The factory and power plant chimneys which once belched smoke, blighting our urban landscapes, have largely disappeared. Our rivers are no longer open sewers, and quality of urban life has improved immeasurably. Where centres of heavy industry once polluted the environment, there are now eco-friendly cities – like Essen, the European Green Capital. So is it all good in Germany? This question was also discussed at the Annual Conference of the German Council for Sustainable Development on 29 May.