Decisive days at the COP23 climate conference: Politicians have defined the next steps in the fight against global warming. German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke at the start of the ministerial round of humankind's destiny. Industrialized nations in particular must work harder to reduce their emissions. In Bonn, Germany, 25,000 people from around the world gathered for this purpose.

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The core issue: How to reach the goal of the Paris Agreement to limit global temperature increase to maximum 2 degrees Celsius? For populations in coastal areas, the water is literally lapping at their doors; they need swift action. So at COP23, it's also about visions for keeping the planet habitable. Climate change is being felt – as are worldwide reactions on the part of politicians, researchers – and last but not least, regular people.

Climate savior or sinner - how green is Germany's energy production?

Addicted to coal

The future looks bright for Germany’s biggest surface coal mine. Even as the country introduces climate protection measures and switches to renewable energy sources, its dependence on coal-fueled power plants is unabated. Continued reliance on coal means Germany is unlikely to meet its 2020 emission goals. That's not good for the environment, but the view from the Hambach mine remains impressive.

Climate savior or sinner - how green is Germany's energy production?

Stripping the earth

The Hambach surface mine stretches seemingly endless into the horizon. Located west of Cologne, it is Germany’s largest surface mine at 4,300 hectares - and expanding. Despite efforts to use more renewable energy sources, Germany’s industry still relies on the cheap brown coal to supply 40% of its energy needs.

Climate savior or sinner - how green is Germany's energy production?

Disappearing villages

It won’t be long before the village of Manheim disappears. The nearby Hambach mine is expanding and will soon engulf the houses. Already many of the residents in the 1,000 year-old village have abandoned their homes. Since 1989 four similar villages have been razed to make room for the brown surface mine.

Climate savior or sinner - how green is Germany's energy production?

No alternative

By 2020 the diggers will have reached the village. Until then, workers will tear down the remaining houses and the residents will relocate. Kurt Rüttgers, one about 500 remaining residents and owner of the local pub, has watched the town fade and disappear: “Since my childhood I have known Manheim would disappear one day. It’s sad, but there seems to be no alternative to coal mining right now.”

Climate savior or sinner - how green is Germany's energy production?

Investing in renewable energy

Elsewhere in Germany, companies have made the switch to renewable energy sources. Soaring 109 meters above the surrounding fields, these wind turbines located about an hour from Berlin’s city center, provide emissions-free energy for the capital.

Climate savior or sinner - how green is Germany's energy production?

Harvesting the wind

Some 27,000 wind turbines have sprouted up across the country in the last decade. Although animal rights activists argue the giant propellers cause harm to birds and some people complain the towers are an eyesore in the landscape, the turbines are Germany’s biggest source of renewable energy. Until recently, the government heavily subsidized wind parks.

Climate savior or sinner - how green is Germany's energy production?

Could housing save the climate?

For some Germans saving the climate starts at home. Years ago artist Priska Wollein decided to build her atelier near Berlin as a passive energy house to reduce her carbon footprint. Built mostly out of wood, it’s heated by geothermal energy and the ventilation is specifically modified to keep warmth inside.

Climate savior or sinner - how green is Germany's energy production?

The home of the future

What if a house didn’t just reduce its energy consumption, but rather generates more of it? That’s one of the proposals the German housing industry has come up with in response to new building regulations on energy efficiency. Referred to as the energy plus house, the new model of home is designed to produce its own energy primarily through solar power.

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Kids4Climate - Don't mess with my future!

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