By Angela Dorizas
Earth Hour has become the world's largest public demonstration for government action on climate change, with around one in seven people across the globe switching off their lights for one hour on Saturday.
More than 4000 cities and towns in 88 countries, across 25 time zones, participated in Earth Hour. The organisers of the event, WWF Australia, also recorded 996 registrations from global landmarks and tourist attractions, such as the Pyramids of Gaza, Eiffel Tower and Empire State Building.
Each registration was counted as a “vote” for government action on climate change, to be presented to world leaders at the Global Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen later this year.
Earth Hour global director Andy Ridley said he was amazed at the unprecedented level of support and participation in this year’s campaign.
“It is humbling to see the unbelievable reaction and solidarity shown by the millions of people voting earth with their light switches in the past 24 hours,” he said.
“The next task is to build on this amazing momentum and to make those votes count in Copenhagen.”
WWF International director James Leape described this year’s event as “an incredible success”.
“Earth Hour signals a real desire from people all over the world for urgent action on climate change, and a mandate for the world’s leaders to secure a new deal in Copenhagen that defines an effective global response,” Leape said.
“Our work continues, because over the next eight months, the leaders of the world will be deciding how they step up to meet this challenge, and we need, together, to make sure they do the right thing.”
In Australia, 309 locations from 46 cities registered to participate in the event. Conference organisers estimated that Sydney, the city where Earth Hour began just two years ago, boasted the highest participation rate on record.
Large crowds gathered throughout the city to watch major landmarks, such as the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge power down for one hour.
In Melbourne, Flinders Street Station, Eureka Towers Skydeck and Rialto Towers faded into darkness. The city also hosted an Earth Hour concert in Federation Square, with all lighting and sound powered by cyclists.
Major tourist attractions across the country chose to vote in favour of the planet, with the Big Banana, Big Merino, Big Pineapple and many others deciding to flick the switch.
In the days leading up to Earth Hour, governments across Australia pledged their support for the campaign, registering their departments and agencies to participate in the event.
More than 1500 federal government buildings switched off their lights, including the Federal Court of Australia, the Australian War Memorial, Parliament House and more than 80 Australian embassies and posts overseas.
Federal Environment minister Peter Garrett, who attended the concert in Federation Square, said the Government supported all Australians choosing to “vote earth”.
“Earth Hour presents an opportunity to raise public awareness of the importance of energy efficiency and it also shows us what we can achieve when we unite for a common cause,” Garrett said.
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