Lights in Áras an Uachtaráin turned off for Earth Hour

Movement ‘to highlight importance of protecting our vulnerable planet’, President says

President Michael D Higgins and his wife, Sabina, marked Earth Hour on Saturday by turning out all non-essential lights in Áras an Uachtaráin, with the exception of the President’s “light in the window” for the diaspora, for one hour from 8.30pm.

Mr Higgins said he and Sabina had requested that the lights be switched off as “a global moment of solidarity to highlight the importance of taking action to protect our vulnerable planet from the effects of climate change”.

Earth Hour is a global campaign, held on the last Saturday of March every year, that encourages people around the world to switch off their lights for one hour to show support for the planet.

The President said matters of sustainability, ecology and climate change have become “policy victims of Covid-19. They must become centre stage once again as a matter of urgency.


“Time is rapidly running out in our common battle against climate change and biodiversity loss. We must galvanise the sentiment that now exists for a greening of our economy and society, taking the necessary action, as indicated by the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals, to turn the will of the citizens of the globe into a lived reality,” he said.

Mr Higgins added the symbolic act of switching off the lights may be viewed as an invitation to switch on our power as citizens. “Now is the time for us all to commit to building a more sustainable society and economy as we look ahead to a brighter post-Covid existence on our shared, vulnerable planet,” he said.

Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council is also taking part in the movement, with lights being switched off at County Hall, and has invited members of the public and other organisations to take part.

Energy usage

The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) also encouraged people to switch off their lights while considering their energy usage.

According to Tom Halpin, head of communications at SEAI, changing how people use energy in homes and in modes of travel “ will go a long way to reducing our collective impact on the climate”.

He said homeowners could make three changes.

Firstly, they could “take the first step towards a warmer, more comfortable home”. Investing in home energy upgrades, he said, would save money and reduce climate impacts. The best first step, he said, was to get a BER assessment carried out by an SEAI-registered BER assessor.

Secondly, he said people should consider driving an electric vehicle (EV). “Walking, cycling and public transport are the most climate-friendly ways to travel, but if you must drive then drive electric. Today almost 40 per cent of Ireland’s electricity comes from renewable energy. This means that mile for mile when you drive an EV here, it is responsible for less than half the CO2 emissions of a typical petrol or diesel car,” he said.

Thirdly, Mr Halpin said people could help their community become energy sustainable, like 500 other communities around Ireland, by completing long-term energy projects. Such projects involve homeowners, sports clubs, community centres, local businesses and schools.

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien is an Irish Times journalist