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Steam rising from the cooling towers of the Neurath lignite-fired power plant in Grevenbroich, Germany. Photo: Christophe Gateau/picture alliance via Getty Images

After a marathon negotiating session, the German Commission for Growth, Structural Change and Employment appears to have reached a landmark agreement to phase out the country’s coal fleet no later than 2038 and as early as 2035. The agreement includes near-term plans to eliminate 12 gigawatts of existing coal plants in the next four years, equivalent to 25% of the country’s fleet.

Why it matters: According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the developed world must phase out its coal fleet no later than 2030 for the world to avoid more severe consequences climate change. However, Germany is one of only a few large industrial nations to formally pledge to phase out coal.

Given that Germany is considered the industrial powerhouse of Europe, this announcement could send a powerful signal to other countries about the urgency to transition to renewable energy. Germany is also symbolically important because the "Energiewende," its plan to transition off nuclear power, has become a model that many nations around the world have followed, leading them to phase out nuclear first without addressing the more pressing problem of coal. The move will likely make an impression across Asia, which is currently undergoing the last bouts of coal expansion.

Yes, but: Germany is nonetheless well behind the 2030 deadline set by the IPCC. Its timeline has also been criticized for being too slow; the U.K., the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, now regularly runs for days at a time without any coal power.

What to watch: The commission's successful negotiations are promising, but the findings must still be translated into law. This will require an act of parliament, setting up a crucial phase in the German energy transition that will play out in the months to come.

Justin Guay directs global climate strategy at the Sunrise Project and advises the ClimateWorks Foundation.

Go deeper

Why 401(k) rollovers are so annoying

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

If you happened to change jobs recently, you may have tried to transfer your retirement account from your former employer into an Individual Retirement Account or your new employer's 401(k) plan. If so, you probably encountered a bureaucratic gantlet — and you're not alone.

Why it matters: Kludgey processes around retirement account transfers result in people losing track of their funds, giving up important tax advantages, or otherwise disadvantaging themselves and being less prepared for retirement.

The hard math behind America's labor shortage

Data: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Congressional Budget Office; Chart: Axios Visuals

Yes, the pandemic has created unusual temporary labor market dynamics. But in the bigger picture, the 2010s were a golden age for companies seeking cheap labor. The 2020s are not.

The big picture: In the 2010s, the massive millennial generation was entering the workforce, the massive baby bo0m generation was still hard at work, and there was a multi-year hangover from the deep recession caused by the global financial crisis.

Advocates fret Roe v. Wade's 49th anniversary could be its last

Photo: Leigh Vogel/Getty Images for Women's March Inc

As Saturday marks the 49th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court's landmark decision that legalized abortion access in the U.S., advocates warn the ruling is "more at risk now than ever."

The big picture: The Supreme Court in December heard a challenge to a Mississippi 15-week abortion ban that could throw Roe's survival into question, or at least narrow its scope.