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World votes for decisive climate action in massive Earth Hour event

Hundreds of millions of people in thousands of communities world wide have urged their leaders to come up with decisive global action on climate change this year in an WWF Earth Hour event surpassing all expectations.

Hundreds of millions of people in thousands of communities world wide have urged their leaders to come up with decisive global action on climate change this year in an WWF Earth Hour event surpassing all expectations.

Research and audits to better define the numbers participating are planned for the near future but it was already clear that the lights out for one hour from 8.30 pm local time “vote for earth” event was embraced by many more than the 3943 communities from 88 countries across 25 time zones registered to participate.

The inaugural Earth Hour in 2007 involved just two million people in one city, Sydney, Australia. Some 53 million in 371 cities in 35 countries took up the rallying cry in 2008. This year’s overwhelming participation reflects growing global concern over climate change and the inability of the world so far to craft an effective global response, WWF said.

Standing under the Eiffel Tower in Paris as the signature landmark of the City of Light turned its lights off, WWF Director General James Leape said “Over the next eight months governments have to come together to crack the problem of climate change.”

“Hundreds of millions of people all over the planet are setting the momentum we need to get the climate deal we need in Copenhagen in December.”

Earlier, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had described WWF’s Earth Hour as “the largest demonstration of public concern about climate change ever attempted.”

“Earth Hour is a way for the citizens of the world to send a clear message they want action on climate change,” he said, looking forward to the UN conference on climate change in Copenhagen in December which is charged with coming up with a replacement to the expiring – and inadequate – Kyoto Protocol.

“People will be telling their representatives to seal a deal in Copenhagen,” he said. “We need an ambitious agreement, an agreement that is fair and effective, an agreement based on sound science.”

Earth Hour kicks off at remote albatross sanctuary

Earth Hour kicked off as the sun set on Saturday night over the remote Chatham Islands in the southern Pacific Ocean. The islands, with a population of about 600 living 800 km east of and in a different time zone to New Zealand’s main islands, is home to 20 percent of New Zealand’s threatened bird species, including the Chatham Island albatross.

Scientists are concerned that isolated albatross populations may reduce their breeding rates as climate change and shifting weather fronts stretch the distances between their breeding and feeding grounds.

When Chatham residents woke up on Sunday morning their time, the Earth Hour effort was in full force througout Europe. Some 23 hours and 45 minutes after the first vote for climate action with a light switch was registered on Chatham Island, residents of Honolulu, Hawaii and other Pacific Islands were ending their Earth Hour events.

First global landmarks turn off in New Zealand

As Earth Hour commenced, some 996 global landmarks from mountains to historic buildings and modern architectural landmarks had officially registered to participate in the event. They include many of the world’s best loved and most recognised emblems including the Pyramids, the Acropolis, the Eiffel Tower, the dome of St Peters in the Vatican, Table Mountain in South Africa and the Empire State Building.

In New Zealand, the first landmarks switched off, with photographers and film crews standing by to record the moment as the floodlights went off on the Auckland Sky tower, the Parliament buildings in Wellington and Christchurch Cathedral.

(C) Chris Gorman. Photos of the Sky Tower in Auckland prior to and during Earth Hour.

In Hamilton, more than 50,000 attended a live concert while in Christchurch, a newlywed couple held their first dance and wedding breakfast in the dark – all to celebrate Earth Hour, groom James Harrison told 3News television.

Overall, 44 cities, towns and regions in New Zealand took part.

“Tonight, New Zealand voted Earth and began in spectacular fashion the world’s biggest participation event ever,” said WWF New Zealand Executive Director Chris Howe.

“To all those who supported Earth Hour, and all those who took part, WWF thanks you. It could not have happened without you.”

Electricity consumption dropped up to eight per cent in some locations according to utility Transpower.

(C) Neil Pri (both images of the New Zealand Parliament buildings, nicknamed the Beehive, in Wellington.

Islands show support in the Pacific

Fiji made the headlines last Earth Hour, when isolated Visoqo Village celebrated Earth Hour by turning their light switches on . . . for the first time. In the previous week, residents had busied themselves unpacking solar panels and installing them to provide the village's first and wholly renewable energy based electricity supply.

This year, the entire Fijian island of Taunovo faded into darkness while in capital, Suva, crowds gathered at Fiji's largest shopping center in Suva where an “island-style” celebration was held, replete with people wearing bula shirts and playing guitars.

At the Hard Rock Café in Nadi, the staff switched off all lights, signage and even air conditioning. Diners enjoyed live music by candlelight while the crowd at the bar were cheering the Fijian team in the Hong Kong 7’s.

Pacific Island nations have emerged as strong campaigners for action on climate change globally, focussing on the threat rising sea and storm surge levels will have on communities scarce metres above the sea. Also threatened by warming waters are the fringing corals that are vital to food supplies and economic life in island communities and also serve as a buffer against tropical storms.

Climate threatened Australia makes strongest statement yet

Sydney, Australia, where the Earth Hour phenomenon started just two years ago, was expected to record among the highest participation rates on the planet among its population of over 4 million.

Crowds in the hundreds watched as its most recognisable landmarks, the Sydney Opera House and “the hanger”, Sydney’s famous Harbour Bridge, turned their lights off promptly as Earth Hour commenced. The two Sydney icons face each other across Circular Quay, the bay in one of the world’s greatest natural harbours where European settlers first landed in what was to become the only country to occupy an entire continent.

Crowds cheered as a giant “Vote Earth” banner was pulled up onto the Harbour Bridge.

Around Australia, 309 places from 46 cities to small remote outback communities such as Banana Shire had registered to take part in Earth Hour. Climate change impacts in the world’s driest continent are expected to be severe, with longer and more severe droughts and more frequent tropical storms..

Many Australian cities have spent extended periods under severe water restrictions and the risks of events such as bushfires have increased markedly. The country, one of the world’s largest coal exporters, joined the Kyoto Protocol on climate change recently.

WWF-Australia is working to have the country take a leading stance for effective climate action globally when the world meets to agree on a successor to the Kyoto Protocol in Copenhagen, Denmark, in December.

In Australia’s second largest city, Melbourne, landmarks that faded into darkness for Earth Hour included historic Flinders Street Station and more modern attractions such as Federation Square, where a pedal-powered concert was scheduled, the Eureka Towers Skydeck and the Rialto Towers.

In Brisbane, the Castlemaine Perkins brewery turned off the famous neon lights of its XXXX Man, while in national capital, Canberra, all lights except security lighting were blacked out at the High Court of Australia, the National Library of Australia, the Australian War Memorial, and Parliament House.

(C) James Alcock - The Syndey opera House and Harbour Bridge, having gone dark for Earth hour 2009

Tourist attractions turning off around the country included the Big Banana, the Big Merino, the Big Wool Bales, the Big Pineapple, the Big Crab, the big Ned Kelly, the Big Shell, the Big Ned Kelly, the Big Rocking Horse, the Big Gumboat, the Big DNA Tower and the Big Penguin.

“Against a backdrop of the global economic crisis and the many other challenges that face our planet, Earth Hour has put climate change where it needs to be – top of mind for many millions of people around the world,” said WWF Earth Hour Global Director Andy Ridley in Sydney as the event got under way.

Ridley’s surprisingly small but dedicated team was responsible for organizing the remarkable global event. The team reported they were frantic keeping up with it but delighted by the response.

Phillipines registers record participation

The Phillipines topped the Earth Hour global register for cities, towns and districts taking part, with more than 650 communities taking part.

The event started with the darkening of the Rizal Shrine, a major Manila landmark honoring 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 center 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% 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, as did the Singapore Flyer giant observation wheel.

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.

(C) Jacky Ho - Singapore's Marina Bay

(C) Jacky Ho - Residents celebraing with candle-lit birthday celebrations

(C) Jacky Ho - Residents celebraing with candle-lit and picnics

The skyline also dimmed in Indonesian capital Jakarta, with the lights going out on the National Monument, the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle, City Hall, Pemuda Statue and the Arjuna Wijaya Fountain.

Dozens of government and company offices and hotels in the capital’s main business districts of Jl. Sudirman, Jl. Thamrin and Jl. Rasuna also turned off lighting, with WWF estimating that around 20,000 residents and 60 building managements had participated.

WWF-Malaysia reported strong household participation in the event, with residents of highrise 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), Taipei 101, 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, also turned 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 Square to watch an environmental movie in celebration of Earth Hour.

(C) Wilson Wong - Tsing Ma bridge South Korea

China sends emphatic 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.

(C) Janek Zdzarski / WWF China - Beijing's Bird's Nest

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.

(C) Janek Zdzarski / WWF China - Beijing's Watercube

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 JinJiang International Hotel in Baoding and the Drum Tower in Nanjing likewise flicked the switch.

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 at Victoria Harbour, the world’s largest permanent light show, was also extinguished to mark Earth Hour.

Xinghua News Agency reported that more than 1,800 buildings, 600 companies and organizations, over 160 schools and all universities in Hong Kong had turned off their lights, including the landmarks including International Finance Center and Tsing Ma Bridge. Candle lit dinners were all the go at bars and restaurants in famous tourist spot Lan Kwai Fong and Wanchai.

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”.

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.

Middle East picks up the call

In Kuwait, a day of activities leading up to and during Earth Hour were held, including an environmental fair and a Global Warming Seminar by a scientific expert from the Kuwait Institute for Scientific Researches, at the popular tourist attraction Green Island. During Earth Hour, the public was given access to a telescope public to star gaze.

(C) Fawaz Al Arbash - The Kuwait tower switches off

Bustling metropolis Dubai, global commercial center of the oil-rich Middle East, led strong support from gulf nations for Earth Hour as two of its major architectural jewels were blanketed in darkness.

The massive Burj Dubai, currently reaching 688 metres into the sky, will be the world’s tallest building once it is completed. The Burj Al Arab, meaning Tower of the Arabs, is one of the world’s tallest hotels at 321 meters high.

Popular rock band Coldplay wore Earth Hour emblazoned T-shirts on stage at a “carbon neutral” concert in Abu Dhabi, where WWF is a partner in the construction of the world’s most ambitious green urban community Masdar City.

“Earth Hour is a powerful symbol of what can be achieved through individual action on a global scale, with the whole world coming together in a response to tackle climate change,” said Razan Khalifa Al Mubarak, Managing Director, EWS – WWF said in a statement prior to today’s events.

“In the UAE, we are keen to grasp the momentum generated by this global occasion, urging everyone to make the switch for one symbolic hour, thus taking affirmative action towards helping save our planet.”

In Egypt, the 5000 year old Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx became the oldest of the many monuments turning off for Earth Hour, reflecting concern on looming collision between population growth and the drying already apparent from climate change.

(C) Shawn Bal

(C) Shawn Bal

“Climate Change is a growing international crisis no country can afford to overlook,” said Egypt’s First Lady, Suzanne Mubarak earlier this week.

Istanbul, the city where Europe and Asia meet, led the global Earth Hour movement in Turkey, bolstered by the support of dozens of companies, from international stalwarts to local enterprises.

“Earth Hour is a very good opportunity to move the public towards action.” WWF-Turkey CEO Filiz Demirayak said.

More than 40 companies and corporations lent their support to Earth Hour in Turkey. They included international companies such as Tetra Pak and Adidas, to leading hotels such as the Hilton and Conrad hotels.

(C) Tunç Aras - Turkey's Hilton hotel

As Arctic thaws, Russia calls on world to act

Earth Hour will have its longest passage through Russia, traversing 11 time zones, through the world’s largest nation by area. Much of the country lies near the Arctic where summer sea ice is rapidly retreating as the polar regions warm at a much faster rate than the earth generally.

Polar bears – and in the Antarctic, penguins – have become potent symbols of the looming victims of climate change in the natural world.

Vladilen Kavry, a coordinator of WWF-Russia’s "Bear Patrol" in remote Chukotka province and a native chukchi said that people of many of Chukotka's municipalities took part in Earth Hour. In capital city Anadyr, the lights went out on Svyato-Troizky church, the biggest cathedral on the north-east of Russia, as well as the lights of a row of buildings in the city centre.

The lights were also turned off in the tiny village of Vankarem, located right by the Ice Sea. As polar bear migrations commonly go through the village, members of the Bear Patrol checked the village for bears as a safety precaution before turning off the lights.

Even further north, members of the Catlin Arctic Survey expedition videoed themselves counting down to Earth Hour. The survey, partly sponsored by WWF, is conducting the first ever ground survey of the thickness of Arctic sea ice. It is likely to confirm scientists’ fears that the older, thicker ice is disappearing and lend support to predictions that the summer sea ice could disappear within a generation, leading to catastrophic consequences for a vital global ecosystem supporting organisms from single celled flora and fauna to whales.

(C) Alxander Efgrafov - Smolansk Bridge over Moscow River

As Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov and WWF-Russia Director Igor Chestin flicked a huge symbolic switch, crowds viewed a giant rooftop video showing the lights going out on about 25 Moscow landmarks including the city government building, the Luzhniki Olympic Stadium, the Smolensky Bridge and elsewhere along the Moscow River, Moscow University and noted Soviet era skyscraper “the high house of Kotelnicheskaya". Preliminary estimates from Moscow were that about one million took part in Earth Hour, with more than 100,000 registering support on the WWF-Russia website.

Africa shares its climate concerns

Africa, where climate change impacts particularly on water supplies and arable land are already severe, also joined in Earth Hour, with South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu describing Earth Hour as a global vote for action on climate change and potentially “one of the greatest social movements the world has ever witnessed.”

“Climate change is the greatest human-induced crisis facing the world today,” said the Nobel Prize winner. “It is totally indiscriminate of race, culture and religion. It affects every human being on the planet.”

“If we all perform this one simple act together, it will send a message to our governments too powerful for them to ignore.”

South Africans took his advice to heart, turning off their lights in droves. Footage of the floodlights on Capetown’s Table Mountain going off were shown around the world. Capetown’s main celebration was at one of South Africa’s most visited tourist attractions, the V&A Waterfront, which hosted A Concert in the Dark.

(C) Richard Ward - Table Mountain, Republic of South Africa

(C) Richard Ward - Table Mountain, Republic of South Africa and  (C) TBA  the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra

Louis Heyneman, CEO, Cape Philharmonic Orchestra, said: “It is an honour for the CPO to make its contribution to a global initiative like Earth Hour, and to present the power of music in a different light.”

The orchestra played a number of light classics, including Von Suppe’s Light Cavalry Overture, Johan Strauss II’s Blue Danube Waltz, and Johannes Brahms’ Hungarian Waltz No. 5.

In Johannesburg, the Soweto Gospel Choir celebrated Earth Hour in Mandela Square as the lights went off in twelve notable buildings from the Jabulani Civic to the Roodepoort Civic Centre.

A host of householders and small community efforts helped to make Earth Hour a success in Kenya, complementing the darkening of some of Nairobi’s larger and more prominent buildings led by the main tower of the Kenyatta International Conference Centre and UN buildings including UN Environment Program headquarters.

Conservation organization Nature Kenya held a special candle-lit dinner at the National Museums of Kenya while other Earth Hour supporters gathered under the light of solar powered lanterns at the conference centre for presentations about the significance of Earth Hour.

"The effects of global warming are everywhere and the whole world is affected” famed Kenyan musician Achieng' Abura said in a statement.

“We as Africans, we must chart our own destiny, and the the future of our children. There must be responses to global warming" she said. “It's time our government hear what environmentalists are saying. We have not seen elaborate measures by the government on the global warming”

Support ranged from employees of mobile carrier Safaricom to the students from Rusinga and Braeburn schools turning off the lights at home with their families.

“We need political leadership now; climate change can’t be ignored any longer,” John Salehe, Leader of WWF's Eastern Africa Coastal Programme said. “The global community has made a compelling statement on the future of the planet.”

Cradle of democracy votes for climate action

In Greece, cradle of democracy, Earth Hour participation was particularly strong with 50,000 residents and 1,000 businesses in 400 municipalities estimated to have taken part, WWF Greece said. Hundreds of residents in the Athens neighborhood of Plaka walked around with lanterns beneath the ancient rock for an hour to highlight the threat from climate change.

The presidential palace, the parliament building and a runway at Athens' International Airport also switched off their lights but the most symbolic turning off of lights took place at the Acropolis, where centerpiece The Parthenon went dark for an hour.

The Parthenon was commissioned by Pericles in the middle of the 5th century BC, the height of Greek power. The result was a perfectly proportioned marble temple enclosed by 46 fluted Doric columns, a building often judged the single most important building in the canon of western civilisation.

Aside from the ancient Acropolis, the lights were also dimmed at the temple of Posidon in Sounion as well as the Temple of Athena Lindia on the Dodecannese island of Rhodes.

"These great sites remind us of a time when humankind made a great leap forward towards a brighter and better future,” Earth Hour Executive Director, Andy Ridley said.

(C) Emilio Javier García Escobar - The Acropolis, Greece

“Earth Hour provides an opportunity to reconnect us to this sense of optimism and foresight as we stand at another critical juncture in human history, which is how we respond to climate change.”

Other Greek landmarks which turned off their lights for an hour included the Olympic Stadium, site of the 2004 Summer Games, as well as the Rio-Antirion bridge to the Peloponnese, the longest suspended bridge of its kind.

Enthusiasm in eastern Europe

Conservation and climate change awareness can be surprisingly limited in the broad swathe of eastern Europe dominated by the Carpathian Mountains, but the area’s first ever Earth Hour event drew a response well beyond the expectations of the tiny team responsible.

In Bulgaria, the aim was to have six municipalities participate; 42 participated. Additionally, Earth Hour received the enthusiastic support of a government minister.

In capital Sofia, 45 landmarks were shrouded in darkness, including all government buildings, the Parliament, President’s Office, National Palace of Culture, the National Theatre, National Bank, Nevski Cathedral, Sofia synagogue and mosque or as organizers described it “basically everything in the centre of the city”.

The world’s largest civilian administrative building, Romania’s House of Parliament in Bucharest, turned off its lights while its grounds played host to an unplugged “fiery concert” filmed from the air. Other prominent Bucharest landmarks to switch off included the National Theater, Opera House, Athenaeum, National Art Museum and National Military Center, joined by tens of cafés, restaurants and hotels.

Some 20 Romanian cities and towns reported official participation from the authorities, three of them turning off all street and public buildings lights for one hour. Two million Romanians – or ten percent of the national population - took part in Earth Hour according to the National Energy Directorate. Cement maker Lafarge stopped all activities in its ten industrial operations sites and 34 other large companies were registered to participate.

Over 30 municipalities participated in Serbia, include capital Belgrade and Novi Sad. Some smaller municipalities had to pay to turn off lights for the occasion, but met the cost with local collections. Belgrade city authorities organized an official lights off event while Coca-Cola supported free entry to the observatory for star gazers.

“Earth Hour in Belgrade had a spring-like atmosphere and far outstripped our expectations,” said WWF’s Duska Dimovic.

Sasha Kalcova, lead singer of Ukrainian band Krihitka Zahes, turned off the main lights part way through an Earth Hour concert organized by WWF and MTV in Kiev’s Botanical Gardens Orangerie and sang with an energy efficient lightbulb in her hand before launching into an impromptu speech on Earth Hour, saving energy and treading lightly on the planet. Some 15 other Ukranian cities including Odessa took part in Earth Hour celebrations, enlisting the help of corporate partners Intertop, Radisson and Toyota.

Europe calls for a new climate deal

In the new Europe’s administrative capital of Brussels in Belgium, all 65 European Union buildings institutions went dark, including the European Commission, the European Parliament, Social and Economic Committee and the Committee of the Regions buildings.

The world-famous Atomium in Brussels, considered an architectural and design masterpiece, also went dark during Earth Hour. The building was designed to represent Belgium at the Universal Exhibition in 1958 in Brussels, and was intended to last only for the six months of the exposition. Fifty years later, it is now one of the world's best-known and most visited buildings.

(C) C. Sabam - The Atomium in Brussels

According to WWF Belgium, 500,000 households turned off in 193 cities, towns and municipalities in the country – about one in three households in the country. Some 329 companies also registered their support for Earth Hour. A major radio station went off air for the hour and several youth clubs organized candlelight parties across the country.

Paris headed a list of 28 French cities and towns joining the world’s visual vote for decisive action on climate change during Earth Hour. They included France’s second and third largest cities of Marseille and Lyon, as well as the major centres of Nantes, Le Mans, Bordeaux, Montpellier, St Etienne, Gap and Grenoble and Strasbourg.

An estimated eight million people in around 200 cities, towns and communes participated in Earth Hour, a WWF-France spokesperson said.

Many famous landmarks in the world’s most visited country also turned off their lights for the occasion, with the list in Paris alone including the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame and the Louvre. As part of the celebrations, more than two hundred roller-bladers took to the streets in an hour-long tour of the city of dimmed lights by night – aiming to visit all the darkened monuments.

Speaking from the Trocadero as the Eiffel Tower across the Seine abruptly went dark at 8.30 pm, WWF Director General James Leape said “Earth Hour has already proved a resounding success.

“Hundreds of millions of people in four thousand towns and cities are demanding action on climate change.”

Mr Leape was joined for the big switch-off at the Trocadero by French Minister of State Jean-Yves Borloo, Environment Minister Chantal Jouanno, and WWF-France CEO Serge Orru.

In Bonn, Germany, where delegates from around the world are gathered for preparatory negotiations for the new climate change deal to be settled in December in Copenhagen, some of most important buildings turned off for Earth Hour. One of them - the Deutsche Post (German Post) - is the tallest building in the former capital of West Germany. It is visible from the venue where crucial negotiations will take place.

"Millions of people are showing their support for action against climate change and delegates here must do the same," said Kim Karstensen, leader of WWF's climate team at a candlelit WWF cocktail party for delegates.

"Tonight is a great success but we are not there yet. Now we all must show action."

A group of German scouts will tomorrow deliver a ballot box, a symbol of the global vote, to Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, which is hosting the Bonn talks. Members of the 28 million strong worldwide Scout movement were among the earliest and most enthusiastic supporters of the 2009 Earth Hour.

The very best of “Made in Italy”- luminaries of Italian art, fashion, soccer and food –also mobilised to do their part for Earth Hour – along with 160 cities and towns through the country.

Football star Francesco Totti switched off the lights at the Rome’s Coliseum while over the Tiber, the Dome of St Peter’s also went dark. Other Italian monuments to participate included the Rialto Bridge in Venice and the leaning Tower of Pisa.

“Sometimes we need darkness to see clearly,” said Italian celebrity stylist Giorgio Armani said

“In the Hour when the Earth, its people and nature share a common message that will travel the world, let us switch off our lights for one hour, and switch on to a new way of thinking.”

The lights dimmed along Switzerland’s postcard-ready lakes and among its mountains for Earth Hour as urban centers joined small communities in turning off their lights.

The lights went off in 13 cities, towns, and municipalities including Basel, the capital Berne, and Geneva.

In Geneva, for example, the St. Pierre Cathedral went dark, as did the world-famous Jet d’Eau display in Lac Leman. Several museums in Switzerland also dimmed their lights, including the Hermitage Museum in Lausanne.

An estimated 15 to 20 percent of Spain's total population of 40 million - or between 6 and 8 million people - switched off their lights for Earth Hour, according to WWF Spain.

More than 200 cities, towns and municipalities took part in the global effort, and the lights went dark at 100 landmarks.

Historic treasures such as the famous Alhambra fortress and palace in Granada - a UNESCO World Heritage Site -and the Royal Palace and the Spanish Parliament in Madrid turned off lights for Earth Hour.

Church bells rang out across Sweden as the lights were turned off while in Finland, the lights dimmed on the Ice Palace in Helsinki’s Market Square. In Copenhagen, where it is imperative that an effective and equitable new global deal is agreed to in December, restaurants laid out candles and lanterns for diners while the light dimmed on royal and other monuments.

Big Ben chimes in on climate call

(C) Benjamin Ealo - Big Ben switches off in London

More than 200 UK landmarks – and world famous cultural symbols -- including Big Ben, the Palace of Westminster in London, and Edinburgh Castle, also went dark WWF’s Earth Hour. More than 100 cities and towns in the UK, including London, Belfast, Cardiff, and Edinburgh to Manchester, Newcastle, Bristol and Birmingham took part in what is set to be the biggest mass action on climate change.

Thousands of individuals, organisations, and businesses also switched out their lights and took part in activities such as candlelit dinners to show global leaders that they want strong action to tackle climate change.

In Newcastle, the Gateshead Millenium Bridge and the entire quayside went dark, while in Bristol, the Clifton Suspension Bridge switched off its lights and the city's residents took part in a candle-lit wildlife walk.

Edinburgh Castle and the Scottish Parliament headed the list of monuments turning off in Scotland, and the Forth Rail Bridge switched off. In Cardiff, hundreds of guests joined Welsh Minister for the Environment, Jane Davidson for a special candlelit dinner at the Millennium Stadium.

In Belfast, the Lord Mayor joined the count down for key city landmarks including the City Hall, the Belfast Wheel, and Stormont to switch off their lights.

Around 650 businesses and many football clubs including Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur and Newcastle United also showed their support. Wembley Stadium switched off its iconic arch, Coca-Cola switched off its billboard sign in Londons Piccadilly Circus; and Tesco and IKEA stores across the country joined many other companies participating in the UK.

David Nussbaum, Chief Executive of WWF-UK branded Earth Hour “a massive global success with millions of people switching off their lights”.

The three main political parties in the UK also backed Earth Hour and the initiative won the support of Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Nussbaum said.

“With such enormous participation on a global scale, world leaders will be left in no doubt that people want them to agree greater action on climate change when they meet for talks in Copenhagen later in the year.

Lights switched off where light bulb invented

Some of the United State’s best known skylines darkened on Saturday night, from Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, Nashville, New York, Salt Lake City, St. Louis, Tucson and Federal capital Washington, D.C. – a place where the world is looking to a new administration for clear indications of a global view of the climate change issue.

(C) Jin Lee - Brooklyn Bridge after it has been dimmed

In Pennsylvania, California, Arkansas, New Mexico and Michigan participation in Earth Hour was officially a statewide activity.

In one highly symbolic action, the lights went out at the location most often associated with the invention of the incandescent light bulb - Thomas Edison’s laboratory in West Orange, New Jersey. In New York, the great skyscrapers of the Chrysler Building and the Empire State Building darkened for the event, along with some neon signs in Times Square and theatre marquees in nearby Broadway.

(C) Jin Lee - The Empire State Building

Most symbolically, for a world faced with global climate catastrophe, the lights also went out at UN Headquarters, having earlier been extinguished at other UN offices such as the Palais des Nations in Geneva, Switzerland.

The US participation in Earth Hour sent a clear message that Americans cared about the future of the planet and would stand with the rest of the world in seeking to find solutions to the escalating climate crisis, WWF-US said.

“The true power of Earth Hour can be seen in the tremendous opportunity for individuals, communities, businesses, and governments around the world to unite for a common purpose, against a common threat which affects us all,” said WWF-US President and CEO Carter Roberts.

“As the world witnessed Saturday night, the simple action of turning off lights can inspire people around the world to take action, and to make a serious long-term commitment to living more sustainable lives. On behalf of WWF, I want to thank all participants for making Earth Hour a truly memorable hour for the entire planet.”

In Washington, D.C. families organized a candle-light walk to observe the city in the dark against a darkened Capitol Dome, .

In Nashville and Los Angeles crowds gathered to watch their Mayors flip the switch and kick off Earth Hour in their cities. In Chicago families gathered around flashlights to play board games.

The enthusiasm for turning lights out extended to one of the most notoriously over lit places on earth – the Las Vegas Strip noted for its myriad casinos and all-night attractions.

Vegas, The New York New York Hotel and Casino colored the tops of its miniature New York skyline green in support of Earth Hour.

Elsewhere on the Strip, the Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino added the Earth Hour logo to its Marquee.Thousands of people downtown gathered to be part of this global event and witness a live countdown on the Fremont Street Experience Canopy. Glow sticks were handed out just prior to city leaders plunging the strip into dark.

Further west, the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco turned off for Earth Hour. Other US icons to go dark included the St. Louis Gateway Arch, the Church of Latter-Day Saints Temple in Salt Lake City, the National Cathedral in Washington D.C , the Space Needle in Seattle and the Santa Monica Pier & Ferris Wheel and Nokia Plaza in Los Angeles. Earth Hour apparently also drew the spontaneous support of some Honolulu businesses, while local media reported that the Bishop Museum, the state’s largest and repository of the most notable collection of Hawaiian royal artifacts, had turned off its lights.

US corporate icons The Coca-Cola Company, Wells Fargo and Hewlett-Packard.were among business supporters of the event.

Canada surpasses itself

(C) Pi Media - Toronto Skyline

Canada, an enthusiastic participant in the 2008 Earth Hour event, surpassed itself this year and has the electricity consumption figures to prove it. Utilities in Toronto, reported a 15.1 percent drop in electricity use over the hour, compared to 8.7 percent during Earth Hour 2008.

Canada, with 258 cities, towns and municipalities signed up for Earth Hour, hosted dozens of public events including star gazing, magic shows, and even yoga lessons in the dark.

Toronto's iconic skyline was dramatically darkened as famous buildings such as the CN Tower, along with thousands of other businesses and individuals in the city switched off their lights. An estimated 10 to 15,000 people attended a free concert at Toronto’s City Hall to mark Earth Hour.

Canada is home to many of the world’s remaining polar bears, two thirds of which could be lost during the next 50 years because of climate change, according to recent comprehensive analyses by the U.S. Geological Survey and the World Conservation Union.

(C) Bill Ivy - Toronto, Dundas Square

Exuberant Earth Hour in Brazil

Brazilian emblem, the 38 meter tall Christ the Redeemer statue on Corcovado mountain overlooking the city of Rio de Janeiro was the most widely known icon to switch from floodlights to no lights for the hour.

Elsewhere, however, WWF-Brazil reported a country “partying in the dark” – more or less what the rest of the world would expect.

In Belém, there was a Boi Bumbá presentation, a popular regional festival. In Brasília, a percussion concert began after the lights went off. In Manaus, Imbaúba Group played acoustic music inspired by the sounds of the Amazon. And in Rio de Janeiro AfroReggae played a concert in which all musicians were covered in phosphorescent body paint.

Some 101 Brazilian cities and towns participated in Earth Hour in addition to 480 community organizations and 1,000 private businesses. Small cities all over the country joined in, WWF-Brazil reported, with Juazeiro do Norte, in Ceará, turning off the lights of Priest Cícero statue, a symbol of the religiosity of the Northeastern population. Ouro Preto, an ancient village in Minas Gerais, turned off the lights of the colonial buildings.

“Brazil is the ninth economy of the world, and plays an important role between developing countries, as a leader at international negotiations on climate changes,” WWF-Brazil’s CEO, Denise Hamú said. “We must set an example for fair and sustainable development.”

Brazil and other Amazon basin countries are looking to the Copenhagen climate conference in December to come up with new measures to avoid deforestation, a major cause of greenhouse gas emissions.

Medellin’s mayor took the opportunity at an unrelated cocktail party to address 1,500 people about Earth landmarks, the Murallas de Cartagena and the San Felipe Fortress.

(C) Americo Vermelho - Christ the Redeemer, Rio De Janeiro, Brazil

Peru, whose main cities are threatened by looming water shortages as glaciers retreat along the Andes, embraced Earth Hour with enthusiasm.

Electricity use dropped a reported 15 per cent and the country's main paper, El Comercio, published a blackened front page for the day. Peruvian President Alan Garcia threw his weight behind the campaign along with several of his ministers and a number of congressmen, in public and published statements.

From the Amazon to the Andean mountains, lights went off in dozens of cities, towns, and municipalities across Peru including Tumbes, Cuzco, and Tarapoto. In the capital Lima, it was Mayor Luis Castaneda Lossio who turned off the lights in the downtown area, a popular tourist area and cultural center. Pop singer Gian Marco turned off most of the lights and equipment at an Earth Hour concert in Lima attended by more than 20,000 people.

In Colombia, residents of nine cities – including major urban centers such as Bogota, Medellin, and Cartagena – turned their lights off for Earth Hour.

Time to act

“Earth Hour 2009 was an incredible success,” said WWF International Director General James Leape. “If you participated in Earth Hour, thank you, your participation made that success possible.

“But whether your participated or not, the work continues, because over the next six 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.

“Join with us to take the fight from Earth Hour to December when those leaders gather in Copenhagen to agree on a solution to Climate Change. Together, we can make sure this problem is met.”