The need for addressing climate change has become more important than ever. Raging wildfires, floods, and other extreme weather events have affected populations across the globe in recent times. Earth Hour is organised by World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) every year towards the end of March to raise awareness on this pressing issue. Earth Hour 2021 calls on people worldwide to play their role in protecting nature and ensuring a sustainable future. It sees millions of people turning off lights and other electrical appliances for an hour as a symbolic measure to reduce carbon footprint. Many influential people worldwide have called on the masses to take this opportunity to ‘Go Green and Save the Planet’.
The global lights-off event came into being as a result of WWF Australia and advertising agency Leo Burnett Sydney discussing “ideas for engaging Australians on the issue of climate change” in 2004. Three years later, Australia’s Sydney hosted the first Earth Hour on March 31, at 7:30 pm, local time.
The 2008 Earth Hour saw the participation of 35 countries with Google’s homepage going “dark” to mark the occasion. Highlighting the growing public enthusiasm, the event also drew the attention of an estimated 36 million Americans that year.
Thailand’s Bangkok city reduced electricity usage by 73.34 megawatts, or the equivalent of 41.6 tonnes of carbon dioxide, according to WWF. Canada’s Ontario province saw a 900-megawatt drop-in use of electrical energy during Earth Hour 2008. Since then, several other countries have reported a reduction in electricity usage with the observance of Earth Hour.
Earth Hour encourages individuals, businesses, and governments to “take accountability for their ecological footprint”. Earth Hour’s official website says the movement does not intend to be an energy/carbon reduction exercise, but a symbolic action. Still, a 2014 study published in Energy Research and Social Science found that observance of Earth Hour in 10 countries had reduced electricity consumption by an average of 4%. The figure was based on 274 measurements of observed changes in electricity demand over a period of 6 years. The study also called for using Earth Hour for long-term actions.
Many prominent personalities from diverse fields such as UN Secretary-General António Guterres, Pope Francis, environmental activist Greta Thunberg, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and Bollywood megastar Amitabh Bachchan also participated in Earth Hour 2020.
Several global bodies like UNESCO, UN Environment Programme, and International Trade Union Confederation, also support Earth Hour.
UAE has participateded vigorously in Earth Hour since its inception. Burj Khalifa-the world’s tallest building- plunges into darkness for an hour to commemorate the event. For Earth Hour 2021, UAE residents can take part in the first-ever Earth Hour Virtual Spotlight.
They can also sign up for the ‘Zero to Climate Hero’ challenge of embarking on a five-week journey for simple tips on tackling climate crisis. In 2019, Dubai saved 267 megawatts of electricity during Earth Hour, equivalent to a reduction of 114 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions. The savings in electricity consumption for Earth Hour 2020 were pegged at 178 megawatts, according to Dubai Electricity and Water Authority.
While previous Earth Hour events have been marked by entire cities going dark, Earth Hour 2021 is additionally focusing attention on the virtual world. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, people will have to “create the same unmissable sight online” besides switching off lights.
Earth Hour Official will be posting a video on its social media pages, and netizens can do their bit by sharing it on their respective timelines and tag friends in the comments.
This will “put the spotlight on our planet” with organisers saying they hope to make the video “most-watched” in the world on March 27 to spread their message to as many people as possible.
Experts are worried about the use of candles, which are made from crude oil-derived paraffin, actually worsening carbon dioxide emissions during Earth Hour. The movement’s focus on “individual behavior” has drawn criticism from some environmentalists who blame fossil fuel companies for the majority of carbon emissions.