The world is ready for Earth hour

March 23, 2009 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 23 – Drought, flush floods, disease and extreme weather conditions are just but some of the concerns we may have to endure as a result of climate change.

Scientists have over the years warned about this time bomb in waiting.

On Saturday March 28, the world will mark Earth hour, where businesses and individuals across the globe are encouraged to switch off all non-essential lighting for an hour, between 8.30 pm and 9.30 pm local time.

World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Acting Regional Representative Dr Taye Teferi says the initiative aims at promoting energy conservation as a way of reducing the impacts of climate change.

“The world is worried about a two degree Celsius temperature rise after which we have major catastrophes like small islands sinking and disease spread,” Dr Teferi says.

“We know from very good data that places like Nakuru and Naivasha are on three and a half degrees Celsius on average so the water there is going down and it’s now a matter of surviving,” he adds.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called Earth Hour “a way for the citizens of the world to send a clear message that they want action on climate change.”

“It promises to be the largest demonstration of public concern about climate change ever attempted. People will be telling their representatives to seal a deal in Copenhagen, a deal at the climate change talks that will protect people and the planet,” he says.

He was referring to a meeting in Copenhagen in December this year to determine official government policies against global warming to replace the Kyoto protocol which expires in 2012. The Kyoto protocol emphasises on the reduction of green house gas emissions.

Dr Teferi says this year’s earth hour will be part of a global vote to get a billion votes which will be presented to the World leaders. 

“The intention is not just to save energy for one hour; it is more to create a strong awareness that we have a bigger problem globally and the climate change issue should be taken very seriously and we should have a strong negotiating position,” he says.

“We have to have significant emission reduction and also have an adaptation fund that supports countries that are already being negatively affected.”

The UN boss on his part says the deal that emerges from Copenhagen must be ambitious, fair and effective, and based on sound science.

“We are on a dangerous path, our planet is warming.  We must change our ways. We need green growth that benefits all communities. We need sustainable energy for a more climate-friendly, prosperous world. This is the path of the future.  We must walk it together,” he says.

The 2008 Earth hour saw 50 million people globally switch off their lights for one hour. World landmarks such as the Golden gate bridge in San Francisco, Rome’s Colosseum, the Sydney opera house and the Coca cola billboard in Times Square all had their lights off.

“This year in terms of this earth hour movement four big cities in Africa are targeted, Nairobi being one of them and then Cape Town, Johannesburg and Lagos. We thought it fitting that Nairobi should be one of them because this is the environmental capital for the whole world being the host of the UN Environment Programme,” says Dr Teferi.

“So it is fitting that we actually try to proactively show some leadership. We have over 1,500 cities that have signed on and our target is over a billion people around the world to actually participate,” he adds.

Norah Odwesso, the Coca Cola East and Central Africa Public Affairs and Communications Director says; “Earth hour is more than just a global one hour lights out. It’s about our company’s continued commitment to responsibly manage energy resources through individual action and partnerships. It’s about personal behavioral change. I believe that we must take action if we are to leave this world a better place than we found it.”

Earth hour is an annual international event that began in 2007 in Sydney, Australia. The event is organised by the World Wildlife Foundation and is held every last Saturday of March to raise awareness on the need to take action on climate change.

At that time 2.2 million homes and businesses switched off their lights for a whole hour.
An online survey conducted by Zogby International showed that there was a four percent increase in awareness of environmental issues such as climate change, directly after the event last year.

The United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Bali made clear that signatories to the Kyoto protocol, which Kenya is, accept that green house gas emissions reductions of between 25 and 40 percent are necessary by 2020 to reduce the impact of global warming which is causing sea level rise.

The UN will be joining many other landmarks around the world in turning off lights at its New York Headquarters.

This year’s Earth hour will be held a day before the first round of crucial UN negotiations on the new climate change agreement in Bonn, Germany. The negotiations, which will take place from March 29 to April 8, will be the first of three sessions leading up to the Copenhagen Climate Change summit in December.


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