News wrap from Earth Hour in Asia
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Asian nations from the Philippines to India have delivered huge boost to the WWF Earth Hour rallying cry for decisive action on climate change from world leaders this year.
As the lights go out for one hour from 8.30 pm local time the “Vote Earth” event headed towards the Middle East, Europe and Africa it appeared participations was soaring into the hundreds of millions.
The number of cities, towns and municipalities registered to take part in the global vote continued to rise as the event was under way, reaching 3,943 communities from 88 countries spread over 25 time zones as Asia took over from Oceania as the focus of Earth Hour.
The explosive growth of the event, going from two million people from just one city in 2007 to 50 million in 371 cities in 35 countries in 2008 reflects growing global concern over climate change and the inability of the world so far to craft an effective global response, WWF said.
WWF International Director General James Leape said “Earth Hour is off to a great start with millions of people switching their lights off from tiny island communities in the Pacific to major cities like Sydney and Beijing.”
“This promises to be an amazing 24 hours – a powerful call for action on climate change.”
Phillipines registers record participation
The Philippines topped the Earth Hour global register for cities, towns and districts taking part in Asia, with more than 650 communities taking part.
The event started with the darkening of the Rizal Shrine, a major Manila landmark honouring Filipino national hero Dr. José Rizal. The massive Mall of Asia in Pasay City, the world’s fourth largest mall, also went dark in a ceremony that drew several hundred people.
The ceremony was broadcast live to homes around the country by Studio 23, one of the largest television networks in the Philippines.
The Philippines is one of the half dozen countries that share the Coral Triangle – a world centre of marine biodiversity – home to six of the seven marine turtle species, more than 3,000 species of fish, the heaviest bony fish of the deep (the 1,000 kg mola) and the coelacanth, a species thought until recently to have gone extinct with the dinosaurs some 65 million years ago.
But more than 18 per cent of the region’s coral reefs were damaged or destroyed in a bleaching event linked to rising sea temperatures in 1998-99, underlining the immense risks climate change poses to the environment, food security and the economies of coastal and island countries and communities.
Tall towers turn off across Asia
Singapore’s Merlion statue – a cultural mainstay and popular tourist attraction – went dark, while further north the lights went out on the dominating features of the skyline of Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur, the Petronas Twin Towers and the Menara Telecommunications Tower.
WWF-Malaysia reported strong household participation in the event, with residents of high rise apartment buildings passing flyers around to neighbours.
The Petronas Twin Towers, still the world’s tallest twin building, were considered the world’s tallest building from 1998 until 2004.
In Taiwan (Chinese Taipei), Taipei101, the building that eclipsed the twin towers and still remains the world’s tallest building also turned off its lights for Earth Hour. The building that will eclipse it as the officially recognised world’s tallest building later this year, the Burj Dubai tower in the United Arab Emirates, is set to turn its lights off when Earth Hour reaches the Arabian Gulf. In New York, half a world away, the famous Empire State Building was also due to make an “Empire statement” on the need to act on climate change.
In Thailand, a concert and fashion show in Bangkok will lead up to Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva personally switching off the lights. The Prime Minister stayed to turn the lights back on one hour later. Lights also switched off on Khao San road, one of Bangkok’s main tourist thoroughfares.
In Seoul, South Korea, crowds gathered at Changwon Playground Squareto watch an environmental movie in celebration of Earth Hour.
China sends its climate message
Whether it was restaurants hosting romantic dinners by candlelight or the iconic Bird’s nest in Beijing going dark, citizens of the world’s most populous country sent a bold message that action must be taken to fight climate change.
A slew of major Chinese landmarks in Beijing and Shanghai- with a combined population of more than 36 million people — were blanketed in darkness to mark Earth Hour. In the meantime, across China lights were dimmed at bars for Earth Hour themed parties, while astronomy groups relished the rare opportunity to stargaze in a darkened sky.
China is the world’s most populous country and a major producer of greenhouse gases, mainly because of its coal burning and industrial activities that stem from its rapid economic development in recent years – but its emissions per capita remain low by western standards.
In Beijing, a series of prominent buildings in the Olympic Park went dark. In the flagship Beijing event, the lights were first switched off at Ling Long Tower, followed by Pangu Plaza, the Olympic Park streets, the Bird’s Nest, and the Water Cube.
In Shanghai, lights at the Oriental Pearl Tower, Shanghai World Financial Center, and district and municipal government buildings across the city were turned off. The Power Valley Jin Jiang International Hotel in Baoding and the Drum Tower in Nanjing likewise flicked the switch.
Further south, buildings along Hong Kong’s world famous harbour skyline went dark, including many of its well known neon signs. Hong Kong’s Symphony of Lights, the world’s largest permanent light show, was also extinguished to mark Earth Hour.
WWF China country representative Dermot O’Gorman said the statement for action on global warming was being made “loud and clear” in China.
“What’s most impressive about Earth Hour in China is how many ordinary people across the country have signed up to switch off their lights. This sends a powerful message to the world that people in China want action on climate change now,” he said.
“We are excited to see that the Earth Hour is supplementing the government’s efforts in raising environmental awareness and energy-saving know-how among the public, and find that the enthusiasm we’ve seen from ordinary people around China for Earth Hour has far exceeded our expectations.”
Earth Hour ambassador, noted Chinese actress Li Bing Bing, said switching off lights for one hour sent “a strong signal that we all care about the vital issue of global climate change”.
More than 1,800 Hong Kong buildings and landmarks including International Finance Centre, Cultural Centre Complex and Tsing Ma Bridge; over 600 companies and organizations, over 160 schools and all universities joined thousands of people across Hong Kong who switched off their lights for an hour in support of WWF’s Earth Hour as a call for action on climate change.
In Hong Kong about 40,000 people watched Earth Hour videos shown at Rugby Sevens at the Hong Kong Stadium. The Symphony of Lights in the Victoria Harbour was suspended. The city began to go into darkness at 8:30pm when neon signs and lights of buildings across Hong Kong started to go out. Businesses at commercial areas such as Tsim Sha Tsui and Causeway Bay also dimmed their lights to show support, while bars and restaurants in Lan Kwai Fong and Wanchai were lit up with candles to spread the message. At the community level, 18 District Councils switched off non-essential lights in their facilities.
“Hong Kong, together with other cities around the world, made a statement by turning off their lights for one hour. This simple action on this historic day will have reverberations into the future. WWF will take this global voice to Copenhagen in December this year, where world leaders will be coming together to make decisions about green house gas emissions and climate change,” said Trevor Yang, Chairman of WWF Hong Kong.
India (and Bollywood) rate climate action a priority
“Climate Change is undoubtedly and regrettably, the biggest immediate long-term environmental challenge we face,” famed Bollywood actor and filmmaker Aamir Khan said in a statement leading up to the country’s participation in Earth Hour.
“A failure to come to sound policy outcomes on climate change will not only have a negative environmental impact but also social and economic consequences for all of us.”
The world’s second most populated country participated enthusiastically in Earth Hour, with official activities taking place in the cities of Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Cochin, Thiruvananthapuram, Dehradun, Shimla, Chandigarh and Hyderabad as well as numerous smaller communities.
Private citizens, businesses and government bodies took part, with an order reportedly going out today from a government ministry in New Delhi that all of the city’s public landmarks and monuments in the area should switch off their lights for Earth Hour.
Mumbai’s best known landmarks, the Reserve Bank and Air India buildings and the Indian Tourism Development Corporation’s flagship Ashok Hotel, went dark along with hundreds of other buildings across the city. Indian IT giants such as WIPRO and Infosys also joined in.