x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

UAE powers down to save the planet

UAE joins 151 other countries in symbolic dark hour to push the message on saving energy.

??Participants around candles and lanterns during the Earth Hour 2013 Earth Hour Walk celebration at the Burj Plaza. Jaime Puebla / The National
??Participants around candles and lanterns during the Earth Hour 2013 Earth Hour Walk celebration at the Burj Plaza. Jaime Puebla / The National

ABU DHABI // Homes, businesses and landmarks were plunged into darkness for 60 minutes tonight to mark Earth Hour.

The voluntary nationwide power down was part of a seventh annual international energy conservation drive marked in more than 7,000 cities and towns in 152 countries at 8.30pm.

"It's not just about the hour but going beyond it," said Reem Althawadi, communications Manger at Emirates Wildlife Society of the WWF, the organisation which cofounded Earth Hour in 2007.

"The switching off of the lights is a symbol that can be used as a platform to take action and inspire people to preserve energy while thinking about the environment."

All seven emirates participated in Earth Hour this year. In the capital, residents gathered at the corniche for an event that included African drumming, Capoeria dancing, and a countdown to the switching offs of lights at landmarks, including Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.

"This is an hour to return back to the natural state of the earth," said Jerry Dzokot, of the Dubai Drums group that entertained the crowds with a drum circle.

"The use of these drums sends the message we need to take good care of Earth."

Signing a white board provided for the community to express their views was Mona Ali, 24, a nurse in Abu Dhabi.

"I wrote 'Sorry for killing you' on the board," she said. When asked why, Ms Ali explained: "Everyone is addicted to consuming. Today I told my family and colleagues to make sure to switch off all their lights during the hour."

More should be done to combat needless consumption, she said. "There really should be an Earth Hour every day of the year. Etisalat keeps sending us messages; maybe these messages should include reminders about the environment."

The Ministry of Interior in Abu Dhabi blacked out its main building and premises to mark the occasion, as did Al Ain Zoo - which marked the hour by distributing candles and promoting the cause on the zoo's loudspeakers.

In Dubai, thousands of residents attended an event at the Burj Plaza to witness the world's tallest building switch out the lights.

The event was organised by the emirate's electricity and water authority (Dewa) in cooperation with Emaar, the developer responsible for the Burj Khalifa.

According to Dewa, the emirate managed to save 200,000 kilowatts hours of energy saving 120 tonnes of carbon emissions.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, a leading voice for sustainable development in the country, tweeted: "Sustaining our Earth remains a fundamental principle in our policies. Next generations have the right to inherit a clean and safe environment."

Ms Althawadi was among those who attended the Burj Plaza event. "It went really well," she said. "The turn-out was much better than last year and we were really surprised and pleased.

Emaar also switched off the exterior lights of its malls. It was joined by other companies in the emirate, including Tecom investments which switched off non-essential lights across its 10 business parks for the hour, Al Hilal Bank which turned off the lights in all of its branches and offices, and at Enoc headquarters, where employees formed a symbolic "60" when the lights went out.

At the Jumeirah Rotana in Dubai, participants got into the spirit of Earth Hour with a night-time table tennis tournament using glow-in-the-dark balls.