Wall Street Wakes Up: Sustainable Investment and Finance Going Mainstream

The pens slipped easily across the paper, about every eight minutes. At regular intervals, Heads of State entered the innermost sanctum and solemnly signed their names, committing their nations to the Framework Convention on Climate Change. The year, 1992. The place, the landmark United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, known as the “Earth Summit” at Rio de Janeiro. The outcome, a legally binding commitment from the industrialized nations to begin to reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with climate change below 1990 levels by 2000, with a moral commitment from developing countries to join the effort at a later date according to their capacity. The success rate 25 years later—nearly zero. I was in the room when those signatures hit the page, observing the procession of Heads of State with Jacques Cousteau, with whom I worked at the time as Vice-President for International Affairs and writer, and a film crew. In the weeks before the Rio Conference, we had made two visits to then President Bush at the Oval Office in the White House to urge him to attend the Rio conference and sign the climate change Convention, even though at the time he faced outright stiff opposition from his own vice-president, not to mention many Congressional and business leaders, to doing so. But, in the end, Bush went to Rio and signed the leather-bound Convention book, thus reaffirming U.S. leadership in the battle against climate change and other trends in environmental degradation. He was bold and it took political courage. Rio was a heady time—nations had labored hard to come to some coherent conclusions and commitments to act....

Students Speak: urbanisation is one of the greatest challenges to health

Developing countries are grappling with the dual burden of infectious diseases, such as malaria and tuberculosis, and a growing epidemic of “lifestyle” diseases including type 2 diabetes. As the range of illnesses facing people in low- and middle-income countries grows, how should the world prioritise its response? To mark World Health Day, we asked students which health crisis deserved the greatest attention. We had a fascinating range of responses – many thanks to all who submitted one. Below is a selection of our favourites. If we’re clever, we can tackle many health problems at once Where there are few stones available, we need to be hitting two birds with one. A better focus would be on strengthening health systems and building health-promoting environments that can tackle communicable and non-communicable diseases alike, rather than creating fragmented single-disease programmes. Yes, we should no longer think of type 2 diabetes as a disease of the wealthy and, yes, non-communicable diseases (NCD) in low-income settings have certainly not been given the attention they deserve. But this new attention need not be in the form of fragmented interventions aimed at addressing one specific disease or another. Many NCD interventions can be smoothly integrated into practices and procedures already in place for prevention and treatment of infectious diseases. For example, mobilising and educating community health workers can have lasting effects on the control of diseases of both categories. With mounting global challenges such as climate change, environmental degradation and increasingly powerful corporate influences, it seems ever more critical to address the determinants of health through comprehensive policies and through exploring models of integration both within...

Behind the bright lights of Vegas: how the 24-hour party city is greening up its act

Taking shade under a Mesquite tree shouldn’t seem exotic in the Mojave Desert. Nor should catching the aroma of sage flowers, or brushing past spiky yucca and tongue-limbed agave plants. But on the fabled Las Vegas Strip, the very notion of a park is novel. Vegas still prides itself on selling unfettered indulgence. Round-the-clock gambling, high-end nightclubs and decadent restaurants are not going away. Yet the opening of the Strip’s first green space last month is further evidence that, regarding its relationship to the environment, Sin City is turning a new leaf. Featuring native Southwestern plants, recycled metal furniture and fountains built with locally sourced quartz, The Park, as it’s called, is designed to create a sustainable microcosm of the surrounding desert landscape and provide a leafy path away from the Strip’s tourist-choked sidewalks. It’s a bold move away from fabulist themes that ignore the local ecosystem. Ambitious plans by MGM Resorts, Wynn, and Las Vegas Sands are overshadowed by an ongoing battle with regulators and the state’s biggest utility. “We think guests are increasingly valuing the sustainability of destinations they pick,” said Cindy Ortega, chief sustainability officer at MGM Resorts, who is behind The Park. “This seems like a little place with some plants and a sculpture in it, but this is a paradigm shift for Las Vegas.” To avoid using the city’s dwindling water supply at Lake Mead, MGM tapped into an on-site well. Designers from landscape architecture firm Melk installed plants that are accustomed to arid conditions. Trees and shrubs are irrigated with a drip system, which conserves 72% more water than sprinklers. Rather than install...

New York Hotels Make a Green Pledge

Seventeen notable New York City hotels have committed to getting greener. Marquee properties like the Waldorf Astoria New York, Grand Hyatt New York, Loews Regency New York and the Peninsula New York recently joined the NYC Carbon Challenge, a program Michael R. Bloomberg started as mayor in 2007 with the city’s universities to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Hospitals, commercial office buildings and multifamily residences were eventually added, and in late December, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the initiative would expand to include hotels. This initial group of properties — accounting for more than 11,000 guest rooms — has pledged to cut greenhouse gas emissions from their buildings by 30 percent or more in the next 10 years, a move that could reduce emissions by more than 32,000 metric tons and save $25 million of energy operating costs. Buildings account for around 75 percent of greenhouse emissions in New York City, and getting the hospitality industry on board will significantly help to cut down on the city’s overall emissions, said Nilda Mesa, the director of the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability. “Hotels are definitely a cause of emissions, and their involvement can have a big impact in achieving the goals of the NYC Carbon Challenge and the mayor’s overall sustainability goals,” she said. That broader vision, set forth by Mr. de Blasio in September 2014, is to reduce citywide greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050. The Office of Sustainability worked with the Hotel Association of New York City, a trade group that represents 275 hotels in the city, to get the first group of properties to make a...

At Energy-Minded U.S. Hotels, They’ll Turn the Lights Off for You

ROME — At the, a boutique hotel named for the famous piazza here, guests must place a room key into a slot on the wall to activate the lights and temperature control system in their rooms. The Palazzo’s use of the key card device is not unusual in Europe or in other parts of the world, like Asia. Even in countries like Norway where electricity is relatively inexpensive, many hotels use them to reduce energy costs. American hotels have long resisted key cards or other energy-saving systems. Energy was cheap, and hoteliers feared that guests, who routinely left their rooms with the lights and air-conditioner on, would see any check on their energy use as an inconvenience. Hotel guests “have a feeling that they paid for the space and they can use it freely, and there’s a natural tendency not to be too conscious of their energy use,” said Brian Carberry, a director of product management for Leviton Manufacturing Company, of Melville, N.Y., which makes key card switches and other energy-saving devices for hotels. But the aversion of hoteliers in the United States is slowly shifting as Americans have become more energy conscious and more states and municipalities have adopted rigorous building codes for energy use. In 2014, the latest year for which figures are available, 29 percent of hotels surveyed by the American Hotel and Lodging Association had a sensor system in guest rooms to control the temperature, compared with less than 20 percent in 2004; and more than 75 percent had switched to LED lighting, up from less than 20 percent. Other energy-saving measures had also been...

New York Plans to Make Fighting Climate Change Good Business

A governor wants to lead on green energy. The state’s utilities are nervously falling in line. Young entrepreneurs are buzzing, determined to be part of the generation that finally solves climate change. To most ears, that might sound like California, where all those things and more are happening. But it also describes New York. New York? The state may not leap to mind as being in the vanguard of the green economy. But under Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the most populous state in the Northeast is in a close race with its counterpart in the West in setting ambitious climate goals. And in some ways, New York may be on the verge of pulling ahead of California. Without much fanfare, Mr. Cuomo has started a big effort to retool his state’s utilities for the modern age, trying to apply market forces to transform the way electricity is produced, transmitted and consumed. Critical rules are due in coming weeks from a state agency, the Public Service Commission. Depending on the details, Mr. Cuomo’s program could prove to be the most ambitious effort in the country, and possibly in the world, to enlist the profit motive as an ally in the fight against global warming. Mr. Cuomo has been vocal on the issue of climate change since the state suffered through the trauma of Hurricane Sandy in 2012. The governor toured the remains of century-old homes reduced to splinters by that storm. Scientists said the damage had been worsened by sea-level rise induced by human emissions of greenhouse gases. “In the case of climate change, denial is not a survival strategy,” Mr....