Local celebs switch off lights for WWF campaign

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Johannesburg - The likes of Ryk Neethling, Bryan Habana, Marc Lottering and Freshlyground are among the local celebrities who on Thursday agreed to turn off their lights for one hour at 8:30pm on 28 March.

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) ambassadors will join individuals, businesses, communities and governments from around the world who will turn off their lights for one hour in support of action against climate change to be taken by world leaders when they meet at the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference at the end of the year.

Chief Executive Officer of the WWF, Dr Morne du Plessis, said on Wednesday that Earth Hour 2009 had already received much support from a broad range of well known South Africans from mayors, sports stars and media personalities to Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

"This shows how seriously South Africans are taking climate change. In South Africa the fight against climate change is particularly pertinent because of our levels of poverty and because the poor will be hit first and hardest by climate change," he said.

Mr du Plessis said 2009 was an important year to hold the initiative as it was imperative for leaders in Copenhagen to deliver a definitive plan to put an end to runaway carbon emissions.

The agreement world leaders in Copenhagen will deliberate on is expected to replace the Kyoto Protocol which ends in 2012.

"Kyoto was a start, but did not take the issue of climate change seriously enough. There is unequivocal evidence that humans have contributed significantly to carbon emissions which will have catastrophic effects on the earth," the Mr du Plessis explained.

Archbishop Tutu is regarded as the patron for the WWF initiative across the world, while other local celebrities involved in the initiative include Jo-Ann Strauss, Soli Philander, Leon Schuster and the Moroka Swallows.

Cape Town Mayor Helen Zille said initiative was critical to coastal cities such as Cape Town where if the polar caps rise by two meters the damage would be estimated at R4 billion.

E-TV's Head of Weather and Meteorology Derek Van Dam, who has become one of South Africa's favourite weatherman, highlighted that he grew up with the three "R's" namely reduce, reuse and recycle.

He said this was imprinted on him from an early age and that it was the way he tried to live his life now. "The time is now to make this change happen and I commit myself to Earth Hour 2009," Mr Van Dam said.

Lead singer for the Parlotones, Kahn Morbee, has also pledged the popular South African band to the WWF initiative. He said he hoped that the event could be an ongoing and sustained initiative to put pressure on world leaders as they represent the will of the people.

Member of the Mayoral Committee (MMC) of Environment for the City of Johannesburg, Councillor Prema Naidoo, said Johannesburg was taking the threat of climate change seriously and had embarked on a number of initiatives to reduce the city's carbon emissions.

"We look forward to joining our residents and the world in pledging to take action against climate change."

To date 37 world capitals have signed up to take part in Earth Hour 2009 and the lights will also be switched off at landmarks such as the Sydney Opera House and Cape Town's Table Mountain.

About one billion people are estimated to take part in the WWF initiative.

Mr du Plessis said the support of an estimated one billion people would put significant pressure on world leaders such as United States President Barack Obama which has in the past been a major stumbling block in the fight against climate change.

The CEO said, however, that he hoped President Obama would join the global movement to reduce carbon emissions.

South Africans wishing to sign up to join the initiative may log onto www.earthhour.org.