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  • Millions Unite Online Making Earth Hour 2020 One of the Largest Virtual Movements for the Environment

    Earth Hour 2020 beautifully exemplified the resilience of the human spirit amid a crisis.  © WWF"The success of this year's Earth Hour is a testimony to the incredible human spirit and the power of collective action. At a time when the world is facing an unprecedented challenge in the face of the COVID-19 outbreak, the need to unite and make our voices heard for a more harmonious relationship with the planet has never been greater. People from across the globe responded to this call for action by coming out in support for protecting the planet, and inspiring others to commit to halting nature loss with innovative online campaigns and events. I truly applaud their unflinching commitment for a sustainable future. As Earth Hour 2020 comes to a close, I urge you all to continue to work in solidarity with each other to safeguard the future of our planet. Let's look after one another and our one shared home.'' - Marco Lambertini, Director General of WWF International
     
    29 March 2020 - Global leaders, celebrities, individuals and businesses from 190 countries and territories came together on Saturday, 28th March, to lend their support for the planet. A people-led movement, Earth Hour 2020 beautifully exemplified the resilience of the human spirit amid a crisis. At a time when people across the globe are battling a health crisis of an unforeseen scale, and many countries are under complete lockdown, supporters rose to the challenge of marking Earth Hour with online events. Earth Hour 2020 generated over 3 billion social media impressions globally, making it one of the most successful online events in its history.
 
     
    With nature loss continuing unabated, Earth Hour 2020 drew attention to the immediate need to halt and reverse biodiversity loss by 2030 in order to protect our own health as well as the planet's. In practice, this includes shutting down the illegal wildlife trade. WWF, its partners and grassroots communities spread this message in a record 190 countries and territories – and given the current global health crisis, exclusively through digital channels. WWF Central and Eastern Europe national member offices did their part:
     
    WWF-Hungary launched a 10-day social media challenge starting on Earth Hour asking people to make a commitment to nature, and to tell them what they are going to change in their lives for good when the current situation comes to an end. A number of celebrities and influencers such as actress Laura Döbrösi, vegan chef Kristóf Steiner, and Budapest Mayor Gergely Karácsony publically encouraged their friends and followers via social media to participate.
     
    WWF-Slovakia launched a social media #TogetherInNature challenge to help us virtually connect to nature. Being out in nature and with people are some of the things we are missing the most, but at least we can connect with many of our loved ones digitally. This is not so easy with nature. The campaign spread positive emotions and boosted social interactions by talking about and sharing their last photos in nature with families, friends and colleagues.
     
    WWF-Ukraine used Earth Hour to encourage changes in personal habits that can help halt biodiversity and habitat loss, and restore nature. A number of corporations and influencers joined the Earth Hour campaign and helped to create a "digital wave" of support for a New Deal for Nature and People.
     
    WWF-Romania reminded everyone that the core of the movement is #togetherpossible. In order to help people feel less alone, less isolated while they #stayhome, and encourage them to participate in this landmark event, finalist of The Voice – Romania Dora Gaitanovici, and the band Rockabella performed live from their living rooms. The film "American Parks" was premiered with an online guided tour of 11 US national parks in a quest to find out how nature conservation began in the US, and what can be learned from their protected areas. Actress Monica Davidescu read children's stories by candlelight, and Minister of Environment Costel Alexe supported the movement on his official Facebook page.
     
    WWF-Bulgaria's digital Earth Hour focused on the importance of forests, particularly riparian forests, and their key role in managing climate change, flood prevention, improving water quality and providing important green corridors and wildlife habitats. Bulgaria's Eurovision representative Viktoria Georgieva was the main ambassador live streamed music for the Earth. Other performers included Boyana Zhelyazkova, Giorgia Cugia, Laura Hoo, Polina Antonova, Shane Ó Fearghail,  Aklea Neon, and Vicky Halo.
     
    Earth Hour was an opportunity for us to reflect and talk about the relationship between the planet and humankind. During this Earth Hour, we asked people to use this time of darkness to think about how we can switch back on the lights for our civilization and live in harmony with the rest of nature. During the following days, please help each other while helping the planet! Most importantly, speak to your family and friends about the future of our planet. How will you change your behaviour post-Covid19 that will have a positive impact on the planet?


    While Earth Hour's symbolic lights-off action mostly took place in countless homes this year, popular landmarks such as the official residence of the Romanian President (Cotroceni Palace), the National Bank and UNESCO World Heritage Site Spis Castle in Slovakia, Sydney Opera House, the Eiffel Tower, Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Tokyo Skytree, Brandenburg Gate, the Colosseum in Rome, Taipei 101, Beijing National Stadium, the Ali Qapu Palace, the Hellenic Parliament in Greece, Panama Canal, Moscow Kremlin, Tower Bridge in London and many more still went dark to show solidarity with the rest of the world.
     
    Many renowned public figures, environmental activists, and celebrities from across the globe supported Earth Hour 2020 to draw attention to the nature and climate crises: UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, Pope Francis, Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau; Indian film stars Amitabh Bachchan, UN Environment Goodwill ambassador Dia Mirza, Kenyan singing sensation Nikita Kering, Colombian model Claudia Bahamon, and British Singer-Songwriter, Cat Stevens were among the many public personalities who participated. These are just a few examples showing the power of Earth Hour to bring people together in the midst of growing threats to our planet and our own survival.
     
    The evidence of the risks facing our society, and all life on Earth, has never been greater. It is imperative that we change to be more sustainable in the way we fuel our economies, grow and harvest our food, and live our lives. The price of not doing so is enormous, but so are the opportunities, so we must choose wisely. Help WWF achieve its ambition for a New Deal for Nature and People and create a safer, fairer, and healthier future for present and future generations.
    • ZERO loss of natural habitats;
    • HALVE the ecological footprint of production and consumption; and
    • ZERO human-induced extinction by 2030.
    Show your support and help us make the New Deal for Nature and People a reality and
    pledge your support at
    earthhour.org/voice
     
    About Earth Hour
    Earth Hour is WWF's flagship global environmental movement. Born in Sydney in 2007, Earth Hour has grown to become one of the world's largest grassroots movements for the environment, inspiring individuals, communities, businesses and organisations in more than 180 countries and territories to take tangible environmental action for over a decade. Historically, Earth Hour has focused on the climate crisis, but more recently, Earth Hour has strived to also bring the pressing issue of nature loss to the fore. The aim is to create an unstoppable movement for nature, as it did when the world came together to tackle climate change. The movement recognises the role of individuals in creating solutions to the planet's most pressing environmental challenges and harnesses the collective power of its millions of supporters to drive change.
     

  • UN climate talks (COP26) postponed to 2021

    UNFCCC flags outside the Bonn International Conference Centre. © WWF/Naoyuki Yamigishi
    (GLAND, Switzerland) 1 April 2020 - COP26, the annual meeting of climate negotiators, has been postponed due to the COVID-19 crisis. The meeting was scheduled to be held in Glasgow from 9 – 20 November this year.

    The announcement came via a statement on the UK government website today.

    The statement said: "This decision has been taken by representatives of the COP Bureau of the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change), with the UK and its Italian partners.

    "Dates for a rescheduled conference in 2021, hosted in Glasgow by the UK in partnership with Italy, will be set out in due course following further discussion with parties.

    "In light of the ongoing, worldwide effects of COVID-19, holding an ambitious, inclusive COP26 in November 2020 is no longer possible."

    Rescheduling will ensure all parties can focus on the issues to be discussed at this vital conference and allow more time for the necessary preparations to take place. We will continue to work with all involved to increase climate ambition, build resilience and lower emissions, the statement said.

    Responding to the announcement, Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, leader of WWF's global climate and energy practice said:  "Under the circumstances, the decision to postpone COP26, is unavoidable. Our collective priority must be to put health and lives first which is why we must treat COVID-19 seriously. 

    "But climate action must remain a non-negotiable global priority. That means we must also focus on creating low-carbon job opportunities and increasing our societies' economic and ecological resilience. This means countries must continue their work to step up ambition to tackle the climate crisis in a socially fair way, by decarbonizing economies and energy systems, increasing nature-based solutions and addressing unsustainable agriculture and deforestation, including through any economic recovery effort. It is especially vital that countries align all recovery and stimulus packages with climate science. 

    "There are important and specific opportunities for job creation in the net-zero economy in labour intensive sectors such as digital infrastructure, insulation and energy efficiency, sustainable public transport, solar PV deployment in cities and ecosystem restoration, among others. 

    "The current alarming situation we are facing also underlines the need for urgent action to halt the imminent loss of lives from the climate crisis and to rebalance our relationship with nature. 

    "We are all on this planet together. Countries are stronger working together, and international cooperation based on creating socially, economically and ecologically resilient societies is the best option to resolve present and future crises such as COVID-19 and the global climate crisis."
     
    For further information, contact Mandy Jean Woods mwoods@wwfint.org
     

  • Japan submits unchanged national climate plan; lowers the bar for other big emitters

    Fridays for Future activists march to demand greater climate action from their governments.  © Fridays For Future (Pixabay)

     

    As part of the Paris Agreement countries must submit revised national climate plans in five year cycles. According to the agreement, countries should submit a second round of plans (or Nationally Determined Contributions - NDCs) in 2020 to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). 

     

    In 2015, 184 countries submitted national climate plans. This first round of plans put the world on a path to warm by 3°C or more. Now, there is an urgency for these second round of plans to have enhanced ambition if we are to have a chance of keeping to the 1.5°C global temperature goal set out in the Paris Agreement - and what the science assessed by the IPCC is shown to be safer for people and nature compared with 2°C or more warming. So far, 107 countries have indicated they will submit enhanced plans in 2020. The Marshall Islands, Suriname, Norway and Moldova have so far submitted their second round plans, all enhancing their ambition. Japan is the first of the big emitting countries to submit its plan and it is unchanged from its first submission.

     

    Responding to the news, Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, leader of WWF's global climate and energy practice said: "It is deeply disappointing that Japan, as the world's third largest economy and the world's fifth largest emitter of greenhouse gases, could not find the political will to step up its climate actions in submitting its second national climate plan to the United Nations. Instead of setting the pace, they have lowered the bar.

     

    "A true test of a country's commitment to the Paris Agreement is whether their second round plans will be aligned to 1.5°C. We have known since 2015 that the first round of plans was setting the world on a path to warm by 3°C or more. 

     

    "Japan has wasted an opportunity to show climate leadership. They have failed their citizens and the people of the world by rushing to submit their NDC without substantial improvements.

     

    "The signal sent by this submission is that Japan is not willing to tackle the climate crisis meaningfully. What they have submitted is an affront to their previous climate leadership and  to what we all know science says needs to be done. It is particularly galling since Japan is the first of the big emitters to submit their national climate plans.  

     

    "We urge all big emitting countries to submit revised plans aligned with 1.5°C. The current health crisis facing the world is giving us a glimpse into what is possible when governments have the political will to take action - and greening recovery and stimulus efforts aligned to sustainable development  is necessary and desirable. 

     

    "Humans need to better understand and respect that ecosystems are the cradle of our lives, livelihoods and security.  There are a number of trends that have led to increasing frequency of certain disease outbreaks, but science shows that climate change and biodiversity loss are contributing factors. 

     

    "Climate change remains a massive and very foreseeable crisis that is already unfolding at a (scientific) pace unprecedented in human history. We need all tools at our disposal to take action. Being cross-sectoral in nature, national climate plans give us one of the best opportunities to shift towards a more resilient economic development." 

     

    Naoyuki Yamagishi, leader of the climate and energy group for WWF-Japan said: "Japan missed another opportunity to show leadership for decarbonization. Instead it sent a completely wrong signal to the international society implying it is ok not to enhance ambition at this crucial moment. No, this is NOT OK in the face of a climate crisis.
    "Submitting an unchanged Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) now for the sake of meeting the 9  to 12 month deadline has no legal basis and possibly discourages other countries efforts to seriously consider enhancing NDCs.
    "Japan's government should have listened to the positive voices expressed in the statement by Japan Climate Initiative (JCI), which was signed by 248 organizations including business companies, local governments and other organisations who urged the government to enhance its NDC.
    "The only possible remedy now is to start an open and transparent process to discuss how to (
    NOT whether to) enhance its NDC with a clear time schedule."

     
    For further information contact Mandy Jean Woods mwoods@wwfint.org