working to improve its equipment. “Our focus is to make both our distribution and transmission system more resilient and fireproof,” said Sumeet Singh, PG&E’s chief risk officer.

But spending on fire prevention by California utilities has raised electricity rates, and consumer groups say building more power lines will drive them even higher.

Average residential electricity rates nationally have increased by about 14 percent over the last decade even though average household energy use rose just over 1 percent.

2019 report by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, a research arm of the Energy Department, found that greater use of rooftop solar can reduce the need for new transmission lines, displace expensive power plants and save the energy that is lost when electricity is moved long distances. The study also found that rooftop systems can put pressure on utilities to improve or expand neighborhood wires and equipment.

Texas was paralyzed for more than four days by a deep freeze that shut down power plants and disabled natural gas pipelines. People used cars and grills and even burned furniture to keep warm; at least 150 died.

One reason for the failure was that the state has kept the grid managed by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas largely disconnected from the rest of the country to avoid federal oversight. That prevented the state from importing power and makes Texas a case for the interconnected power system that Mr. Biden wants.

Consider Marfa, an artsy town in the Chihuahuan Desert. Residents struggled to stay warm as the ground was blanketed with snow and freezing rain. Yet 75 miles to the west, the lights were on in Van Horn, Texas. That town is served by El Paso Electric, a utility attached to the Western Electricity Coordinating Council, a grid that ties together 14 states, two Canadian provinces and a Mexican state.

$1.4 million, compared with about $1 million to Donald J. Trump, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

In Washington, developers of large solar and wind projects are pushing for a more connected grid while utilities want more federal funding for new transmission lines. Advocates for rooftop solar panels and batteries are lobbying Congress for more federal incentives.

Separately, there are pitched battles going on in state capitals over how much utilities must pay homeowners for the electricity generated by rooftop solar panels. Utilities in California, Florida and elsewhere want lawmakers to reduce those rates. Homeowners with solar panels and renewable energy groups are fighting those efforts.

Despite Mr. Biden’s support, the utility industry could struggle to add power lines.

Many Americans resist transmission lines for aesthetic and environmental reasons. Powerful economic interests are also at play. In Maine, for instance, a campaign is underway to stop a 145-mile line that will bring hydroelectric power from Quebec to Massachusetts.

New England has phased out coal but still uses natural gas. Lawmakers are hoping to change that with the help of the $1 billion line, called the New England Clean Energy Connect.

This spring, workmen cleared trees and installed steel poles in the forests of western Maine. First proposed a decade ago, the project was supposed to cut through New Hampshire until the state rejected it. Federal and state regulators have signed off on the Maine route, which is sponsored by Central Maine Power and HydroQuebec.

But the project is mired in lawsuits, and Maine residents could block it through a November ballot measure.

set a record in May, and some scientists believe recent heat waves were made worse by climate change.

“Transmission projects take upward of 10 years from conception to completion,” said Douglas D. Giuffre, a power expert at IHS Markit. “So if we’re looking at decarbonization of the power sector by 2035, then this all needs to happen very rapidly.”

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Tasked to Fight Climate Change, a Secretive U.N. Agency Does the Opposite

LONDON — During a contentious meeting over proposed climate regulations last fall, a Saudi diplomat to the obscure but powerful International Maritime Organization switched on his microphone to make an angry complaint: One of his colleagues was revealing the proceedings on Twitter as they happened.

It was a breach of the secrecy at the heart of the I.M.O., a clubby United Nations agency on the banks of the Thames that regulates international shipping and is charged with reducing emissions in an industry that burns an oil so thick it might otherwise be turned into asphalt. Shipping produces as much carbon dioxide as all of America’s coal plants combined.

Internal documents, recordings and dozens of interviews reveal what has gone on for years behind closed doors: The organization has repeatedly delayed and watered down climate regulations, even as emissions from commercial shipping continue to rise, a trend that threatens to undermine the goals of the 2016 Paris climate accord.

One reason for the lack of progress is that the I.M.O. is a regulatory body that is run in concert with the industry it regulates. Shipbuilders, oil companies, miners, chemical manufacturers and others with huge financial stakes in commercial shipping are among the delegates appointed by many member nations. They sometimes even speak on behalf of governments, knowing that public records are sparse, and that even when the organization allows journalists into its meetings, it typically prohibits them from quoting people by name.

Homes are washing away. Much of the nation could become unlivable in the coming decade.

was almost denied a seat. International Registries, which represented the Marshall Islands on the I.M.O., initially refused to yield to the foreign minister, Mr. Woodroofe recalled.

United Nations climate meetings, countries are typically represented by senior politicians and delegations of government officials. At the maritime organization’s environmental committee, however, one in four delegates comes from industry, according to separate analyses by The New York Times and the nonprofit group Influence Map.

Representatives of the Brazilian mining company Vale, one of the industry’s heaviest carbon polluters and a major sea-based exporter, sit as government advisers. So does the French oil giant Total, along with many shipowner associations. These arrangements allow companies to influence policy and speak on behalf of governments.

Connections can be hard to spot. Luiz Gylvan Meira Filho sat on the Brazilian delegation in 2017 and 2018 as a University of Sao Paulo scientist. But he also worked at a Vale-funded research organization and, during his second year, was a paid Vale consultant. In an interview, he described his role as mutually beneficial: Brazilian officials relied on his expertise, and Vale covered his costs.

“Sometimes you cannot tell the difference. Is this actually the position of a nation or the position of the industry?” said David Paul, a Marshallese senator who attended an I.M.O. meeting in 2018.

Hundreds of other industry representatives are accredited observers and can speak at meetings. Their numbers far exceed those of the approved environmental groups. The agency rejected an accreditation request by the Environmental Defense Fund in 2018.

Industry officials and the maritime organization say such arrangements give a voice to the experts. “If you don’t involve the people who are actually going to have to deliver, then you’re going to get a poor outcome,” said Guy Platten, secretary general of the International Chamber of Shipping.

openly opposed strict emissions regulation as a hindrance to economic growth. And an informal bloc of countries and industry groups helped drag out the goal-setting process for three years.

Documents show that China, Brazil and India, in particular, threw up repeated roadblocks: In 2015, it was too soon to consider a strategy. In 2016, it was premature to discuss setting targets. In 2017, they lacked the data to discuss long-term goals.

a Cook Islands diplomat.

The I.M.O. almost never puts environmental policies to a vote, favoring instead an informal consensus-building. That effectively gives vocal opponents blocking power, and even some of the agency’s defenders acknowledge that it favors minimally acceptable steps over decisive action.

So, when delegates finally set goals in 2018, Mr. de Brum’s ambition had been whittled away.

The Marshall Islands suggested a target of zero emissions “by the second half of the century” — meaning by 2050. Industry representatives offered a slightly different goal: Decarbonization should occur “within” the second half of the century, a one-word difference that amounted to a 50-year extension.

Soon, though, the delegates agreed, without a vote, to eliminate zero-emissions targets entirely.

What remained were two key goals:

First, the industry would try to improve fuel efficiency by at least 40 percent. This was largely a mirage. The target was set so low that, by some calculations, it was reached nearly the moment it was announced.

Second, the agency aimed to cut emissions at least in half by 2050. But even this watered-down goal is proving unreachable. The agency’s own data say emissions may rise by 30 percent.

When delegates met last October — five years after Mr. de Brum’s speech — the organization had not taken any action. Proposals like speed limits had been debated and rejected.

What remained was what several delegates called the “refrigerator rating” — a score that, like those on American appliances, identified the clean and dirty ships.

European delegates insisted that, for the system to work, low-scoring ships must eventually be prohibited from sailing.

China and its allies wanted no such consequence.

So Sveinung Oftedal of Norway, the group’s chairman, told France and China to meet separately and compromise.

Delegates worked across time zones, meeting over teleconferences because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Shipping industry officials said they weighed in through the night.

The Marshallese were locked out.

“We’re always being told ‘We hear you,’” Mr. Ishoda said. “But when it comes to the details of the conversation, we’re told ‘We don’t need you to contribute.’”

Ultimately, France ceded to nearly all of China’s requests, records show. The dirtiest ships would not be grounded. Shipowners would file plans saying they intended to improve, would not be required to actually improve.

German delegates were so upset that they threatened to oppose the deal, likely triggering a cascade of defections, according to three people involved in the talks. But European Union officials rallied countries behind the compromise, arguing that Europe could not be seen as standing in the way of even limited progress.

“At I.M.O., that is as always the choice,” said Damien Chevallier, the French negotiator. “We have the choice to have nothing, or just to have a first step.”

All of this happened in secret. The I.M.O.’s summary of the meeting called it a “major step forward.” Natasha Brown, a spokeswoman, said it would empower customers and advocacy groups. “We know from consumer goods that the rating system works,” she said.

But the regulation includes another caveat: The I.M.O. will not publish the scores, letting shipping companies decide whether to say how dirty their ships are.

Ms. Kabua, the Marshallese minister, is under no illusions that reclaiming the diplomatic seat will lead to a climate breakthrough.

But if it works, she said, it might inspire other countries with private registries to do the same. Countries could speak for themselves rather than through a corporate filter.

Regardless of the outcome, the political winds are shifting. The European Union is moving to include shipping in its emissions-trading system. The United States, after years of being minor players at the agency, is re-engaging under President Biden and recently suggested it may tackle shipping emissions itself.

Both would be huge blows to the I.M.O., which has long insisted that it alone regulate shipping.

Suddenly, industry officials say they are eager to consider things like fuel taxes or carbon.

“There’s much more of a sense of momentum and crisis,” said Mr. Platten, the industry representative. “You can argue about, ‘Are we late to it,’ and all the rest. But it is palpable.”

Behind closed doors, though, resistance remains. At a climate meeting last winter, recordings show that the mere suggestion that shipping should become sustainable sparked an angry response.

“Such statements show a lack of respect for the industry,” said Kostas G. Gkonis, the director of the trade group Intercargo.

And just last week, delegates met in secret to debate what should constitute a passing grade under the new rating system. Under pressure from China, Brazil and others, the delegates set the bar so low that emissions can continue to rise — at roughly the same pace as if there had been no regulation at all.

Delegates agreed to revisit the issue in five years.

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Shell Must Reduce Emissions, Dutch Court Rules

A Dutch court ruled Wednesday that Royal Dutch Shell, Europe’s largest oil company, must accelerate its efforts to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to tackle climate change.

The District Court in The Hague ruled that Shell was “obliged” to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions of its activities by 45 percent at the end of 2030 compared with 2019. Shell is based in The Hague but is a global producer and supplier of oil and natural gas and other energy.

Shell has already adopted targets for emissions reduction, but the court requirements are likely to represent a substantial acceleration of the process of reducing emissions-producing fuels like oil and gas.

The ruling applies only in the Netherlands. Still, the defeat of an oil giant in a case brought by Milieudefensie, an environmental group, and other activists appeared to represent a kind of breakthrough in terms of a court’s willingness to dictate to a major business what it must do globally to protect the climate.

on the court website.

“But the court believes that the consequences of severe climate change are more important than Shell’s interests,” she added.

The court appeared to have accepted the environmentalists’ argument that not taking drastic measures on climate change would put lives in jeopardy.

“Severe climate change has consequences for human rights, including the right to life. And the court thinks that companies, among them Shell, have to respect those human rights,” Ms. Honée said.

A Shell spokesman said that the company expected “to appeal today’s disappointing court decision.”

The company said that it already had an extensive program to deal with climate change including billions of dollars of investment in low carbon energy including hydrogen, renewables like wind and solar and electric vehicle charging.

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South Korean Leader to Meet With White House

WASHINGTON — The United States is calling on South Korea to set more ambitious climate targets, an issue that will be a part of discussions when President Moon Jae-in meets with President Biden on Friday at the White House.

Last month John Kerry, Mr. Biden’s international climate envoy, traveled to South Korea and, according to officials in both countries, surprised members of Mr. Moon’s government by suggesting the country take “corresponding efforts” to the United States in reducing planet-warming emissions. That would nearly double South Korea’s current target of cutting carbon 24.4 percent below 2017 levels by the end of the decade.

South Korea, the world’s seventh-largest emitter of planet-warming carbon dioxide, is important to the Biden administration’s effort to show that other industrialized countries are acting vigorously against climate change.

international climate change summit that Mr. Biden hosted last month, promised to end funding of overseas coal plants.

At the same time, Korea has seven coal plants under construction, according to the Global Energy Monitor, a San Francisco-based group that follows fossil fuel projects. And, a new study by the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology found that unless the government enacted aggressive new policies, the country would “fall embarrassingly short” in meeting its current targets.

In a letter last week to Mr. Moon, former Vice President Al Gore urged him to set a target of at least 50 percent to “help protect the future of our planet.” More ambitious goals, Mr. Gore said, “would have a ripple effect on the climate policies of countries around the world.”

As a highly industrialized country that is heavily dependent on coal and imports virtually all of its oil and gas, South Korea faces serious challenges in meeting the United States’ and environmental groups’ expectations.

Won Hee-ryong, the governor of Jeju Province in South Korea, said he believed the government must improve its target, but he called hitting 50 percent “challenging.” Speaking Wednesday at a forum sponsored by World Resources Institute, Mr. Won said a more reasonable goal might be around 37 percent.

“It may be difficult for Korea to commit to an emissions target as ambitious as the United States, given that our emissions peaked only three years ago,” he said.

A senior administration official, speaking at a background briefing for reporters, said Mr. Biden intended to discuss with Mr. Moon ways both nations could eliminate carbon dioxide emissions from their power sectors and other parts of the economy, saying there would be “more to report” after the Friday meeting.

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Climate Is High on Agenda as Korean Leader Heads to White House

WASHINGTON — The United States is calling on South Korea to set more ambitious climate targets, an issue that will be a part of discussions when President Moon Jae-in meets with President Biden on Friday at the White House.

Last month John Kerry, Mr. Biden’s international climate envoy, traveled to South Korea and, according to officials in both countries, surprised members of Mr. Moon’s government by suggesting the country take “corresponding efforts” to the United States in reducing planet-warming emissions. That would nearly double South Korea’s current target of cutting carbon 24.4 percent below 2017 levels by the end of the decade.

South Korea, the world’s seventh-largest emitter of planet-warming carbon dioxide, is important to the Biden administration’s effort to show that other industrialized countries are acting vigorously against climate change.

international climate change summit that Mr. Biden hosted last month, promised to end funding of overseas coal plants.

At the same time, Korea has seven coal plants under construction, according to the Global Energy Monitor, a San Francisco-based group that follows fossil fuel projects. And, a new study by the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology found that, unless the government enacted aggressive new policies, the country would “fall embarrassingly short” in meeting its current targets.

In a letter last week to Mr. Moon, former Vice President Al Gore urged him to set a target of at least 50 percent to “help protect the future of our planet.” More ambitious goals, Mr. Gore said, “would have a ripple effect on the climate policies of countries around the world.”

As a highly industrialized country that is heavily dependent on coal and imports virtually all of its oil and gas, South Korea faces serious challenges in meeting the United States’ and environmental groups’ expectations.

Won Hee-ryong, the governor of Jeju Province in South Korea, said he believed the government must improve its target, but he called hitting 50 percent “challenging.” Speaking Wednesday at a forum sponsored by World Resources Institute, Mr. Won said a more reasonable goal might be around 37 percent.

“It may be difficult for Korea to commit to an emissions target as ambitious as the United States, given that our emissions peaked only three years ago,” he said.

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What if Space Junk and Climate Change Become the Same Problem?

It’s easy to compare the space junk problem to climate change. Human activities leave too many dead satellites and fragments of machinery discarded in Earth orbit. If left unchecked, space junk could pose significant problems for future generations — rendering access to space increasingly difficult, or at worst, impossible.

Yet the two may come to be linked. Our planet’s atmosphere naturally pulls orbiting debris downward and incinerates it in the thicker lower atmosphere, but increasing carbon dioxide levels are lowering the density of the upper atmosphere, which may diminish this effect. A study presented last month at the European Conference on Space Debris says that the problem has been underestimated, and that the amount of space junk in orbit could, in a worst-case scenario, increase 50 times by 2100.

“The numbers took us by surprise,” said Hugh Lewis, a space debris expert from the University of Southampton in England and a co-author on the paper, which will be submitted for peer review in the coming months. “There is genuine cause for alarm.”

Our atmosphere is a useful ally in clearing up space junk. Collisions with its molecules cause drag, pulling objects back into the atmosphere. Below 300 miles above the surface, most objects will naturally decay into the thicker lower atmosphere and burn up in less than 10 years.

rerelease infrared radiation after absorbing it from the sun, which is then trapped by the thick atmosphere as heat. But above 60 miles where the atmosphere is thinner, the opposite is true. “There’s nothing to recapture that energy,” said Matthew Brown, also from the University of Southampton and the paper’s lead author. “So it gets lost into space.”

21 percent of its density because of rising carbon dioxide levels. By 2100, if carbon dioxide levels double their current levels — in line with the worst-case scenario assessment by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — that number could rise to 80 percent.

For space junk, the implications are stark. More than 2,500 objects larger than four inches in size currently orbit at or below an altitude of 250 miles. In the worst-case scenario, increased orbital lifetimes of up to 40 years would mean fewer items are dragged into the lower atmosphere. Objects at this altitude would proliferate by 50 times to about 125,000.

Even in a best-case scenario, where carbon dioxide levels stabilize or even reverse, the amount of space junk would still be expected to double. Mr. Brown thinks a more probable outcome is somewhere in between, perhaps a 10 or 20 times increase.

major factor in atmospheric density changes.

The findings may also pose challenges for regulators and satellite operators, especially SpaceX, Amazon and other companies seeking to build megaconstellations of thousands of satellites to beam internet service down to the ground from low Earth orbit.

Just last month, for example, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission approved a request from SpaceX to decrease the orbits of nearly 3,000 satellites in its Starlink constellation, reasoning that atmospheric drag would naturally sweep up dead satellites and debris in a reasonable amount of time.

Debris Assessment Software to predict lifetimes of satellites in low Earth orbit. “We do not know at this time if there are any plans to change that program to address the changes in atmospheric composition predicted in the paper,” he said. “The F.C.C. periodically reviews its rules and regulations and updates them consistent with developments in the marketplace and in scientific knowledge.”

SpaceX did not respond to a request for comment.

Dr. Lewis said that he suspected that some of the modeling, however, relies on outdated data, and that more needed to be done to actively remove satellites and debris from orbit rather than relying on the passive atmospheric effect. “Operators have to make this aspect of the mission a priority,” he said.

Even a moderate increase in lifetimes for large constellations could pose significant problems. “If SpaceX’s spacecraft re-enter passively in 10 or 15 years, would you argue that’s good enough?” Dr. Lewis said. “Given the fact that it’s a large constellation, lots of people would say probably not.”

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Human Composting Could Soon Be Legal in Colorado

DENVER — Food scraps and biodegradable utensils are common fodder for compost, but in Colorado, human remains could soon be transformed into soil too.

The Colorado State Legislature passed a bill on Tuesday that would allow composting of human remains in lieu of traditional processes like burial and cremation.

State Representative Brianna Titone, a Democrat who sponsored the bill, said she had gone to funerals and, seeing burial or cremation as the two options, thought, “I don’t know if I want either one of these things.”

When she learned about human composting, she said, “It really excited me.”

If Gov. Jared Polis signs the bill into law, which he said he would, Colorado would become the second state to legalize human composting. Washington State did so in 2019, and legislators in Oregon, California and New York have proposed human composting legislation.

Recompose, a company that offers human composting services in Washington, places the body onto a bed of wood chips, alfalfa and straw inside a steel, 8-foot-long by 4-foot-tall cylinder, according to its website. Each body creates about one cubic yard of soil.

“Everything — including bones and teeth — transforms” during the process, its website says. The contents of the cylinder are also blended by Recompose staff members, “which helps to break up any remaining bone fragments and teeth.”

However, nonorganic material like prosthetics and artificial joints are fetched from the cylinder and removed.

Katrina Spade, Recompose’s co-founder and chief executive, said on Wednesday that the company was already looking at locations in the Denver area, where it hopes to build a 50-cylinder facility if the bill becomes law.

Ms. Spade said people in Colorado had expressed interest in Recompose, adding that “there is an ethos of ecological love and respect in the Denver area and in Colorado broadly, everywhere from the mountains to the farming that happens around the state.”

She said that Recompose’s process saved about one metric ton of carbon dioxide for each body that is composted rather than cremated or buried traditionally. Mr. Soper, who represents a rural part of Colorado, said some of his liberal constituents were interested in human composting for its environmental benefits.

Among his more conservative constituents from the agricultural community, Mr. Soper said, there are “farmers or ranchers who really like the idea of being connected to the land that they were born and raised on.”

opposition to the practice.

But Mr. Soper said that for him, the matter was less about explicitly supporting human composting and more about offering the choice.

“Why not?” he said. “Why should the government be prohibiting this type of option to be available to Coloradans?”

Mr. Soper said that Colorado was among the states with the fewest regulations for crematories and funeral homes, making it ideal for new human composting businesses.

Recompose has patents pending on its cylinders, but not on the human composting process, Ms. Spade said, adding that she hopes that human composting becomes “the default choice for death care.”

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Newer Planes Are Providing Airlines a Trove of Useful Data

This article is part of our new series, Currents, which examines how rapid advances in technology are transforming our lives.

With few flights and even fewer passengers, the coronavirus pandemic unleashed a wave of challenges for airlines. Some have gone out of business and others are barely surviving as global passenger volume hovers at around 50 percent of 2019 levels.

Without passengers to fill them, airlines have been retiring their older aircraft faster than normal. The more than 1,400 planes airplanes parked in 2020 that might not return to service is more than twice as many aircraft as would customarily be retired in a single year, according to a 10-year aviation forecast by the business consulting firm, Oliver Wyman. The result will a more modern fleet, the report states.

In a glass-is-half-full observation, David Marty, head of digital solutions marketing at Airbus, noted that planes remaining in airlines’ fleets are younger, more fuel-efficient aircraft, with lower carbon dioxide emissions.

Boeing 737 Max flights to capture any anomalies for analysis. This is in response to the nearly two-year grounding of the Max following two deadly crashes. The Max returned to service at the end of 2020. (Some of the planes were grounded again this month because of a potential electrical problem.)

To show how fast change has come, Kevin Michaels, the managing director of AeroDynamic Advisory, an aerospace consultancy, points to the newest Airbus airliner, the A350. It typically records 800 megabytes of data per flight. The Airbus A380, the world’s largest passenger airliner, which began operation in 2007, can provide only half of that.

“There’s a lot more data available and better algorithms,” Mr. Michaels said.

At Delta Air Lines, new technology has led the airline to create apps pilots use on a tablet like Flight Weather Viewer to avoid flying through turbulence. It was first launched in 2016 and updated over the years as new capabilities became available.

Its Flight Family Communication app, started in 2018, lets all employees working on a specific flight communicate among themselves, from ground crews to flight crews. John Laughter, the airline’s chief of operations, says one of the best uses of the new data is predicting when parts will fail so maintenance can be done proactively.

“I’ve been at Delta since 1993 and almost everything we did then was looking backwards,” he said. “We’d have a failure and we’d ask, ‘How do we fix it?’”

Today, Mr. Laughter says “data scientists are looking at the data” so they can schedule what would previously have been an unscheduled and potentially disruptive repair.

Executives at Malaysia’s AirAsia say preventing delays is critical because their business model depends on planes spending no more than 25 minutes at the airport gate. Since 10 different entities have a hand in dispatching a flight, anything that slows the progress of one of those people can trigger a cascade of delays.

By applying artificial intelligence to the data it collects, AirAsia has also been able to find small reductions in fuel and labor costs that add up, said Javed Malik, the airline’s group chief operations officer. “At the end of the year, that can save millions.”

Still, many airlines have found it challenging to keep up with the volume of information.

“Airlines and aircraft are like oil rigs in the ocean,” said Yann Cabaret, vice president of strategy, product and marketing at SITA, an airline industry-owned technology nonprofit. “And their data is like crude oil. They can’t do much with it. They need people and technology to refine that data so they can get value from it.”

It’s not that airlines haven’t embraced new technology in the past, they have.

Computer reservation systems, for example, were state of the art when they began in the 1960s. But six decades later, airlines are still trying to create a way to sell tickets and other products with the pizazz that web-savvy shoppers have come to expect. The rapid pace of change can create hurdles.

“We’re locked into old systems for which our IT vendors have designed particular applications,” said Frederic Sutter, head of a data sharing platform called Skywise offered by Airbus. “When you had to mix the different data from different systems, the industry was not equipped to do so.”

To solve that problem, in 2017, Airbus started selling to customers access to Skywise’s cloud-based platform where they could share with other airlines information about their planes, suppliers and components.

One hundred and thirty airlines, including AirAsia upload their de-identified data to the platform “so they can compare themselves with the entire fleet,” Mr. Sutter said.

Even Airbus is a beneficiary. “The data collected and shared enables us to validate our design and prepare for the next generation of aircraft,” he said. Should reports from the fleet show unanticipated issues, the company can begin planning design changes if needed.

Global companies like Airbus, Google, and IBM have found a potentially lucrative market selling tech services to airlines because the carriers, some of which have been around for a century, are locked into what Vik Krishnan, a partner with McKinsey & Company specializing in the travel sector, calls “antiquated” systems.

Newer airlines, like AirAsia, aren’t trapped by that history. It was just 5-years-old when its present owners bought it in 2001. After adding a long-haul carrier and acquiring a handful of affiliate regional airlines, the company decided to merge its disparate data and create what Mr. Malik calls a “connected ecosystem.”

The airline wanted all its information accessible under one roof and visibility across departments so that, for example, a passenger’s biometric information — fingerprints or facial recognition, for example — could be used for security and boarding at the airport but also for purchasing products on AirAsia’s e-commerce platforms. This use of technology could create privacy issues that governments may need to address.

“Those are separate, different technologies; payment and biometrics that need to work seamlessly in the background so the customer gets a great experience,” Mr. Malik said.

In 2018, AirAsia partnered with Google to become one of the first airlines to move its data to the cloud, and more airlines have followed. Delta and IBM announced a deal earlier this year to move both customer and in-house apps to the public cloud while they work on strategies for handling increasing amounts of aircraft information.

“Airlines have a greater capacity to use the data or process it or deploy artificial intelligence as they sift through and glean the information they need,” said Dee Waddell, IBM’s global managing director for travel and transportation industries.

But as they fly farther into the digital age, airlines are also learning that being part of big data is not without its downsides, the burden of managing it all being one of them.

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Trudeau Was a Global Climate Hero. Now Canada Risks Falling Behind.

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada will arrive for President Biden’s climate summit on Thursday with an outsize reputation for being a warrior in the global fight against climate change.

But one facet of Canada’s economy complicates his record: the country’s insistence on expanding output from its oil sands.

Between Mr. Trudeau’s election in 2015 and 2019, Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions increased by 1 percent, despite decreases in other rich nations during the same period, according to government data released last week. In fact, Canada is the only Group of 7 country whose emissions have risen since the Paris climate agreement was signed six years ago.

Canadian officials insist that Mr. Trudeau’s policies simply need more time to work. But environmentalists counter that Canada can’t reduce emissions without reducing oil production from the sands.

declared them obsolete, the political backlash would be overwhelming.

A spokeswoman for the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, which represents oil companies, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

“There’s a disconnect, at least on the international stage, between Canada’s reputation on climate and the reality of action on the ground,” said Catherine Abreu, the executive director of Climate Action Network Canada, a coalition of about 100 labor, Indigenous, environmental and religious groups. “We have to really have to stop selling ourselves that perhaps comforting, but dangerous, lie that there is room for the oil sands in the future.”

Mr. Trudeau’s commitment to stopping climate change. Canada increased its carbon price — which provinces must adopt or have imposed by the federal government — to 40 Canadian dollars a metric ton this month and it is scheduled to rise to 170 dollars by the end of the decade. The government has also moved forward on clean fuel standards, as well as limiting leaks of methane, a potent climate change gas, and other measures.

reversed American policies to combat it.

Now Mr. Biden has made climate a central issue for his administration. At the summit, he is expected to announce that the United States will cut its greenhouse gas emissions by about half by 2030, compared with 2005 levels.

Mr. Trudeau is expected to announce a new reduction target for the same period, but few experts expect him to match Mr. Biden’s cut.

The timing could leave Canada in a bind, according to Dale Beugin, vice president for research and analysis at the Canadian Institute for Climate Choices, a nonpartisan research group.

Mr. Trudeau’s pledge to raise the carbon tax to 170 Canadian dollars, announced late last year, is already seen as ambitious, Mr. Beugin said.

percent of its electricity comes from sources that do not emit carbon, the largest one being hydroelectric dams. In 2019, emissions from Canada’s electricity generation fell below oil sands emissions for the first time.

capture carbon dioxide and store it underground is only being used at a single plant that turns bitumen into crude oil.

“We still have a huge challenge,” said Professor Leach. “You see people almost declaring victory before the first battle’s been fought.”

In its budget this week, Mr. Trudeau’s government set aside 2 billion Canadian dollars to offer Canadian industries a tax credit for carbon capture, but its details still need to be worked out.

The offer comes a month after Jason Kenney, the Conservative premier of Alberta, called on Mr. Trudeau’s government to provide 30 billion Canadian dollars for the development of carbon capture technologies.

While a step of that magnitude might be popular in Alberta, where Mr. Trudeau attracts little support, it could be seen as an oil industry subsidy and alienate voters elsewhere in country who support the Liberals, carbon taxes and other climate measures.

Many environmentalists in Canada say that rather than subsidize the energy industry, Mr. Trudeau’s government should openly acknowledge that the oil sands are a declining industry and start focusing on managing that decline and investing in new job opportunities for its thousands of workers.

“Canada’s oil gas sector produces some of the dirtiest and most expensive fossil fuels in the world,” said Ms. Abreu of Climate Action Network Canada. “It’s really unrealistic for governments in this country to keep telling the public that we can expect that industry to continue indefinitely.”

Christopher Flavelle reported from Washington. Brad Plumer contributed reporting from Washington.

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China’s Solar Dominance Presents Biden With Human Rights Dilemma

WASHINGTON — President Biden has repeatedly pledged to work with China on issues like climate change while challenging Beijing on human rights and unfair trade practices.

But those goals are now coming into conflict in the global solar sector, presenting the Biden administration with a tough choice as it looks to expand the use of solar power domestically to reduce the United States’ carbon dioxide emissions.

The dilemma stems from an uncomfortable reality: China dominates the global supply chain for solar power, producing the vast majority of the materials and parts for solar panels that the United States relies on for clean energy. And there is emerging evidence that some of China’s biggest solar companies have worked with the Chinese government to absorb minority workers in the far western region of Xinjiang, programs often seen as a red flag for potential forced labor and human rights abuses.

This week, Mr. Biden is inviting world leaders to a climate summit in Washington, where he is expected to unveil an ambitious plan for cutting America’s emissions over the next decade. The administration is already eyeing a goal of generating 100 percent of the nation’s electricity from carbon-free sources such as solar, wind or nuclear power by 2035, up from only 40 percent last year. To meet that target, the United States may need to more than double its annual pace of solar installations.

many of which are imported from Chinese-owned factories in Vietnam, Malaysia and Thailand.

China also supplies many of the key components in solar panels, including more than 80 percent of the world’s polysilicon, a raw material that most solar panels use to absorb energy from sunlight. Nearly half of the global supply comes from Xinjiang alone. In 2019, less than 5 percent of the world’s polysilicon came from U.S.-owned companies.

“It’s put the Democrats in a hard position,” said Francine Sullivan, the vice president for business development at REC Silicon, a polysilicon maker based in Norway with factories in the United States. “Do you want to stand up to human rights in China, or do you want cheap solar panels?”

The administration is increasingly under pressure from influential supporters not to turn a blind eye to potential human rights abuses in order to achieve its climate goals.

“As the U.S. seeks to address climate change, we must not allow the Chinese Communist Party to use forced labor to meet our nation’s needs,” Richard L. Trumka, the president of the A.F.L.-C.I.O., wrote in a letter on March 12 urging the Biden administration to block imports of solar products containing polysilicon from the Xinjiang region.

Xinjiang is now notorious as the site of a vast program of detention and surveillance that the Chinese government has carried out against Muslim Uyghurs and other minority groups. Human rights groups say the Chinese authorities may have detained a million or more minorities in camps and other sites where they face torture, indoctrination and coerced labor.

In a report last year, Horizon Advisory, a consultancy in Washington, cited Chinese news reports and government announcements suggesting that major Chinese solar companies including GCL-Poly, East Hope Group, Daqo New Energy, Xinte Energy and Jinko Solar had accepted workers transferred with the help of the Chinese government from impoverished parts of Xinjiang.

Jinko Solar denied those allegations, as did the Chinese government. Zhang Longgen, a vice chairman of Xinjiang Daqo — a unit of one of the companies cited by Horizon Advisory — said that the polysilicon plants were not labor intensive, and that the company’s workers were freely employed and could quit if they wanted, according to Global Times, a Chinese Communist Party-owned newspaper. The report said that only 18 of the 1,934 workers at Xinjiang Daqo belonged to ethnic minorities, and that none were Uyghur.

a sweeping ban on cotton and tomatoes from the region. Those restrictions have forced a reorganization of global supply chains, especially in the apparel sector.

The Biden administration has said it is still reviewing the Trump administration’s policies, and it has not yet signaled whether it will pursue other bans on products or companies. But both Mr. Biden and his advisers have insisted that the United States plans to confront China on human rights abuses in Xinjiang.

A spokeswoman for the National Security Council said that the draconian treatment of Uyghurs “cannot be ignored,” and that the administration was “studying ways to effectively ensure that we are not importing products made from forced labor,” including solar products.

a pledge of 236 companies to oppose forced labor and encouraged companies to sever any ties with Xinjiang by June.

Some Chinese companies have responded by reshuffling their supply chains, funneling polysilicon and other solar products they manufacture outside Xinjiang to American buyers, and then directing their Xinjiang-made products to China and other markets.

Analysts say this kind of reorganization is, in theory, feasible. About 35 percent of the world’s polysilicon comes from regions in China other than Xinjiang, while the United States and the European Union together make up around 30 percent of global solar panel demand, according to Johannes Bernreuter, a polysilicon market analyst at Bernreuter Research.

John Smirnow, the general counsel for the Solar Energy Industries Association, said most solar companies were already well on their way toward extricating supply chains from Xinjiang.

also been reported in Chinese facilities outside Xinjiang where Uyghurs and other minorities have been transferred to work. And restrictions on products from Xinjiang could spread to markets including Canada, Britain and Australia, which are debating new rules and guidelines.

Human rights advocates have argued that allowing Chinese companies to cleave their supply chains to serve American and non-American buyers may do little to improve conditions in Xinjiang and have pressed the Biden administration for stronger action.

“The message has to be clear to the Chinese government that this economic model is not going to be supported by governments or businesses,” said Cathy Feingold, the director of the A.F.L.-C.I.O.’s International Department.

Chinese companies are also facing pressure from Beijing not to accede to American demands, since that could be seen as a tacit criticism of the government’s activities in Xinjiang.

In a statement in January, the China Photovoltaic Industry Association and China Nonferrous Metals Industry Association condemned “irresponsible statements” from U.S. industries, which they said were directed at curbing Xinjiang’s development and “meddling in Chinese domestic affairs.”

“It is widely known that the ‘forced labor’ issue is in its entirety the lie of the century that the United States and certain other Western countries have concocted from nothing,” they said.

mothballed a new $1.2 billion facility in Tennessee in 2014, while REC Silicon shut its polysilicon facility in Washington in 2019.

China has promised to carry out large purchases of American polysilicon as part of a trade deal signed last year, but those transactions have not materialized.

In the near term, tensions over Xinjiang could be a boon for the few remaining U.S. suppliers. Ms. Sullivan said some small U.S. solar developers had reached out to REC Silicon in recent months to inquire about non-Chinese products.

But American companies need the promise of reliable, long-term orders to scale up, she said, adding that when she explains the limited supply of solar products that do not touch China, people become “visibly ill.”

“This is the big lesson,” Ms. Sullivan added. “You become dependent on China, and what does it mean? We have to swallow our values in order to do solar.”

Chris Buckley contributed reporting.

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