TOKYO — As he visits Washington this week, it would seem as if Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga of Japan could take a victory lap.
Mr. Suga is the first foreign leader to be invited to the White House by President Biden, who has vowed to reinvigorate alliances. Japan already had the distinction last month of being the first international destination for the new U.S. secretaries of state and defense. And Mr. Suga will not have to contend with threats of higher tariffs or the need for constant flattery that drove Mr. Biden’s mercurial predecessor.
But even as relations between the two countries are calming, Japan faces a perilous moment, with the United States prodding it to more squarely address the most glaring threat to stability in Asia: China.
It is the latest step in an age-old dance between the two countries. Ever since the United States forged an alliance with Japan during its postwar occupation, Tokyo has sought reassurance of protection by Washington, while Washington has nudged Tokyo to do more to secure its own defense.
Jennifer Lind, an associate professor of government at Dartmouth College and a specialist in East Asian international security.
“The U.S.-Japan alliance is at a crossroads,” Ms. Lind said. “The alliance has to decide how do we want to respond to the growing threat from China and to the Chinese agenda for international order.”
Analysts and former officials said it was time for Japan to expand its thinking about what a summit with its most important ally could accomplish.
repeatedly ignored diplomatic or legal efforts to contain its aggressive actions in both the South China and East China Seas, some say Japan needs to be more specific about what it might do in the event of a military conflict.
“Who doesn’t want freedom and openness?” said Jeffrey Hornung, an analyst at the RAND Corporation. “By signing up for those things, you subtly take a jab at China. But what are you going to do when those things you say you’re going to defend come under attack?”
Japanese leaders usually use summits with American presidents to seek assurances that the United States, which has about 50,000 troops stationed in Japan, would defend the country’s right to control the uninhabited Senkaku Islands. Over the past year, China, which also claims the islands, has sent boats into or near Japan’s territorial waters around the islands with increasing frequency.
Taiwan Strait, where China has been dispatching warplanes to menace the democratic island, which Beijing considers a rogue territory. When Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III and Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken visited Tokyo last month, they and their Japanese counterparts issued a statement stressing “the importance of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.”
statement in which the Japanese leader said that “the maintenance of peace and security in the Taiwan area was also important for peace and security of Japan.”
The gritty details of how Japan might support the United States and Taiwan in the case of an invasion by Beijing are probably beyond the scope of this week’s talks. While Mr. Biden is unlikely to make any blunt demands that Japan pay more for its defense, as President Donald J. Trump did, the current president could amplify recent signals from his administration about efforts to deter China. One possibility is that Japan could be asked to host long-range missiles, a proposal that would probably face significant domestic opposition.
Mr. Biden and Mr. Suga are expected to discuss not just China’s military actions, but also its human rights record, as well as the coup in Myanmar — likely areas of difference between the leaders.
The Biden administration has called China’s repression of Uyghur Muslims in the Xinjiang region a genocide and imposed sanctions on Chinese officials. It has also placed sanctions on military generals in Myanmar. But Japan tends to be more circumspect in addressing human rights or taking direct actions such as economic sanctions.
Tobias Harris, an expert on Japanese politics at Teneo Intelligence in Washington, said the Suga administration addressed human rights only “rhetorically.”
fear of backlash, and an understanding that Beijing can turn off the spigot at any time.
Tsuneo Watanabe, a senior fellow at the Sasakawa Peace Foundation in Tokyo, noted that at the outset of the pandemic, China designated certain medicines and surgical masks as “strategic goods” and stopped shipping them to Japan. “We can no longer rely on the free flow of goods from China,” Mr. Watanabe said.
Some Japanese officials say Mr. Suga should not rush to follow Mr. Biden’s harder line on China and Myanmar. Kunihiko Miyake, a former Japanese diplomat who advises Mr. Suga, said Japan’s approach to such countries is “more dialogue than punishment.”
hosting a climate summit next week. One goal is to persuade Japan to stop its financial support of coal projects abroad, which it has already started to reduce.
decision to host the Olympic Games this summer.
The trip’s success may depend in part on whether Mr. Suga develops a rapport with Mr. Biden. Seasoned watchers of Japan will be closely tracking Mr. Suga, who is not known for his charisma, especially after his predecessor, Shinzo Abe, spent considerable time and effort wooing Mr. Biden’s predecessor.
“We have two older and very traditional politicians in a lot of ways,” said Kristin Vekasi, an associate professor of political science at the University of Maine. “I will be curious to see what they do.”
President Biden’s climate envoy, John Kerry, was set to arrive in China on Wednesday, the first Biden administration official to visit the country at a moment of high diplomatic tensions.
In its formal announcement of the trip, the State Department said that Mr. Kerry would “discuss raising global climate ambition” ahead of a virtual climate summit that President Biden plans to host for dozens of world leaders later this month. The summit’s goal is to prod countries to do more to reduce carbon emissions and limit planetary warming by 1.5 degrees Celsius, a threshold scientists argue is needed to avert catastrophic changes to life on the planet.
President Biden has invited China’s leader, Xi Jinping, to the summit, but Mr. Xi has not yet accepted the invitation. His participation in an American diplomatic initiative, were it to happen, would be a significant sign of China’s willingness to work with the United States despite rising tensions over sanctions and other measures the new administration has taken in coordination with its allies.
Mr. Kerry’s visit to China underscores the Biden administration’s intent to cooperate with China on shared challenges, including climate, the coronavirus and nuclear proliferation even as the countries are locked in an increasingly fraught political, technological and military competition.
Hong Kong and Xinjiang, and its military operations near Taiwan and in the South China Sea.
In a move likely to anger Beijing, the State Department also announced on Tuesday that a delegation of former American officials, including two former deputy secretaries of state, would visit Taiwan as a “personal signal” of Mr. Biden’s commitment to the island democracy, which Beijing claims as part of its territory. Chinese officials have sharply criticized the administration’s signals of support for Taiwan.
Mr. Biden has made clear that he sees China as a leading strategic threat to America. At a testy diplomatic summit in Anchorage last month, senior Chinese and American officials traded sharply critical assessments of each other’s policies.
The visit by Mr. Kerry comes after the release of a major annual intelligence report on Tuesday that warned China’s effort to expand its growing influence represents one of the largest threats to the United States. China’s strategy, according to the report, is to drive wedges between the United States and its allies. The report also identified climate change as a growing threat to the United States.
Biden officials understand that effectively tackling climate change requires cooperation from China, the world’s top emitter of greenhouse gas. As secretary of state in the Obama administration, Mr. Kerry himself helped to secure China’s agreement to join the 2015 Paris Climate accords.
specific new targets for reducing emissions. He pledged last year to speed up the point when emissions peak in China, which had previously been in 2030, and to reach “carbon neutrality” by 2060 — meaning that the country would emit no more emissions than it takes from the atmosphere by planting forests or engineering.
Environmentalists cheered those goals, but later expressed disappointment that the Chinese government did not detail how to reach them when they unveiled a new five-year economic plan in March.
At the same time, China has continued to approve new coal plants, one of the leading sources of carbon emissions, prioritizing social stability and economic development of an important industry at home.
Thom Woodroofe, an analyst at the Asia Society Policy Institute who is studying Chinese-American climate cooperation, said at a talk last month that both countries seemed to want to insulate the issue of climate change from their other disputes.
“From China’s perspective, there’s a recognition that they have more to gain than lose from finding a way to cooperate with the United States on climate,” he said.
While President Trump was in the White House, China raised its profile as a leading player in climate change policy. “With Biden’s inauguration, they don’t simply want that position to be swept aside,” he said.
Chris Buckley contributed reporting and Claire Fu contributed research.
Getting a market-rate return is something impact investors are comfortable with, but a lower return makes it harder to attract enough investors, said Trenton Allen, managing director and chief executive of Sustainable Capital Advisors. “It’s not impossible,” he said. “But you’re narrowing the number of investors you have access to.”
Traditional impact investors also argue that accepting different returns for different investments is already happening. Consider bondlike returns for fixed-income types of risk.
“Impact investing is a big tent and should be a big tent,” said Nancy Pfund, managing partner at DBL Partners, an impact venture capital fund. “The challenge is, we shouldn’t muddy the waters and think impact-first is the only kind of investment. We also don’t want to step backward and deal with biases about returns that we have spent at least 10 years fighting.”
Even those who have taken the approach agree that it is a luxury.
“If the organizing priority is impact, that’s a privilege, but you have to have a deep tolerance for risk,” said Margot Kane, chief investment officer of Spring Point Partners, which is a social venture fund created by the Berwind family of Philadelphia, whose wealth dates to 19th-century coal mining.
For anyone considering taking the middle ground, here are the two key questions: How do you determine if an investment qualifies as impact first? And since impact, not return, is the primary motivation, how do you measure it?
Let’s start with selection.
“One of the things we ask ourselves when we’re doing due diligence on one of these projects is, ‘Is this a really great catalytic investment or a very bad market-rate investment?’” said Liesel Pritzker Simmons, co-founder and principal of Blue Haven Initiative and a member of the family whose wealth derives from Hyatt hotels.
“Honestly, it tends to come down to what is the problem they’re trying to solve and is the nature of that solution super-scalable or not?” she said.
WASHINGTON — President Biden will unveil an infrastructure plan on Wednesday whose $2 trillion price tag would translate into 20,000 miles of rebuilt roads, repairs to the 10 most economically important bridges in the country, the elimination of lead pipes and service lines from the nation’s water supplies and a long list of other projects intended to create millions of jobs in the short run and strengthen American competitiveness in the long run.
Biden administration officials said the proposal, which they detailed in a 25-page briefing paper and which Mr. Biden will discuss in an afternoon speech in Pittsburgh, would also accelerate the fight against climate change by hastening the shift to new, cleaner energy sources, and would help promote racial equity in the economy.
The spending in the plan would take place over eight years, officials said. Unlike the economic stimulus passed under President Barack Obama in 2009, when Mr. Biden was vice president, officials will not in every case prioritize so-called shovel ready projects that could quickly bolster growth.
But even spread over years, the scale of the proposal underscores how fully Mr. Biden has embraced the opportunity to use federal spending to address longstanding social and economic challenges in a way not seen in half a century. Officials said that, if approved, the spending in the plan would end decades of stagnation in federal investment in research and infrastructure — and would return government investment in those areas, as a share of the economy, to its highest levels since the 1960s.
signed into law this month, the “American Rescue Plan.”
“The American Jobs Plan,” White House officials wrote in the document detailing it, “will invest in America in a way we have not invested since we built the interstate highways and won the Space Race.”
While spending on roads, bridges and other physical improvements to the nation’s economic foundations has always had bipartisan appeal, Mr. Biden’s plan is sure to draw intense Republican opposition, both for its sheer size and for its reliance on corporate tax increases to pay for it.
Administration officials said the tax increases in the plan — including an increase in the corporate tax rate and a variety of measures to tax multinationals on money they earn and book overseas — would take 15 years to fully offset the cost of the spending programs.
The spending in the plan covers a wide range of physical infrastructure projects, including transportation, broadband, the electric grid and housing; efforts to jump-start advanced manufacturing; and other industries officials see as key to the United States’ growing economic competition with China. It also includes money to train millions of workers, as well as money for initiatives to support labor unions and providers of in-home care for older and disabled Americans, while also increasing the pay of the workers who provide that care.
Many of the items in the plan carry price tags that would have filled entire, ambitious bills in past administrations.
Among them: a total of $180 billion for research and development, $115 billion for roads and bridges, $85 billion for public transit, and $80 billion for Amtrak and freight rail. There is $42 billion for ports and airports, $100 billion for broadband and $111 billion for water infrastructure — including $45 billion to ensure no child ever is forced to drink water from a lead pipe, which can slow children’s development and lead to behavioral and other problems.
The plan seeks to repair 10,000 smaller bridges across the country, along with the 10 most economically significant ones in need of a fix. It would electrify 20 percent of the nation’s fleet of yellow school buses. It would spend $300 billion to promote advanced manufacturing, including a four-year plan to restock the country’s Strategic National Stockpile of pharmaceuticals, including vaccines, in preparation for future pandemics.
In many cases, officials cast those goals in the language of closing racial gaps in the economy, sometimes the result of previous federal spending efforts, like interstate highway developments that split communities of color or air pollution that affects Black and Hispanic communities near ports or power plants.
Officials cast the $400 billion spending on in-home care in part as a salve to “underpaid and undervalued” workers in that industry, who are disproportionately women of color.
Mr. Biden’s pledge to tackle climate change is embedded throughout the plan. Roads, bridges and airports would be made more resilient to the effects of more extreme storms, floods and fires wrought by a warming planet. Spending on research and development could help spur breakthroughs in cutting-edge clean technology, while plans to retrofit and weatherize millions of buildings would make them more energy efficient.
The president’s focus on climate change is centered, however, on modernizing and transforming the United States’ two largest sources of planet-warming greenhouse gas pollution: cars and electric power plants.
A decade ago, Mr. Obama’s economic stimulus plan spent about $90 billion on clean energy programs intended to jump-start the nation’s nascent renewable power and electric vehicle industries. Mr. Biden’s plan now proposes spending magnitudes more on similar programs that he hopes will take those technologies fully into the mainstream.
It bets heavily on spending meant to increase the use of electric cars, which today make up just 2 percent of the vehicles on America’s highways.
The plan proposes spending $174 billion to encourage the manufacture and purchase of electric vehicles by granting tax credits and other incentives to companies that make electric vehicle batteries in the United States instead of China. The goal is to reduce vehicle price tags.
The money would also fund the construction of about a half-million electric vehicle charging stations — although experts say that number is but a tiny fraction of what is needed to make electric vehicles a mainstream option.
Mr. Biden’s plan proposes $100 billion in programs to update and modernize the electric grid to make it more reliable and less susceptible to blackouts, like those that recently devastated Texas, while also building more transmission lines from wind and solar plants to large cities.
It proposes the creation of a “Clean Electricity Standard” — essentially, a federal mandate requiring that a certain percentage of electricity in the United States be generated by zero-carbon energy sources like wind, solar and possibly nuclear power. But that mandate would have to be enacted by Congress, where prospects for its success remain murky. Similar efforts to pass such a mandate have failed multiple times over the past 20 years.
The plan proposes an additional $46 billion in federal procurement programs for government agencies to buy fleets of electric vehicles, and $35 billion in research and development programs for cutting-edge, new technologies.
It also calls for making infrastructure and communities more prepared for the worsening effects of climate change, though the administration has so far provided few details on how it would accomplish that goal.
But according to the document released by the White House, the plan includes $50 billion “in dedicated investments to improve infrastructure resilience.” The efforts would defend against wildfires, rising seas and hurricanes, and there would be a focus on investments that protect low-income residents and people of color.
The plan also includes a $16 billion program intended to help fossil fuel workers transition to new work — like capping leaks on defunct oil wells and shutting down retired coal mines — and $10 billion for a new “Civilian Climate Corps.”
Mr. Biden would fund his spending in part by eliminating tax preferences for fossil fuel producers. But the bulk of his tax increases would come from corporations generally.
He would raise the corporate tax rate to 28 percent from 21 percent, partly reversing a cut signed into law by President Donald J. Trump. Mr. Biden would also take a variety of steps to raise taxes on multinational corporations, many of them working within an overhaul of the taxation of profits earned overseas that was included in Mr. Trump’s tax law in 2017.
Those measures would include raising the rate of a minimum tax on global profits and eliminating several provisions that allow companies to reduce their American tax liability on profits they earn and book abroad.
Mr. Biden would also add a new minimum tax on the global income of the largest multinationals, and he would ramp up enforcement efforts by the Internal Revenue Service against large companies that evade taxes.
Administration officials expressed hope this week that the plan could attract bipartisan support in Congress. But Republicans and business groups have already attacked Mr. Biden’s plans to fund the spending with corporate tax increases, which they say will hurt the competitiveness of American companies. Administration officials say the moves will push companies to keep profits and jobs in the United States.
Joshua Bolten, the president and chief executive of the Business Roundtable, a powerful group representing top business executives in Washington, said on Tuesday that his group “strongly opposes corporate tax increases as a pay-for for infrastructure investment.”
“Policymakers should avoid creating new barriers to job creation and economic growth,” Mr. Bolten said, “particularly during the recovery.”
Coral Davenport and Christopher Flavelle contributed reporting.
LONDON — The courthouse should have already been closed for the day.
At a hearing that began at 5 p.m. on March 1, lawyers for Greensill Capital desperately argued before a judge in Sydney, Australia, that the firm’s insurers should be ordered to extend policies set to expire at midnight. Greensill Capital needed the insurance to back $4.6 billion it was owed by businesses around the world, and without it 50,000 jobs would be in jeopardy, they said.
The judge said no; the company had waited too long to bring the matter to court. A week later, Greensill Capital — valued at $3.5 billion less than two years ago — filed for bankruptcy in London. An international firm with 16 offices around the world, from Singapore to London to Bogotá, was insolvent.
Greensill’s dazzlingly fast failure is one of the most spectacular collapses of a global finance firm in over a decade. It has entangled SoftBank and Credit Suisse and threatens the business empire of the British steel tycoon, Sanjeev Gupta, who employs 35,000 workers throughout the world. Greensill’s problems extend to the United States, where the governor of West Virginia and his coal mining company have sued Greensill Capital for “a continuous and profitable fraud” over $850 million in loans.
At the center of it is Lex Greensill, an Australian farmer-turned-banker, who in 2011 founded his company in London as a solution to a problem: Companies want to wait as long as possible before paying for their supplies, while the companies making the supplies need their cash as soon as possible.
The Australian newspaper that he did the same for President Barack Obama in the United States.
Eventually, Mr. Cameron would become an adviser to Greensill. Julie Bishop, Australia’s former foreign minister, also joined the company as an adviser.
Greensill Capital’s defining year was 2019, when SoftBank’s Vision Fund, the $100 billion investment vehicle built to make huge bets on disruptive technology companies, invested $1.5 billion. On the day the first of two SoftBank investments was announced, Mr. Greensill told Bloomberg TV that his company would have “multiple opportunities” to work with SoftBank and the other companies in their portfolio.
Mr. Greensill had become a billionaire.
Carillion in 2018 and the Spanish renewable energy company Abengoa, which filed for insolvency in February. Abengoa, an early customer of Greensill, narrowly escaped bankruptcy in 2015 when its huge debt load — billions of euros — was revealed.
Regulators, auditors and ratings agencies have grown concerned about the lack of transparency that can make company balance sheets look stronger than they are. In June, the Securities and Exchange Commission asked Coca-Cola to provide more details about whether it was using supply chain finance after noticing an increase in its account payables of $1.1 billion.
After pleas from accounting companies, the rules might be tightened in the United States. In October, the U.S. Financial Accounting Standards Board said it would start developing stronger disclosure requirements, though two months later, an international accounting board decided not to do the same.
For Greensill Capital, signs of trouble began appearing in 2018, the year before SoftBank made its big investments.
GAM, the Swiss asset manager, rocked the London financial community when it suspended one of its top fund managers, Tim Haywood. He later lost his job for “gross misconduct,” Bloomberg reported, after an internal investigation raised questions about investments he made in companies tied to Mr. Gupta, who was fast-becoming a steel and metals tycoon. The middleman in the deals, Bloomberg said, was Mr. Greensill.
The next year, Mr. Greensill’s debt funds were attracting unusual interest from SoftBank. Even as the Vision Fund was investing in Greensill, a different arm of SoftBank poured hundreds of millions into the Credit Suisse funds, according to people with knowledge of the transactions. That arrangement put SoftBank in a complex position: One division was Greensill’s largest shareholder and another was a lender to Greensill, via the Credit Suisse funds.
BaFin said it had uncovered evidence that assets linked to Mr. Gupta listed on the bank’s balance sheet did not exist.
insolvency proceedings for Greensill Bank.
an 18 million euro state-backed loan in December from Greensill Bank. But two days later, the bank abruptly pulled back the funds, said Jean-Philippe Juin, a member of the Confédération Générale du Travail labor union representing the factory, where 600 people work.
While GFG said it had “strong cash flows” across the group, the workers at the Poitou plant were warned last week that there might not be enough money to pay their salaries for March, Mr. Juin said.
“Mr. Gupta presented himself to us as a savior, with hopeful words and many promises,” Mr. Juin said. “In the end, he turned out to be an empty shell.”
Michael J. de la Merced, Stanley Reed, Matthew Goldstein and Raphael Minder contributed reporting.
Glynn S. Lunney, the NASA flight director who played a major role in America’s space program and was hailed for his leadership in the rescue of three Apollo 13 astronauts when their spacecraft was rocked by an explosion en route to the moon in 1973, died on March 19 at his home in Clear Lake, Texas. He was 84.
The cause was stomach cancer, his son Shawn said.
Mr. Lunney (rhymes with “sunny”), who joined NASA at its inception in 1958 and became its chief flight director in 1968, worked out of mission control in Houston in developing the elaborate procedures for the flight of Apollo 11, sending Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on their pioneering journey to the moon in July 1969.
He managed the July 1975 mission in which an Apollo spacecraft with three astronauts docked with a two-man Russian Soyuz spaceship. Each vehicle carried equipment that would facilitate another linkup someday if an international rescue mission were needed. The Americans and the Russians carried out joint experiments and exchanged commemorative gifts in what became a step toward cooperation among nations in space aboard the International Space Station.
But Mr. Lunney was remembered especially for his take-charge efforts in the dramatic rescue of the Apollo 13 astronauts James L. Lovell Jr., Fred W. Haise Jr. and John L. Swigert Jr.
the hit 1995 movie “Apollo 13,” Marc McClure played Mr. Lunney.
Christopher C. Kraft Jr., NASA’s first chief flight director.
Mr. Lunney was the space agency’s fourth flight director. In that post, he was responsible for leading teams of flight controllers, research and engineering experts and support personnel around the world making decisions during spaceflights.
Among the numerous achievements of his NASA career, Mr. Lunney was lead flight director for Apollo 7, the first crewed Apollo flight, and Apollo 10, the dress rehearsal for the first moon landing.
He retired from NASA in 1985 as manager of the space shuttle program, but he continued to lead human spaceflight activities through executive posts in private industry.
Voices From the Moon” (2009), an astronaut oral history complied by Andrew Chaikin and Victoria Kohl.
“And he just brought calm to the situation,” Mr. Mattingly said. “I’ve never seen such an extraordinary example of leadership in my entire career. Absolutely magnificent.
“No general or admiral in wartime could ever be more magnificent than Glynn was that night,” he added. “He and he alone brought all of the scared people together.”
OTTAWA — In a decision that marked an important victory for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s climate change agenda, Canada’s Supreme Court ruled that the federal government’s imposition of carbon taxes in provinces that oppose them was constitutional.
Citing Parliament’s power to legislate on matters related to “peace, order and good government,” the court said that fighting climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions was a matter of “national concern” protected under the Constitution.
“This matter is critical to our response to an existential threat to human life in Canada and around the world,” the court wrote in its 6-to-3 decision. “Climate change is real. It is caused by greenhouse gas emissions resulting from human activities and it poses a grave threat to humanity’s future.”
The concept of carbon pricing has been widely endorsed by economists and, according to the World Bank, some form of it has been carried out or is in development in 64 countries, either through direct taxes on fossil fuels or through cap-and-trade programs.
notably California. Money and tax credits to address climate change are expected to underpin much of President Biden’s coming spending proposals, which aides and documents suggest could cost as much as $4 trillion over the next decade.
But several people familiar with the forthcoming infrastructure package in the United States said that there are no plans currently to price carbon emissions. Instead, the president plans to greatly raise fuel efficiency standards for cars, forcing automakers toward electric vehicles through regulation, not legislation. Similarly, Mr. Biden plans to reimpose strict emissions regulations on electric power plants to move the sector away from coal.
Republicans in Congress remain firmly opposed to a carbon tax and have voted repeatedly and nearly unanimously over the years to bar the government from imposing one.
Parliament’s budget watchdog found that most households are paid more in rebates than they spend on carbon taxes. Households can boost that bonus by further cutting emissions by using more efficient or electric vehicles or improving their heating systems.
Jason Kenney, the premier of Alberta, who canceled his province’s program, told reporters that he was disappointed with the decision but declined to say if his province will come up with a carbon pricing system to replace the federally imposed one. “We’re going to consult with Albertans and talk to our allied provinces to determine the best way forward,” he said.
The Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the law in part because the federal plan only kicks in if provinces do not set up their programs, thus maintaining the shared jurisdiction the two levels of government hold on environmental issues.
It also concluded that setting a single national minimum price for carbon is necessary for effectively reducing greenhouse gases, or GHGs, which makes federal involvement essential
“Addressing climate change requires collective national and international action,” the court wrote. “This is because the harmful effects of GHGs are, by their very nature, not confined by borders.”
Lisa Friedman contributed reporting from Washington, D.C.
SYDNEY—Unusually heavy rainfall has caused widespread flooding across eastern Australia, triggering evacuation orders for roughly 18,500 people and disrupting supplies of commodities.
Some parts of New South Wales state experienced their wettest week on record, prompting the closure of a major coal-haulage railway and cuts to coal production. The floods destroyed crops and drowned cattle that farmers weren’t able to get to higher ground.
Hundreds of homes have been inundated with water and vast networks of road have been damaged, authorities said. Power outages have occurred throughout the region, where another 20,000 residents have been warned they could need to move to safety.
Roads were under around two meters (or more than 6 ½ feet) of water, said Oliver Sawaya, who fled his home in a dinghy with his 72-year-old father, Henry. The property in Pitt Town, about an hour’s drive from Sydney, is surrounded by creeks, which overflowed and cut off escape routes.
“You couldn’t see anything,” the 44-year-old lawyer said. “It looked as if you were in Sydney Harbour and you were on a boat.”
HONG KONG—The U.S. and China are tiptoeing toward cooperation on climate change despite recent testy talks between senior officials, with the two governments’ chief climate envoys scheduled to come together for formal discussions this week.
The U.S.’s climate envoy, John Kerry, will join his Chinese counterpart, Xie Zhenhua, at a virtual climate conference on Tuesday. China will chair the meeting of top officials from dozens of European countries, the European Union and Canada.
Tuesday’s conference, known as the Ministerial on Climate Action, is an annual meeting of major economies and polluters that was set up by China, the European Union and Canada after the U.S. moved to exit from the Paris accord in 2017. Mr. Kerry’s decision to join the event is intended to signal that the U.S. is back at the climate table, people familiar with the plans said.
The event marks the first formal engagement between Messrs. Kerry and Xie in the two months since the Biden administration took office, though the two have spoken informally about the possibility of setting up a more formal mechanism of engagement to tackle climate issues, according to the people.
It comes on the heels of talks last week in Alaska between the most senior American and Chinese foreign-affairs officials, who sniped openly over human rights, aggression against other countries and the U.S.’s role in the world.
Given the tensions, the Kerry-Xie interaction marks a test of the Biden administration’s China strategy, which looks to carve out cooperation on issues like climate change and the Covid-19 pandemic while the two powers compete for global influence and the control of critical technologies.
More on U.S.-China Relations
Beijing also wants to put the rivalry on a more predictable track after relations went into near-freefall during the Trump administration.
“Climate is an existential issue. It’s possible to work on it even when there is great power competition,” said one of the people familiar with the coming Kerry-Xie meeting.
The State Department and China’s environmental protection ministry confirmed Messrs. Kerry’s and Xie’s attendance at Tuesday’s virtual climate meeting. China said both men wouldn’t meet separately during the virtual conference, while the State Department declined to comment whether Mr. Kerry would interact directly with his Chinese counterpart.
Climate has emerged as a promising area for collaboration for the world’s two largest emitters of greenhouse gases. President Biden has made the issue a priority, vowing to make the U.S. a global leader and re-entering the landmark international accord known as the Paris Agreement, which former President Donald Trump withdrew from, saying it was unfair to the U.S.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has likewise made it known he takes climate seriously, using a policy meeting this month to reiterate China’s need to restrain carbon emissions and reach carbon neutrality.
Mr. Xie and Mr. Kerry, as secretary of state in the Obama administration, worked on the Paris accord together. After Mr. Kerry was named climate envoy by Mr. Biden, the Chinese government reappointed Mr. Xie to the role he held for more than a decade before stepping down in 2018.
The Biden administration is under domestic political pressure to hew to the tough stance it has promised on China. Republican lawmakers and China hawks in the security establishment have warned that Mr. Kerry and climate negotiations might be used by Beijing as a wedge to divide the administration and soften its approach.
During Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s confirmation hearing in January, Sen. Mitt Romney (R., Utah) told him: “I hope you’re never tempted to give in in your strategy with regards to China in order to obtain a climate advantage that Secretary Kerry might be promoting.”
Mr. Blinken shook his head in apparent agreement.
Chinese policy makers likewise worry that the U.S. could try to leverage cooperation on climate to extract concessions in other areas, said Li Shuo, a Beijing-based senior policy adviser at Greenpeace.
Following Mr. Blinken’s Alaska talks with his Chinese counterparts, the official Chinese-language readout published by China’s state news agency Xinhua on Saturday said Washington and Beijing would set up a working group on climate change.
In response to a request for confirmation from The Wall Street Journal, a State Department spokesman said the two sides discussed the climate crisis in Alaska but didn’t form a formal working group.
Mr. Kerry said during a news conference in January that the U.S. intended to work with China on climate change as a “critical stand-alone issue” without trading at the expense of other concerns. Mr. Kerry is coordinating his work with the rest of the national security team, said one of the people familiar with the matter.
Washington and Beijing have both shown a desire to ramp up leadership and rally countries to set ambitious goals ahead of a United Nations climate conference in November.
Mr. Biden is expected to announce new climate goals for the U.S. before or at a global environmental summit on April 22. Chinese officials have proposed scheduling a virtual meeting between Messrs. Xi and Biden on the sidelines.
Mr. Xi said in September that China would achieve carbon neutrality—net zero carbon-dioxide emissions—by 2060, with emissions peaking before 2030.
The U.S. wants a stronger commitment from Beijing. While its commitments are “a significant step forward, China is not yet on a path that will allow the world to keep a 1.5-degree Celsius limit on global temperature rise within reach, which scientists tell us is necessary to stave off the most catastrophic impacts,” the State Department said.
Looser peak emissions targets for China and other developing countries compared with more stringent cuts for developed nations was among the reasons the Trump administration gave for quitting the Paris accord.
Mr. Xi could add to China’s commitments by, for example, pledging a ban on investments in coal at home and abroad, implementing an absolute carbon emissions cap or moving China’s carbon peak forward, said some of the people familiar with the negotiations.
For the U.S., talks with China won’t be the way to get Beijing to move, said one of the people. Rather, the U.S. needs to get stronger offers on climate from other countries, especially in Asia. “You need to have others on board. You need a coalition. That’s how you move China,” the person said.
A joint announcement of climate targets in 2014 by Mr. Xi and then-President Barack Obama served as a galvanizing moment for other countries to come on board the Paris Agreement.
U.S.-China collaboration will also be necessary to rally countries in the run-up to the United Nations conference later this year, said Kevin Rudd, a former Australian prime minister and the president of the Asia Society.
“They will work together because it’s in their own national interest,” Mr. Rudd said. What form that cooperation takes is a secondary concern, he added.
—Bob Davis contributed to this article.
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Want to live like a Bridgerton, the upper crust British family featured in the hit Netflix series? Promenading with handsome dukes and gossiping with a queen over macarons?
Well, you probably can’t live like a 19th-century aristocrat. But you can clean like a scullery maid.
English Heritage, an organization in Swindon, England, that cares for centuries-old palaces, houses, castles and abbeys, released spring cleaning tips on Friday that would have felt familiar in the Regency and Victorian Eras.
For dusty mirrors, skip the glass cleaner and wipe them down with chamois leather.
To get your stone floors to gleam, scrub them with skim milk.
“Mind Your Manors: Tried-and-True British Household Cleaning Tips.”
People are increasingly worried that their cleaning habits may harm the environment, and they are looking for ways to avoid using plastic bottles or chemical-based products that can exacerbate asthma or cause other health problems, she said.
And, Ms. Lethbridge added, the old methods work.
During the pandemic, she said, her kitchen pipe has repeatedly become clogged. She has relied on a simple solution of baking soda, hot water and vinegar or lemon juice that she pours into the sink until “there is a great, fantastic glug.”
an author in Wales who has been researching the work and lives of servants for 30 years.
Ms. Goodman said the idea of using bread to clean wallpaper probably came about in the 1600s, when England went from using wood to coal for heating homes and businesses.
The soot made homes filthy, especially the walls. Bread would have worked as an effective sponge without damaging the paper the way water can, she said.
That kind of realization had to come from the women cleaning the house, whose creativity and resourcefulness is often overlooked by history, Ms. Goodman said.
“We’ve been somewhat bedazzled by the great men of history,” she said. Cleaning is “not widely talked about. It’s not widely researched, and yet it is the basis of survival and the basis of women’s lives and working women’s lives.”
Andrew Neborak, the owner of Luxury Cleaning NY in New York City, said he was not surprised to hear that skim milk could be used to clean stone floors. He said he had recently used a milk-based cleaning product to wash an unfinished floor in a SoHo furniture showroom. He regularly uses vinegar and lemon to wipe down countertops.
“It’s actually even better than any cleaner,” Mr. Neborak said of the mixture.
Ms. Lethbridge said that even as some spurn modern-day, chemical-based products, we should remember how natural cleaning agents would have made us smell 200 years ago.
Urine, for example, was a popular ingredient for washing clothes in the early 1800s, Ms. Lethbridge said.
“In the early 19th century,” she mused, “maybe the smell of clean was the smell of urine.”