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Earth Hour exceeds target for historic event

The Sphinx and the Great Pyramid in Giza had their lights turned off in support of Earth Hour yesterday, a global initiative to switch off non-essential lights as a call to action on climate change.

The Sphinx and the Great Pyramid in Giza had their lights turned off in support of Earth Hour yesterday, a global initiative to switch off non-essential lights as a call to action on climate change.

The number of cities and towns that took part in Earth Hour 2009 yesterday exceeded the ambitious target of 1,000 set by the organisers. In Malta, Le Méridien St Julians Hotel and Spa joined Starwood hotels around the globe in taking energy-saving measures for one hour.

This year, the event held every last Saturday of March asking individuals to turn off their non-essential lights and electrical appliances for one hour, took on special significance in the lead up to the climate change meeting in Copenhagen.

Earth Hour is an annual international event created by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) based on an idea successfully executed in Thailand in 2005. It was pioneered by WWF Australia and the Sydney Morning Herald in 2007, and achieved worldwide participation in 2008.

From the Chatham Islands to the Arctic Sea, people from all corners of the world turned off their lights for Earth Hour to cast their vote for action on climate change. The event saw millions of people gathered in parks, streets, town squares and homes around the world to witness the lights going out on iconic landmarks and city skylines, while taking in the atmosphere of some truly unique Earth Hour events.

In Sydney, every ferry in the city's famous harbour sounded its horn at precisely 8.30 p.m. to herald the beginning of Earth Hour in Australia, while in Melbourne a people-pedal-powered concert began at Federation Square.

On the other side of the world, a host of concerts and parties were held in cities across Europe. In Athens, people were given percussion instruments to create a 'circle of percussion' as the lights went out on the Acropolis, the birthplace of modern democracy.

In Oslo's city centre, members of the public took up the challenge of pedal-powered light bulbs, while residents in the city of Lisbon sat down to an evening of outdoor candle-lit dining as they watched their city skyline go dark.

Two great symbols of the 20th century, the Empire State Building in New York and Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, were the latest in a long list of modern marvels turning their lights out for Earth Hour. The famous arch of Wembley Stadium in London also had its lights turned off during a 'friendly' international football match.

In Egypt, the lights went out on the Sphinx and Great Pyramids of Giza. The symbolism of these antiquities' involvement and that of two of Egypt's modern icons, the Cairo Tower and Bibliotheca in Alexandria, was of great significance, according to Earth Hour executive director Andy Ridley.

Mr Ridley said Earth Hour is more than just a call to action on climate change: "Earth Hour is an opportunity for the global community to speak in one voice on the issue of climate change, while at the same time coming together in celebration of the one thing every single person on the planet has in common - the planet," he said.

In a videotaped address, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Earth Hour was "the largest demonstration of public concern about climate change ever attempted."

Mr Ban Ki-moon underlined the seriousness of climate change and the need for a global climate deal to be agreed when the world's leaders meet in Copenhagen this coming December. He underlined the need for an ambitious agreement to be achieved there that is fair and effective.

"We are on a dangerous path. Our planet is warming. We must change our ways. We need green growth that benefits all communities.

"We need sustainable energy for a more climate-friendly, prosperous world. This is the path of the future," the secretary-general said.

The UN switched off lights at its headquarters in New York as well as other UN facilities around the world during Earth Hour.

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