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India observed the Earth Hour alongside 92 other countries between 8:30 pm and 9:30 pm on Saturday, March 28, 2010. As the clock struck 8:30 pm on Saturday, hundreds of Delhiites and people in other Indian cities willingly switched off their lights for one hour to observe Earth Hour, a global climate awareness initiative. Here is the complete text of an exclusive interview of the Executive Director Earth Hour Andy Ridley with fnbworld's Managing Editor, Ravi V.Chhabra

Andy Ridley Executive Director Earth Hour

fnbworld: What is the Earth Hour philosophy and agenda for next 5-years?

EH: The Earth Hour philosophy has always been to engage all parts of society in building a sustainable future. Earth Hour has to be about what can be done to resolve climate change and how we go about it as the world develops. We will continue to bring new countries, regions and cities on board and focus on driving innovative practices that can be sustained all year round.

fnbworld: What’s the difference between the developed and developing world in terms of awareness for saving earth/environment?

EH: The vast bulk of environmental damage has been done by the developed world and consequently, the developing world has been disproportionately left with the damage. Emerging nations and economies such as India and Brazil are moving ahead on their path to climate change and are taking action instead of waiting for direction. Earth Hour continues to provide a platform for both developed and developing nations to take action on climate change regardless of regional, economic and cultural differences.

fnbworld: Do you have specific plans for India and South-East Asia?

EH: Five million Indians across 56 Indian cities participated in Earth Hour 2009. We are aiming this year to go even further and get more supporters and cities on board. Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore are the official Earth Hour cities and we also have the support of over 15 other big cities including metropolises like Chennai, Hyderabad, Ahmadabad and state capitals like Lucknow, Amritsar, Bhopal, Gangtok to name a few. The campaign was launched in India on March 10 with noted film actor Abhishek Bachchan as the Ambassador. The weekend before Earth Hour there will be a cycle rally in Delhi to raise awareness on simple things people can do in everyday life to reduce their environmental impact. Similarly, there are also several activities being planned in other cities including a candle light vigil in Bangalore, a painting and music festival in Gangtok and cycle rally in Chennai.

fnbworld: How can individuals/citizens contribute to your movement round the year?

Earth Hour for a sad planet

EH:  We at Earth Hour aim to raise awareness on the power of actions - big or small - that individuals, governments and organizations can adopt towards conserving energy. The government of Delhi has made Earth Hour a quarterly initiative, thereby taking it beyond a symbolic gesture and making it a self perpetuating movement. Individuals and businesses can follow the lead of Earth Hour supporter ING Vysya Bank who switched off across all their locations in 2009. They subsequently adopted energy conservation initiatives at their headquarters and were able to cut electricity consumption by over 15%. Earth Hour encourages supporters to consider ways of being more efficient and responsible about energy use, not just for one hour but for every hour. Whilst India has many additional challenges to overcome, the biggest challenge is changing people attitudes about energy consumption. Earth Hour is well on the way to succeeding at this.

fnbworld: Which is the most potent pollutant for environment and marine life?

EH: The most detrimental thing to our environment is not acting to resolve the issue of climate change. It affects every living being on the planet so we all need to act to resolve it. Earth Hour has managed to bring millions of people from around the world together on a really important issue. The public’s support of Earth Hour has meant that, through symbolic action, we have made climate change and the environment a top priority and are moving to a more sustainable future.

fnbworld:  Your views on the outcome of the last concluded Environment Summit?

We had hoped that Copenhagen would deliver an ambitious and legally binding solution to climate change. The fact that this did not happen means that our journey to a climate change solution is longer than anyone had hoped, however, historically, positive change has taken many years to achieve success. Copenhagen did achieve positive outcomes. A consensus was forged among global leaders to hold temperature increases to below two degrees Celsius. Some of the world’s biggest economies and emerging nations are saying they will move ahead regardless, such as India, China and Brazil. Most importantly, civil action brought together 118 world leaders for the very first time on this issue. Collective action will continue to strive for success on the journey for a climate change solution. It is not a question of whether it is possible but simply, when it will happen.

fnbworld: Any on-the-ground GREEN initiatives by your organization?

The WWF has many Green initiatives, we are working on the Ganga and engaging with both the public and policy makers along the stretch of the river. Last year, we finished a campaign in Delhi to educate citizens about better energy use. Earth Hour itself is a large campaign that engages over 5 million citizens, 100 corporate supporters and over a 1000 schools across the country to lead them towards conserving energy.

fnbworld: Have you been to India and what are your observations on bio-diversity in India?

EH: Yes, I have travelled extensively in India, in particular to Assam with WWF and my wife. Kaziranga Park was one of the most dramatic and beautiful places I have been in the world. I think India has amazing bio-diversity, however, the challenge is managing the conflict between humans and wildlife. Balancing the demands of humans and the loss of habitat for wildlife is one of the main issues facing WWF. It’s an issue worth resolving not only for the benefit of India, but the benefit of the world.

fnbworld: The Indian government is actively pursuing eco-friendly initiatives like saving electricity and switching over to CFL bulbs in rural areas. Do you also fund such projects for remote and tribal areas in less developed nations?

EH: There are many other initiatives taking place through out the world such as WWF South Pacific who has focused efforts on conservation and natural resource management of the marine environment. Governments of Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia and Malaysia are working with WWF to conserve 220,000 km2 of Borneo rainforest - almost 1/3 of the island - through a network of protected areas and sustainably-managed forests, just to name a couple. One of the great things about Earth Hour is that offers an opportunity for the world to see some of the amazing initiatives that are happening in remote and populated areas of the world. For example, WWF Mozambique is planning an Earth Hour event which will showcases the benefits of renewable energy by featuring green appliances such as a solar cooker.

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