By Elliot Douglas
The coronavirus pandemic has altered economic priorities for governments around the world. But as wildfires tear up the west coast of the United States and Europe reels after one of its hottest summers on record, tackling climate change remains at the forefront of economic policy.
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By Wolfgang Dick
Despite the lush, verdant nature that surrounds the German town of Ulrichstein, residents here — and in the region — suffer from acute water shortages.
Digging Deep From Drinking Water<p>Instead, a drilling company is set in the coming weeks to try to tap into the groundwater below the town. Water that the firm insists is there — despite criticism from geologists who say groundwater levels below Ulrichstein, the highest permanent settlement in the state at 614 meters (2,014 feet) above sea level, are insufficient for the town's needs.</p>
Many Reasons for Water Shortages<p>Schneider said the reason for his town's water shortages has to do with its geographical location. Due to the Rhine Weser watershed, he said, "water just keeps draining away, and winters have become quite mild in these parts."</p><p>This means groundwater is not being replenished during the winter months. The situation is complicated further because the nearby city of Frankfurt also taps into the local groundwater, sourcing one-third of its requirements — some 40 million cubic meters — from this region.</p><p>"I got quite angry when Frankfurt asked its residents to water the city's trees during one hot summer," the mayor admitted.</p><p>A €150,000 ($177,000) trial showed no groundwater the Ulrichstein could tap into at a depth of 120 meters. However, the drilling company found water at a depth of 200 meters. The well, which cost some €800,000 ($944,000) to drill, will only serve as an interim solution as there is not as much water as the officials hoped for, and no one knows how long before it dries up.</p><p>The municipal council is looking into alternatives to source drinking water. For this purpose, it has modernized two of its eight water treatment plants at a cost of €2 million ($2.4 million). Ulrichstein is also considering installing a 4.5-kilometer canal to the next town to source water. This endeavor, however, carries a €650,000 ($767,000) price tag.</p><p>Ultimately, the municipality decides to hire a logistics company to make six deliveries of 60,000 liters (15,850 gallons) of water each day by truck. Locals are also urged to use the precious resource sparingly by abstaining from watering their lawns or otherwise using water unnecessarily.</p>
High Cost of Water<p><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/innovative-clean-water-technologies/a-45287950" target="_blank">Whatever option the town chooses</a>, residents will be facing higher water bills.</p><p>Local businessman Klaus Kraft is especially hard-hit by the water shortage. He has been running a laundromat for years. Each day, his business consumes about 12 cubic meters of water, less than half the 30 liters (8 gallons) it used to require. But, he said, he cannot hike up prices as this would hurt his business. Currently, sourcing and disposing of one cubic meter of drinking water costs about €10 ($12) — roughly three times what residents in other German cities pay.</p><p>A woman who has lived in the town for many years said she noticed the water shortages three years ago. "One day, the water pressure just dropped off," she said, adding that the town's calls for residents to use water sparingly are being ignored by many.</p><p>One of the more recent and visible culprits is private swimming pools appearing in many residents' backyards. According to Germany's Swimming Pool and Wellness Association, a growing number of Germans are deciding to install their own pools. One reason for this is that people who are <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/meet-the-germans-live-summer-and-vacations-in-germany/a-54081551" target="_blank">traveling less during this pandemic want to have a nice time relaxing at home</a>.</p>
Gloomy Predictions<p>Karsten Rinke, a biologist with the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, says Germans will have to prepare for future water shortages. At least technological innovations and water conservation efforts have reduced the average daily water consumption in Germany from 147 to 123 liters (39 to 32 gallons) per person, says the researcher. But Germany's Federal Office of Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance (BBK) reports that climate predictions paint a gloomy picture of the future. It warns that people in some parts of Germany could soon face problems sourcing drinking water.</p><p>German Environmental Minister Svenja Schulze has scheduled a "water summit" for spring 2021 to discuss this worrying situation with federal, state and local representatives. She wants to devise a comprehensive strategy to tackle the country's water shortage.</p>
By Jessica Corbett
Swedish climate leader Greta Thunberg donned a mask and joined a socially distanced Fridays for Future protest in Berlin just a day after she and three other youth activists met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose government took over the European Council presidency in July, to discuss the planetary emergency.
<div id="dc9a2" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8229fb577f8697ac42ee3e8843974dc9"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1296748619522093056" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">School strike week 105. We’re back, social distant. Berlin! #climatestrike #fridaysforfuture #schoolstrike4climate… https://t.co/jcY5vVtahZ</div> — Greta Thunberg (@Greta Thunberg)<a href="https://twitter.com/GretaThunberg/statuses/1296748619522093056">1598003937.0</a></blockquote></div>
<div id="9032c" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8a0befc79f58c9dc4b239b3d6d45dada"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1296733781626257408" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">BREAKING: Nach dem Gespräch mit Merkel gestern haben heute 100 Aktivist:innen von #FridaysForFuture zusammen mit… https://t.co/e2UwCuZtNA</div> — Fridays for Future Berlin (@Fridays for Future Berlin)<a href="https://twitter.com/FFF_Berlin/statuses/1296733781626257408">1598000400.0</a></blockquote></div>
<div id="516c1" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="bc7d43c79b060445bfba2448e9003946"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1296698566455562240" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Week 36! #schoolstrike4climate from Kenya. let's stop talking and act!Action is better than words. We cannot eat co… https://t.co/WN3Nn5db4G</div> — Dorcas Wakio (@Dorcas Wakio)<a href="https://twitter.com/WakioDorcas/statuses/1296698566455562240">1597992004.0</a></blockquote></div>
<div id="ee5b3" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="f96586f8ace84eefa25e4f55ffaf3552"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1296642301255536641" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">#ClimateStrikeOnline week17 危機感を持てば、行動せずにはいられません。 危機に気づくということは行動するということです。 ※私たちの"行動しないリーダー"はまだ気候危機の深刻さを理解していないのです。… https://t.co/l0fxBus5lN</div> — Tenshin てんしん (@Tenshin てんしん)<a href="https://twitter.com/ShindoTenshin/statuses/1296642301255536641">1597978589.0</a></blockquote></div>
<div id="417d1" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="272cf96a7e5bd51a38001515719e2f8c"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1296690147270909952" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">#FridaysForFuture climate strike at Sydney Town Hall https://t.co/N6DByTMqGK</div> — Fridays For Future Sydney (@Fridays For Future Sydney)<a href="https://twitter.com/fff_Sydney/statuses/1296690147270909952">1597989997.0</a></blockquote></div><p>"This is week 80 of my <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/schoolstrike4climate?src=hashtag_click" target="_blank">#schoolstrike4climate</a> but are you listening?" <a href="https://twitter.com/NamugerwaLeah/status/1296723352602718208" target="_blank">tweeted</a> Leah Namugerwa, a 16-year-old in Uganda. "Whether you do or not I'll continue doing what is right for my and future generations."</p>
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Scientists from the German University of Halle observed conditions on Saturday at an experimental concert in the eastern city of Leipzig, where they hope to learn more about the risk of infection at large events.
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The Bundestag and Bundesrat — Germany's lower and upper houses of parliament — passed legislation on Friday that would phase out coal use in the country in less than two decades as part of a road map to reduce carbon emissions.
Preparing for the Future<p>Coal-producing regions in the German states of North Rhine-Westphalia, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Brandenburg will have access to €40 billion ($45 billion) to help absorb the impact. Those funds are also expected to go towards restructuring regional economies, re-skilling workers and expanding local infrastructure.</p><p>Financial compensation is also be available to coal plant operators who face losses as a result of the early phaseout. However, compensation is contingent on operators announcing plans by 2026 to shutter plants and cease other emissions-intensive activity.</p><p>Michael Vassiliadis, who heads the IG BCE trade union, called the measures a "historic landmark." He said the package has provided a safety net for workers affected by the phase out and would provide them with the necessary support to transition to future sectors.</p>
'Historic Error'<p>However, not everyone agrees that the measures are enough to mitigate climate change.</p><p>Environmentalist activists say the legislation falls short of its ultimate aim, with Greenpeace managing director Martin Kaiser describing it as a "historic error."</p><p>German Green party chief Annalena Baerbock said the legislation was "oblivious to the future" and instead called on the government to complete Germany's coal phase out by 2030 the latest.</p><p>Earlier this year, <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/germans-most-worried-about-refugees-climate-change/a-51947417" target="_blank">a DeutschlandTrend survey</a> found that 27 percent of Germans believe climate change is the most pressing issue facing the country, just slightly behind refugees and immigration policy.</p><p>Germany is seeking to establish a carbon-neutral economy by 2050. The European Commission has also pushed forward with similar plans for the EU.</p>
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Around 500 climate activists on Saturday gathered outside the new Datteln 4 coal power plant in Germany's Ruhr region, to protest against its opening.
Climate Activists Speak Out<p>Speaking at the protest, German Fridays for Futures climate activist Luisa Neubauer said: "It's a post-factual power plant. The facts speak for themselves." She said it was a "provocation," to mark the planned coal phaseout with a new coal power plant.</p><p>"We're going to stop this power plant, we're going to bring it to a standstill, we will win this conflict," Neubauer added.</p><p>Former miners also attended the protest. "We condemn the fact that coal mining in Germany was halted and jobs were lost, only for coal now to be imported from other countries to power Datteln 4," said Sebastian Suszka, a former workers' council member.</p><p>Greta Thunberg, founder of climate activist movement Fridays for Futures tweeted that Saturday was "a shameful day for Europe.</p>
Germany's Coal Phaseout<p>Earlier this year, Germany announced a roadmap to see coal phased out, at the latest by 2038. It laid out plans for eight coal-fired power plants to be taken off the grid in 2020.</p><p>It was an important step for the largest contributor of carbon emissions in the EU — accounting for more than 22 percent of the bloc's CO2 emissions. Over a third of the electricity generated in Germany comes from burning coal.</p><p>Germany's coal commission has recommended that solutions be found for coal plants that are already built but not-yet-in-use to keep them from operating.<br></p><p>The state of North-Rhine Westphalia insisted that the additional carbon dioxide emissions from the new plant would be compensated by the closure of four other power plants.</p>
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By Jeannette Cwienk
When it comes to recycling and recyclability, very little, it seems is straightforward — even something as seemingly simple as orange juice can present a conundrum. In Germany, many smaller shops sell drinks in cartons or plastic bottles, both of which will end up in the yellow recycling bin. But how do their recycling credentials stack up?
More and More Multilayer Packaging<p>How easy is it to recognize multilayer packaging? With drink cartons, it's usually obvious that they're made from a combination of different materials, but with other products, such as candy wrappers, it's a different story.</p><p>Such packaging can be made from a complex mix of up to 10 different films of plastic, which as Joachim Christiani, managing director of German recycling institute cyclos-HTP, explains, is <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/germany-produces-record-amount-of-packaging-waste/a-51293541" target="_blank">invisible to consumers</a>.</p><p>"In recent years there's been a trend toward so-called multilayer packaging, which is extremely light and thin. It saves material as well as CO2 emissions during transport, but can't be recycled," Christiani says.</p><p>Because it is not possible to melt the different plastics together, or — at least for now — to separate the individual films from one another at recycling plants.</p>
Lack of Recycled Plastic<p>A 2017 cyclos-HTP study into the recyclability of conventional packaging waste concluded that a third of it was not recyclable, and only 40% of the remaining two-thirds was made into plastic recyclate. The rest was used as fuel <em>—</em> in other words it was incinerated.</p><p>"There was no economic or political pressure to recycle more than this amount," Christiani says. "The prescribed recycling quotas were met, and there were not nearly enough recycling plants."</p>
Room for Greenwashing<p>According to a 2018 survey by Germany's vzbv consumer protection association, most consumers would like to see more plastic recycling, especially when it comes to packaging.</p><p>Although some products come in packaging that is advertised as being "made from recycled material," Elke Salzmann, a resource protection officer with vzbv, says that can be misleading.</p><p>"It says nothing about how much recycled material the packaging actually contains," according to Salzmann. "And it also doesn't mean that the recycled plastic comes from collected plastic waste. It could just as well come from plastic leftovers created during the production of primary plastic."</p><p>The term "ocean plastic," which some textile and shoe manufacturers use to advertise the recycled plastic in their product lines, can also be misleading, Salzmann says.</p><p><span></span>"Plastic waste from the ocean is in much too bad a state to be recycled. Instead, they use plastic waste from beaches or riverbanks."</p>
Laws Against Plastic<p>Images of garbage choking our waters and <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/eurythenes-plasticus-a-deep-sea-crustacean-full-of-plastic/a-52663559" target="_blank">killing marine wildlife</a> have played a key role in giving plastic a negative reputation among the public, and politicians have started to act.</p><p>Many countries worldwide have introduced bans on single-use items, and in Germany, a 2019 packaging law stipulates a plastics recycling quota of 90% from 2022, up from 36%. That said, the quota only refers to how much material has to be fed into the recycling system, not how much ultimately needs to be recycled.</p>
Rethinking the Whole System<p>Although plastic is a very useful material, at the end of its life it causes many problems, EASAC environmental program director Michael Norton tells DW, adding that we have to rethink the whole system and completely change the way we use plastic.</p><p>Joachim Christiani says the packaging industry is starting to catch on. Around 70% of recycled mass can currently be generated from packaging, but that figure is expected to rise in the future.</p><p>"95% is quite feasible," says the engineer, adding that sorting facilities are currently undergoing improvements, while packaging design is also changing.</p>
Clear Plastics Are Easiest to Recycle<p>As things stand, PET bottles are easiest to recycle because they're not mixed with other materials. New bottles can therefore easily be made from the old ones and the recycling rate is high. But the color of the bottle can pose a problem.</p><p>Because plastic is sorted by type rather than color, if different colors of plastic are mixed, the resulting recyclate cannot be used for light-colored packaging, which many manufacturers want. The upshot is the introduction of new plastic instead.</p><p>Consumer and environmental associations have long called for recyclability, greater sorting purity and better sorting facilities, but their most important demand remains waste avoidance through reusable systems.</p><p>"Why melt down disposable bottles to make new disposable bottles when you can refill them up to 20 times?" Buschmann asks.</p>
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While the world tries to figure out how to reopen economies from COVID-19 lockdowns, the demand for any plans to include environmental considerations has increased drastically.
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Germany's target for renewable energy sources to deliver 65% of its consumed electricity by 2030 seemed on track Wednesday, with 52% of electricity coming from renewables in 2020's first quarter. Renewable energy advocates, however, warned the trend is imperiled by slowdowns in building new wind and solar plants.
By Rebecca Staudenmaier
Yannik Weis was studying abroad in the Chinese city of Wuhan when a deadly new type of coronavirus broke out. He became one of over 100 people Germany evacuated from the area over the weekend.
Although he and many other German evacuees are feeling healthy and in good spirits, Weis told DW on Monday that coming back to Germany in light of the outbreak had been "stressful."
Germany reached an agreement Thursday that will allow it to stop burning coal by 2038.
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At least 30 animals died early New Year's Day in a fire at a monkey house at a zoo in Krefeld, Germany, The New York Times reported.
All seven of Germany's nuclear power plants are slated to close by 2022, but questions remain about where the European country can safely bury nearly 28,000 cubic meters of radioactive waste that will stay there for the next million years, as CNN reported.
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