Simple act, big impact: Earth Hour

Fitrian Ardiansyah ,  Contributor ,  The Jakarta Post   |  Tue, 03/23/2010 11:35 AM  |  Environment

A first for Jakarta: A banner on Jl. Sudirman in Central Jakarta reminds residents to observe Earth Hour by switching off all electronic appliances and lights Saturday, from 8:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. JP/Ricky YudhistiraA first for Jakarta: A banner on Jl. Sudirman in Central Jakarta reminds residents to observe Earth Hour by switching off all electronic appliances and lights Saturday, from 8:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. JP/Ricky Yudhistira

Climate change is attributable to human activities. Primary solutions, therefore, need to come from humans, from changes in individual behavior.

The world’s leading climate scientists, the  Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), state that changes in the atmosphere, the oceans, glaciers and ice caps now show unequivocally that the world is warming due to human activities.

This human-induced climate change will profoundly affect water and other natural resources, biodiversity and the economy of the globe, including across Indonesia, which, in turn, will have negative impacts on rural and urban populations across the country.

Andrea Liverani, in a background paper to the World Bank’s World Development Report 2010, suggested that when it comes to discussing climate change, solutions are normally cast in the realms of finance and technology and perceived big actors (e.g. governments and corporations), often neglecting the primal root of the problem: Individual behavior.

Changing human behavior, hence, is an essential part to tackling climate crisis.

This is true given the multitude of consumption patterns of human beings over centuries that have created enormous by-products, i.e. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions causing climate change.

Our global consumption has contributed to the release of 30 billion tons of carbon dioxide (CO2)
into the atmosphere in 2007, as recorded by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development/International Energy Agency (OECD/IEA).

For instance, public utilities — the companies responsible for providing humans with daily electricity and heat — emitted 36.3 percent of the total, followed by the transportation industry with 25.5 percent.

In industrialized countries, roughly 40 percent of GHG emissions result from decisions by individuals — travel, heating, and food purchases.

In developing countries like Indonesia, consumption patterns of individuals, both living inside and outside the country, have boosted its GHG emissions.

The fast-growing demand for Indonesia’s commodities (e.g. timber, palm oil, pulp and paper) and fossil-fuel-based energy fuels the rapid growth of the country’s GHG emissions.

This is why, as consumers, individuals on a global level and in Indonesia hold a reservoir of mitigation capacity.

Individuals may find it challenging to contribute to climate solutions, since climate change may
be perceived as a big and complicated issue with lots of unanswered questions.

Nevertheless, simple individual actions on climate change can take many forms, which eventually can lead to bigger positive impacts.

Various studies have suggested that making personal choices can be an effective method of fighting climate change.

These include adjusting our travel, diet, usage of electricity and related appliances, and management of waste.

Road transportation, in which our motor vehicles are an important part, globally produced 4.8 billion tons of CO2 or 16 percent of global carbon emissions. To reduce our emissions, we can aim to leave our car at home once a week, do a car pool, choose public transportation or ride a bicycle.

A low-carbon diet — choosing local organic food that causes much less pollution and emissions — is considered an effective way to make a meaningful change for individuals.

On average, households produce around 1.14 tons of waste per year and this contributes to GHG emissions, in particular from the release of methane — a potent GHG. Effective actions can include composting our food scraps, taking our own shopping bags and reusing our old stuff.

When it comes to electricity and electrical appliances, there is a potential to make a big difference by conducting energy efficiency and conservation measures.

The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) in collaboration with different institutions found that Indonesia could be more energy efficient, by 10 to 30 percent for households, 10 to 23 percent for the commercial sector and 7 to 21 percent for the industrial sector .

In households and commercial buildings, a difference can be made by simply switching off or adjusting lighting and electrical appliances.

Many appliances use electricity even when they are in “standby” mode, between 1 and 20 watts, with most appliances using less than 5 watts — around 45 kilograms of GHG each year for each item.

To remind that individuals, on their own or collectively, can significantly contribute to tackling climate change, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and partners conceived the global movement of Earth Hour.

Earth Hour started in 2007 in Sydney, Australia when 2.2 million homes and businesses turned their lights off for one hour to make their stand against climate change.

A year later and in 2009, Earth Hour had become a global sustainability movement with more than hundreds of millions of people and 4,000 cities in 88 countries taking part.

Global landmarks such as the Sydney Harbor Bridge, the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, the National Monument in Jakarta, and Rome’s Colosseum, all stood in darkness, as symbols of hope for a cause that grows more urgent by the hour.

This year, Earth Hour 2010 takes place on Saturday 27 March between 8:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. (local time). This is a global call to action to every individual, every business and every community throughout the world.

Jakarta will host this Earth Hour in Indonesia for the second year and hopefully other cities in this country will follow suit.

It is an excellent opportunity to reflect on this issue, but above all to begin a change of attitude toward reducing our energy consumption, and by doing so, contribute toward making a stand against climate change in the long term.

The writer is program director
of climate and energy at WWF Indonesia and adjunct lecturer at Paramadina Graduate School of Diplomacy. He can be reached at

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