Earth Hour focused on renewables
THE SWITCH-OFF event for Earth Hour Philippines turned the spotlight on renewable energy as “pedal power” lit up an LED map of the country on Saturday night.
Volunteers took turns riding the 10 bamboo bikes attached to an energy generator during the 60-minute lights off at Quezon Memorial Circle in Quezon City.
For the 10th edition of the Earth Hour campaign against climate change, landmarks worldwide from Sydney’s Opera House to New York’s Empire State Building and Paris’ Eiffel Tower dimmed their lights for 60 minutes from 8:30 p.m. local time.
The first Earth Hour event was held on March 31, 2007, when the WWF (World Wild Fund for Nature) conservation group inspired people in Sydney to turn out the lights for an hour.
Since then, the WWF-organized event has expanded to thousands of cities and towns around the world and has been held every March.
The Philippine government has “sought to spur investments in renewable energy to lessen dependence on traditional fossil fuels,” President Aquino said in a message read by Earth Hour Philippines director Gia Ibay at Quezon Memorial Circle.
“Now renewable energy makes up 33.9 percent of our country’s energy needs,” the President said.
The Aquino administration, however, has approved 21 new coal-fired power plant projects in the past five years.
“In light of the agreement reached at COP21 [in Paris], citizens and government should take more positive actions,” the President said. “The Earth Hour 2016 is unique in that it takes place in the aftermath of such an historic event.”
The so-called Paris Agreement sets the goal of limiting global warming to “well below” 2.0 degrees Celsius over preindustrial levels, with a more ambitious target of 1.5 C if possible.
Renewable energy technologies, such as wind, hydro and solar power, were showcased in booths set up at Quezon Memorial Circle.
The Azkals also provided star power to the event, together with WWF ambassadors Marc Nelson, Rovilson Fernandez and Mikee Cojuangco-Jaworski.
Quezon City Mayor Herbert Bautista, National Youth Commissioner Dingdong Dantes and WWF-Philippines CEO Joel Palma led the first batch of bikers that powered the LED map.
“The challenge is to go beyond the hour and make climate change mitigation a way of life,” Dantes said.
The Philippines was declared “Earth Hour Hero Country” from 2009 to 2013 for topping global participation levels. Last year, there were 1,600 switch-off sites in the country out of the world’s 7,000 Earth Hour hubs.
Earth Hour’s global executive director Siddarth Das said organizers were excited about how much the movement had grown since it began nine years ago.
“From one city, it has now grown to over 178 countries and territories and over 7,000 cities, so we couldn’t be happier about how millions of people across the world are coming together for climate action,” he said.
Over 150 buildings in Singapore dimmed their lights.
The lights also dimmed across Hong Kong’s usually glittering skyline, though online commentators pointed out that China’s People’s Liberation Army garrison headquarters on the harbor front kept the lights blazing.
In Seoul, the glass-covered City Hall was among several public buildings where officials switched off the lights inside and out.
Lights illuminating landmarks such as the massive COEX shopping mall, the city’s main railway station and several bridges on the Han River were all either turned off or dimmed.
In Beijing, Chinese actress Li Bingbing showed up at the iconic Temple of Confucius, which was shut dark for an hour while municipal government officials announced that the city’s energy conservation slogan would be “Consume less, consume wisely.”
The Taipei 101 skyscraper was among the buildings to go dark in Taiwan’s capital.
After Asia, Earth Hour shifted to Europe where St. Peter’s Basilica, Rome’s Trevi Fountain and the Parthenon temple in Athens were among a slew of iconic sites to go off-grid.
In London, the lights were shut off at the Houses of Parliament, the London Eye, Tower Bridge, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Buckingham Palace and Harrods department store.
In Paris, the Eiffel Tower was plunged into darkness, as was the Kremlin in Moscow.
When New York’s Empire State Building went dark, one New Yorker joked on Twitter “I was wondering why my skyline is black.”
In Chile’s capital, Santiago, the La Moneda presidential palace cut off its lighting for an hour, while in Mexico, the capital city’s Monument to the Revolution went dark as well.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted a cozy photo of himself and his wife, illuminated only by candlelight, with a fireplace glowing in the background.
“We’re all on this planet together. During #EarthHour and every day thereafter,” he wrote.
Earth Hour’s Das said momentum toward climate action was building in the wake of the global climate talks in Paris last year.
He said people were experiencing the impact of climate change more now than when Earth Hour began, adding that “climate change has now become a more personal topic.”
“I feel that there’s a renewed vigor among individuals and governments to come together for strong climate action and to fight climate change,” he said.
Earth Hour organizers have not collected global statistics on the energy conserved during the 60-minute blackout, and that the event has always had symbolic intent, saying it was more a moment of global solidarity about a global problem, according to Das.
“We are elated at the massive outpouring of support. Government agencies, media allies, corporations, schools, civil society groups and individuals have all pledged to shine a light on climate action through Earth Hour,” Palma said in Quezon City.
“We encourage participants to upload their Earth Hour videos and photos on social media using the hashtag #EarthHourPhilippines. The most meaningful and unique celebrations shall be featured on our social media platforms,” Palma said.
Beyond the hour
Ibay said that even more important than observing the switch-off was the commitment to go beyond the hour when the lights were switched back on.
“Earth Hour is symbolic. We’re not going to stop climate change just by switching off our lights for 60 minutes. But if we collectively reduce our energy use by shifting to renewable energy and energy-efficient technologies, we will definitely change climate change and secure the low-carbon future we need,” Ibay said.
For a low-carbon lifestyle, WWF recommends simple tips such us unplugging appliances when not in use, walking when going to nearby places and reducing meat consumption. With reports from AFP and AP
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