Earth Hour fetes 10th edition tonight


MONTREAL – Canadians are being asked to join millions around the world in turning off their lights tonight to mark Earth Hour.

The event was launched in Australia in 2007 as a way to draw attention to environmental issues including climate change, but this year’s 10th edition is as much a celebration as a call for action, according to the main organizer of the event.

“This year, because the nations came together in Paris in December for the first time and agreed on a plan of action, I think the goal is not only to draw attention but also to celebrate the fact we’ve seen really important action on this critical challenge,” said David Miller, CEO of World Wildlife Fund-Canada.

In addition to the Paris climate conference, Miller points to recent premiers’ meetings as well as agreements between Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and U.S. President Barack Obama as a sign of “tremendous momentum” on climate change in Canada.

As Canadians are asked to switch off their lights from 8:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. local time this year, organizers also want them to turn on their smartphones to fight for climate action.

The World Wildlife Fund is encouraging social media users to “donate” their Facebook feeds to display messages about climate awareness, or to add an Earth-Hour filter to their Facebook and Twitter profile pictures.

Environment Minister Catherine McKenna plans to jump on board by “reminding and encouraging Canadians to mark Earth Hour by turning off lights and electronics via her and departmental social media channels,” her press attache said in an email.

While Earth Hour grew to include 7,000 cities in 172 countries last year, some say the event has been losing steam in recent years, at least in Canada.

BC Hydro, for example, said British Columbians reduced the provincial electricity load during Earth Hour by just 0.2 per cent last year — much less than the two per cent reduction recorded in 2008.

While Toronto recorded a 3.5 per cent drop last year and Edmonton decreased its power consumption by 6.3 per cent, Calgary saw almost no change at all.

Miller says critics who measure the event’s success in megawatt hours are missing the point.

“Earth Hour has been part of a movement that has made a very real difference and I think this year we have to celebrate that success,” he said. “It’s certainly never been about the amount of energy saved on the night.”