Tonight across the world lights will be turned off – only for an hour, but with a reason.
Launched in 2007 in Australia, initially as an energy-saving measure, the hour has spread internationally and become a symbolic event to encourage environmental action and awareness. It is a rolling hour at 8.30-9.30pm across the world on 31 March every year.
This Saturday night the program is extended into space for the first time, with the International Space Station taking part.
The Dutch astronaut André Kuipers will share photos of Earth and live commentary as landmarks from the Eiffel Tower to the Sydney Opera House switch off their lights. WWF, the event’s organisers, say this year will see record participation, with 5,411 cities and towns, and 147 countries taking part, up from 5,251 and 135 in 2011.
Organisations around the world have asked their members to take part, and Unesco has asked World Heritage sites to take part – the Acropolis in Athens, churchs and convents of Goa and Angkor in Cambodia are among those going dark. Closer to home, Buckingham Palace, Tower Bridge and Big Ben will all switch off their lights.
The Office of National Statistics released data to mark Earth hour this week, showing that while Britons are using less energy they are paying more for it. Energy consumption has fallen in volume terms by 11.3% since the first Earth Hour in 2007, but household spending on it has increased 11.3% in the same period from £28.8bn to £35.6bn.