A projection marking Earth Hour is set up in front of Germany's landmark Brandenburg Gate shortly before Earth Hour in Berlin, Germany, March 25, 2023. (PHOTO / AP)
GENEVA – As lights around the world turned off at 8:30 pm local time on Saturday to mark Earth Hour 2023, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) warned that the next seven years will be crucial to stop irreversible nature loss and climate change.
This year's event is needed more than ever to inspire and mobilize millions of people to take action and shine a spotlight on critical environmental issues, the WWF urged.
"Switching off lights is great for creating awareness and celebrating, but we also want people to reflect and act on nature because the challenges we are facing are so big," Cristianne Close, WWF's deputy global conservation director, told Xinhua in a recent video interview from Brazil.
"In 2014, the Galapagos Islands banned plastic bags during Earth Hour. In 2019, Indonesia planted thousands of mangroves," she said.
Now in its 17th year, Earth Hour is the WWF's flagship global environmental event and was created in Sydney in 2007.
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Over the years, it has grown to become the world's largest grassroots movement for the environment, inspiring individuals, communities, businesses and organizations to take tangible environmental action.
This year, apart from the symbolic "lights off" moment, the WWF is calling on individuals, communities, and businesses across the world to "give an hour for Earth" and spend 60 minutes doing something positive for the planet
"The climate and the nature crisis are completely linked. We cannot see them as separate. If temperatures are not kept at 1.5 degrees Celsius, we will lose much more nature. Wildlife populations have already plummeted by an average of 69 percent since 1970 and we really need to create awareness of this," Close said.
Earth Hour has featured many of the world's most iconic landmarks switching off their lights, from the London Eye in Britain to the Eiffel Tower in France and the 2,000-year-old Colosseum in Italy.
"The two main things we want from governments and businesses is to really implement the transition towards clean energy and phase out fossil fuel. That's a must for everybody," Close said.
"Nature is said to be linked to at least 50 percent of the global gross domestic product (GDP). We depend on nature for economic well-being," she added.
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"That's why we are calling on businesses and governments to really, really create this awareness. Earth Hour is a way of society signalling to leaders 'we care' and we need to do something about it before it's too late," she said.
This year, apart from the symbolic "lights off" moment, the WWF is calling on individuals, communities, and businesses across the world to "give an hour for Earth" and spend 60 minutes doing something positive for the planet.
Ideas range from cleaning up beaches, planting trees, cooking dinner with sustainable ingredients, or getting friends together for an Earth Hour event, the WWF said.
The Christ the Redeemer statue stands illuminated before the lights are turned off to observe an hour of voluntary darkness for the global "Earth Hour" campaign in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, March 25, 2023. (PHOTO / AP)
No time to waste
This year's Earth Hour comes hot on the heels of the historic Kunming-Montreal Agreement at COP15, which in December committed the world to halt and reverse biodiversity loss by 2030.
Close told Xinhua the next seven years will be crucial for ensuring that the decade ends with more nature and biodiversity than when it began, not less.
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She also said it was not too late yet to achieve the target and stay under the 1.5 degrees Celsius climate threshold needed to avoid irreversible damage to the planet.
"These are very big policy requests. Now our focus is on implementing them. Translating these high-level policies into national policies and regulations that can be implemented on the local level and help the livelihoods of the people that depend on it," Close said.
Close also reinforced China's crucial role in taking action against climate change and nature loss: "We are pleased and thankful for the role that China played with the COP15 presidency in Montreal. China really kept the momentum going."
"They were really instrumental in allowing 196 parties to reach a consensus for the mission of halting and reversing nature loss by 2030. China really played a strong role," she said.
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The WWF is an independent conservation organization based in Gland, Switzerland, with over 5 million supporters and a global network active in over 100 countries and regions.
Its mission is to stop the degradation of the Earth's natural environment and to build a future in which people live in harmony with nature.