Lights were switched off at Burj Khalifa during the Earth Hour in Dubai yesterday. Dubai Electricity and Water Authority led celebrations that urged residents to switch off all unnecessary lights. Image Credit: Javed Nawab/Gulf News

Dubai: Thousands of people gathered last night at the Burj Plaza, with candle-lit lanterns, to celebrate Earth Hour with millions more people around the world.

For 60 minutes from 8.30pm the lights at some of the biggest landmarks dimmed to black including the Burj Khalifa, to raise awareness on environment degradation caused by climate change.

Dr Rashid Ahmad Bin Fahd, Minister of Environment and Water said in a statement that public participation is key in supporting the government's efforts to protect the environment.

According to the 2010 Living Planet Report by the World Wildlife Fund, if everyone in the world lived like a resident of the United Arab Emirates, we would need six planets to regenerate resources and absorb all CO2 emissions.

The 2010 report was compiled from the most recent statistics gathered in 2007.

First to take part

In 2008, however, Dubai was the first Arab city to participate in Earth Hour. Yesterday, all emirates in the UAE took part and last year alone it was estimated that 400,000 people took part.

"There is no doubt that the growing participation in this initiative and other environmental initiatives is a clear indication of the level of awareness in the UAE, and the desire and enthusiasm to participate in the efforts to protect the environment and to achieve sustainable development," Bin Fahd said.

"Regardless of the economy and the amount of carbon emissions that are reduced during Earth Hour and other similar initiatives, which is important in all cases, the most important thing is that this initiative, with its message is very clear that individual choices, even in its simplest form, can have a real impact and important role in our quest for sustainability of our precious natural resources and contribute to making the planet a better place for our lives and livelihood of future generations," said Bin Fahd.

Developing and developed nations are striving to find an agreement that will bring down CO2 emissions to 350 parts per million.

In February 2011, global CO2 levels were 391.76ppm compared to 389.85 in 2010, according to the Earth Systems Research Laboratory (ESRL) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The Abu Dhabi International Airport turned off the lights of one of its runways to raise awareness on reducing energy consumption while all of Abu Dhabi Airports Company's (ADAC) five airports took part in this year's Earth Hour.

ADAC's five airports: Abu Dhabi International, Al Ain International, Al Bateen Executive, Delma and Sir Bani Yas, participated by dimming, or switching off, non-essential lighting along airports runways, in terminal buildings and management offices.

Demand to switch off

Dubai Electricity and Water Authority lead the celebrations that demand all individuals to switch off all unnecessary lights and electrical appliances for one hour. The Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) switched off lights in several RTA buildings all over Dubai.

People had also gathered on Abu Dhabi Corniche, Al Qasba in Sharjah and Fujairah Fort to be part of the annual initiative.

Did you participate in the Earth Hour? How effective is the event in raising awareness about conservation?