City leaders around the world pioneer environmental action beyond Earth Hour

March 18th, 2011 by WWF

As the globe prepares to switch off for Earth Hour, cities across the globe are leading the drive to take Earth Hour 2011 beyond the hour by committing to lasting environmental actions including:

  • Sydney, Australia where actions include switching to LED lights in parks and streets
  • Medellin, Colombia where long term water protection and tree planting initiatives form part of a commitment that goes “beyond 60 minutes”
  • Shenyang, China where 38,000 hectares of land will be reforested
  • And a race among Sweden’s cities to be named the Earth Hour capital.

The City of Sydney, Australia has made a lasting environmental commitment as it prepares to switch off for its fifth Earth Hour celebration. “It was inspiring to see people come out onto the streets for the first Earth Hour, star gazing at the Sydney Observatory, picnicking in parks and having friends over for candlelit dinners,” said City of Sydney Lord Mayor, Clover Moore MP.

“Five years down the track, 4600 cities switch off the lights, but we now need to go beyond the hour. In Sydney, we are putting long running plans into action, building cycle paths around the city, installing LED lights in parks and streets, and developing a tri-generation plant to provide low carbon energy.”

In China, Shenyang, capital of Liaoning province, has pledged to reforest over 38,000 hectares of land this year to combat desertification, as well as taking part in Earth Hour. Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province, has pledged to place up to 60,000 bicycles on its streets for low-priced public rental, and create 1,000 rental points throughout the city in order to cut carbon emissions.

“This year for Earth Hour, Chengdu will launch a special lights-off activity,” said Xiong Yan, Director of the Chengdu Municipal Information Office. “The Chengdu government will also distribute 60,000 bicycles in central areas across the city and establish over 1,000 bicycle rental shops. Through these actions, we hope to encourage 13 million Chengdu citizens to start ‘low-carbon living,’ and show our citizens that we can protect our earth through small daily actions.”

“It is often city governments that are the actual leaders in sustainability,” said Andy Ridley, Co-Founder and Executive Director, Earth Hour. “Cities have been the engine rooms of Earth Hour for the past four years, and we are inspired to see cities using Earth Hour not only as a time to celebrate, but to launch lasting environmental commitments – beyond the hour.”

In Brazil the Brazilian Mayors Organisation, Frente Nacional de Prefeitos (FNP), that represents 400 municipalities has pledged its support for Earth Hour. “It is in the municipalities that people’s daily lives take place,” said João Coser, mayor of Vitória (capital of Espirito Santo state) and president of the FNP. “It is essential to take advantage of the power the mayors and municipal authorities have to mobilise and engage their populations. When we get mobilisation down to the municipal sphere it is reflected in the form of effective changes in society’s behaviour.”

In Colombia, the city of Medellin is working towards a ‘greener future’; “That’s why we joined Earth Hour,” said María Patricia Tobón Hincapié, Environmental Secretary of Medellin. “We add our voice to that of other cities as a symbol of our commitment to protect our planet – a commitment that goes beyond 60 minutes.

“We are demonstrating that it is possible to transform people’s attitudes. In the past three years, we have planted 337,000 trees in Medellín and have created parks in the catchment areas of streams, while recovering 300,000 square metres of public space and protecting the water resources of our city.”

Thirty cities across Sweden have competed in the Earth Hour City Challenge – a call to cities and municipalities to present the most holistic, inspiring and credible plan for reaching zero carbon emissions within the next few decades – in a national competition, with entries reviewed by an international panel of experts. The King of Sweden this week presented an award to the winning city, Malmö, which has been named the Earth Hour Capital 2011.

“We have been working hard to find new solutions to environmental problems for several years. This award is a confirmation of our success. But our work isn’t finished, and our goal is for Malmö to be powered by 100 percent renewable energy by the year 2030,” said Ilmar Reepalu, Mayor of Malmö.

In the Philippines, where over 1,000 cities and towns took part in Earth Hour 2010, the League of Municipalities of the Philippines, with 1,512 member municipalities, will take part in Earth Hour 2011 and is encouraging all local government organisations to show their support. The League of Cities of the Philippines, a city organisation with 122 member cities, is also taking part.

City representatives interested in becoming official Earth Hour organisers can contact the Earth Hour team by emailing: contact @ earthhour.org; and share how they will go beyond the hour.

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