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Earth Hour 2010 and India

Dr. Sarita Azad is a Project Associate at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi. Click here for detailed profile
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  • April 05, 2010

    Efficient energy use is a matter of primary concern. Energy efficiency and renewable energy must be developed at the same time in order to cut down carbon dioxide emissions. The need for alternate energy sources is becoming urgent, hence the development of renewable energy is moving fast. And while realizing that renewable sources are not enough, countries across the globe are trying to find out ways and means to conserve energy. As a result, there have been conscious efforts on the part of global community to raise environmental awareness among the common people. One such effort known as Earth Hour was initiated by World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in 2007, when 2.2 million people across Sydney switched off their lights and electrical appliances for one hour to raise awareness and take action regarding energy usage and take a stand to fight climate change. It was an event supported all over the world as a symbol of united endeavor. In 2008, 50 million people around the globe turned their lights off. In four years time, Earth hour has become the world’s largest global climate change initiative. Earth hour 2010 took place on Saturday 27th March between 8.30 pm to 9.30 pm local time. Millions of people from more than 120 countries and regions cutting across continental boundaries came in a moment of global unity to spread the message on protecting earth from rapid climate change. This blackout was entirely voluntary and vital security and life saving electrical equipments and appliances were unaffected during this hour-long campaign. However, interestingly historic landmarks like India Gate, Egypt’s Great Pyramids, China’s Forbidden City and Paris’ Eiffel tower were plunged into darkness as a response to this campaign.

    All electricity generation technologies generate carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gas emissions. These emissions can be direct – arising during operation of the power plant, or indirect – arising during other non-operational phases of the life cycle. During the Earth hour, Delhi witnessed a reduction in electric energy demand of around 400 MW in 2010, which was almost double of that in 2009. According to WWF Thailand, Bangkok decreased electricity usage by 73.34 MW, which is equivalent to 41.6 tonnes of carbon dioxide. In Dubai, lighting on several major city landmarks was turned off and street lighting in selected areas was dimmed by 50 per cent, hence the Electricity and Water Authority reported savings of 100 MWh of electricity. This represented a 2.4 per cent reduction in demand compared to before the hour began. Though these reductions are certainly not sufficient enough to turn the tide on carbon emissions, events backed by such statistics help people understand their responsibility and contribution to a global cause.

    In the developing world, contrary to most of the developed countries, access to electricity and power is unevenly distributed and so is consumption. In India, except for a handful of metropolitan cities, the rest of the country struggles with incessant power cuts and interrupted power supplies. Also, energy resources in India are not enough to sustain its rising population and energy intensive economy. Moreover, in developed countries electricity consumption is much higher than in the developing economies. For example, the average power per capita (watts per person) in USA is 1460; in Australia it is 1244; in China it is 277; and in India it is as low as 50.5.

    In such a scenario, it is essential to explore what significant role campaigns like Earth hour play in India. Certainly, such a campaign can be promoted only in urban centers since only 44 per cent of rural households have access to electricity. During Earth hour 2010, a total of 56 Indian cities participated. The purpose of such a global event can be to unite people and help them move in the same positive direction. To achieve the sustainable development goals, developing countries must encourage everyone to take personal responsibility for their climate impact and make necessary changes to adopt a low-carbon lifestyle. Controlling demand for energy services and improving energy efficiency will reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions. Thus, it is important that we actively engage with the world in controlling and eventually cutting down on over-consumption of power. A great source of energy is wasted everyday in household appliances. A million tonnes of greenhouse gases are forced into the atmosphere every year by appliances left on standby. Switching off appliances at the mains and not on standby would save enough energy. There could be more campaigns like Earth hour to curb growing pollution and unauthorized industries. In the end it is in our hands how we respond and give our voice to the threat of climate change that humanity is facing at present. For India, it is even more important since it has to not only fight over-consumption of resources in metropolitan cities but also make sure that the resources saved percolate down to its rural areas.