Earth Hour in Africa - Switch Off the Lights to Switch on a Deal in Copenhagen
Nairobi, 27 March 2009
One of Nairobi's most iconic buildings, the Kenyatta International Conference Centre, will be plunged into darkness on Saturday night as part of the global lights out campaign - Earth Hour.
Billed as the biggest public demonstration in support of a new climate deal in 2009, landmarks and householders across close to 90 countries are expected to take part.
The United Nations is among a range of organizations and business that are backing the event which is being coordinated by the wildlife group WWF.
For the two billion people in the world without access to electricity, many of whom live on the African Continent, Earth Hour may seem more of a developed rather than a developing country initiative.
But Nick Nuttall, Spokesperson for the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya, said, "Earth Hour 2009 is in reality of special significance to Africa…. this is the Continent with the least responsibility for climate change, yet it is perhaps the most vulnerable to the climatic events unfolding as a result of the build-up of greenhouse gases from the burning of fossil fuels".
"Earth Hour is happening against a backdrop of a deepening drought here in Kenya that has contributed to an estimated 10 million people suffering hunger and water shortages and fires at several economically-important wildlife sites that are key revenue-generating tourist destinations including Mount Longonot and Lake Nakuru," he said.
It is thus up to the minority of people living in Africa with the luxury of electricity to be fully involved, sending a clear message from this Continent o the rest of the world that action is needed to seal the deal at the UN climate convention meeting in Copenhagen in December.
"Sealing the deal is likely to unleash the carbon markets and is perhaps the best bet for fast-tracking clean and renewable energy into countries in Africa, including the rural areas, while assisting Africa and other developing Continents climate-proof their economies against the climate change already underway", Mr. Nuttall added.
Mr. Nuttall is among more than 3,400 UN staff in Nairobi being urged to play their part during Earth Hour. Like the UN headquarters in New York, non-essential lights and equipment will be switched off at the UN Office in Nairobi in a show of support for Africa's first Earth Hour experience.