Earth Hour Circles The Globe

Hundreds of landmark buildings and millions of ordinary homes have switched off their lights as the annual Earth Hour moved around the globe.

Australia’s Opera House was the first of many global landmarks to go dark as the event got underway.

A record number of Sydneysiders switched their lights off for the event, which ran from 8:30pm to 9:30pm AEDT.

Oz Grid Energy says energy use in the Sydney CBD dropped by 12 per cent during the hour – the equivalent of turning off 2 million energy efficient light bulbs.

Hundreds of millions of people followed suit in a global event which organisers have dubbed the world’s largest voluntary action for the environment.

Other landmark buildings included Beijing’s Bird’s Nest stadium, which hosted the 2008 Olympics, the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the London Eye Ferris wheel, Times Square in New York and Brazil’s Christ the Redeemer statue.

Most were switching off their floodlighting, advertising signs and other illuminations for an hour.

“The amount of power that’s saved during that time is not really what it’s about,” Earth Hour co-founder and executive director Andy Ridley said in Sydney, where the movement began in 2007.

“What it is meant to be about is showing what can happen when people come together.”

Organisers said an estimated 10 million Australians took part.

This year they also asked people to commit to an action, large or small, that they will carry through the year to help the planet.

For example, Dalian city in north-eastern China will spend 1.5 billion dollars planting 340 million trees and Chengdu city in the south-west will make up to 60,000 bicycles available for public rental.

Mr Ridley said a record 134 countries or territories were on board for this year’s event.

The event kicked off in the Pacific, Fiji, New Zealand and Australia, rolling into Asia, Europe, Africa and the Americas as it followed the descending sun.

Hong Kong’s neon waterfront dimmed, while in Singapore all decorative lights were switched off and non-critical operational lights lowered at Changi Airport for an hour.

The airport said the effort would result in energy savings equivalent to the total amount of electricity consumed by a four-room apartment over three months.

In Japan, which is reeling from a huge earthquake and tsunami that struck this month, several thousand people and a hotel-turned-evacuation centre in the north-east marked Earth Day.

In Paris a minute’s silence was to be observed for Japan as the city of light went dark, with illuminations switched off at the cathedral of Notre Dame, City Hall, the two opera houses and many bridges, fountains and public places.

In Russia some 30 cities were joining in, from Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, the most easterly city on the Kamchatka peninsula, through Moscow to Murmansk in the far north.

In Athens monuments being darkened included the Acropolis, the parliament building, the presidential palace and at the temple of Poseidon near the city.

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