Green Party leader and Environment Minister John Gormley has appealed to people and businesses to support the second worldwide Earth Hour, a global campaign to highlight the threat of climate change, which began here this evening at 8.30pm.
"At 8.30pm this evening I am hoping that people will not only turn off their lights for an hour. I hope people will make a decision to make a permanent change in the way they use energy. By doing your bit and not wasting energy every day, you can also save hundreds of euro a year, " he said.
"By taking part in this global green event, we can show the world that Ireland cares and wants to play its part in tackling climate change."
Buildings including the Custom House, Government Buildings and Leinster House had their lights switched off for an hour. Lights are also being turned off at locations such as the Rock of Cashel, and at Cahir, Trim and Donegal Castle.
The famed Syndey Opera House dimmed today as Sydney became the world’s first major city to plunge itself into darkness for the second worldwide Earth Hour, a global campaign to highlight the threat of climate change.
Up to one billion people in 4,000 cities and towns in 88 countries are expected to join in the World Wildlife Fund-sponsored event, a time zone-by-time zone plan to dim nonessential lights between 8.30pm and 9.30pm.
In the Vatican, the dome of St Peter's Basilica went dark, as did Egypt's Great Pyramids, the Eiffel Tower in Paris and New York's Empire State Building. Other global landmarks that switched off the lights include the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, the London Eye and the Bird's Nest Stadium in Beijing.
Involvement in the effort has exploded since last year’s Earth Hour, which drew participation from 400 cities after Sydney held a solo event in 2007. Interest has spiked ahead of planned negotiations on a new global warming treaty in Copenhagen, Denmark, this December. The last global accord, the Kyoto Protocol, is set to expire in 2012.
Despite the boost in interest from the Copenhagen negotiations, organisers initially worried enthusiasm for this year’s event would wane with the world’s attention focused largely on the global economic crisis, Earth Hour executive director Andy Ridley said. Strangely enough, he said, it’s seemed to have the opposite effect.
“Earth Hour has always been a positive campaign; it’s always around street parties, not street protests, it’s the idea of hope not despair. And I think that’s something that’s been incredibly important this year because there is so much despair around,” he said. “On the other side of it, there’s savings in cutting your power usage and being more sustainable and more efficient.”
In Australia, people attended candlelit speed-dating events and gathered at outdoor concerts as the hour of darkness rolled through the country. Sydney’s glittering harbour was bathed in shadows as lights dimmed on the steel arch of the city’s famous Harbour Bridge and the nearby Opera House.
Earlier today, the Chatham Islands, an archipelgo about 800 kilometres east of New Zealand, officially kicked off Earth Hour by switching off its diesel generators. Soon after, the lights of Auckland’s Sky Tower, the tallest man-made structure in New Zealand, blinked off.
At Scott Base in Antarctica, New Zealand’s 26-member winter team resorted to minimum safety lighting and switched off appliances and computers.
China was participating in the campaign for the first time, with Beijing turning off the lights at its Bird’s Nest Stadium and Water Cube, the two most prominent venues for the Olympics, according to WWF. Shanghai was also cutting lights in all government buildings and other structures on its waterfront, while Hong Kong, Baoding, Changchun, Dalian, Nanjing and Guangzhou were also participating, WWF said.
Earth Hour has its critics. An Anti-Earth Hour group on Facebook is urging members to “keep every light you own running during Earth Hour” which it says will “change nothing”.
Bjorn Lomborg, director of the Denmark-based think tank Copenhagen Consensus Centre and author of The Skeptical Environmentalist, said in the Australiannewspaper yesterday that Earth Hour was "an entirely symbolic gesture that creates the mistaken impression that there are easy, quick fixes to climate change".
When it began in Sydney in 2007, two million Australians participated. Last year, cities including Dubai, Bangkok and New Zealand’s Christchurch recorded falls in power consumption ranging from 2 per cent to 13 per cent during the hour.