authorities have decided not to punish errant drivers until the end of January.
The reform "is the most serious attempt until now to get to grips with the most serious source of air pollution, which causes 75,000 premature deaths per year," said German green group Deutsche Umwelthilfe.