Earth Hour 2020: New Deal for Nature and People

by Thomas Gomersall

The global pandemic has brought home the limits of our society’s unsustainable lifestyle and economic models, highlighting the need for a reset in our relationship with nature. That’s why this year’s Earth Hour, held 28 March, was a timely reminder of what needs to be done to set a new course in which humans thrive alongside nature.

This year in Hong Kong as in many cities around the world, the annual lights-out event was moved online, with a livestream of the Earth Hour countdown on Facebook.

The event kicked off with a message from WWF-Hong Kong’s Head of Oceans Conservation, Dr. Laurence McCook stressing the importance of nature, and in particular the oceans’ contribution to our planet’s well-being.

“Hong Kong is not one of the good guys in the global scene,” said Dr. McCook. “Our local fisheries are all but gone and unsustainable trade and consumption of seafood are affecting ocean ecosystems around the globe.”

Consumers, he said, have a big role to play in changing these practices by sourcing sustainable seafood to reward and encourage responsible fishing practices. By recycling more and refusing single-use plastics, Hong Kong can also reduce the threats these pose both to nature and human health.

With a special focus this year on enlisting business’ role in helping to come up with a new deal for nature and people, Dr McCook added that it’s time for companies big and small to change their mindset. “Businesses and economies don’t value nature; they don’t pay for the goods and services nature provides. We need to fix that!”

Meanwhile, a presentation by WWF Education Manager Alex Wong of Hong Kong’s wild places showed that while the city’s existing country parks are already home to species of conservation concern, many other important habitats and species, like the horseshoe crabs of Shui Hau, are not protected. To address this, Hong Kong needs to expand its MPA cover from five per cent to 30 per cent of its waters by 2030 and restore degraded habitats (including mangroves and coastal wetlands) between country parks to restore ecological connectivity.

However as much of humanity’s ecological footprint comes from overconsumption, our own personal habits must also change. No small feat for Hong Kong, as a video on Earth Overshoot Day — the (increasingly early) date on which humanity uses more resources than the Earth can naturally replenish in one year — revealed a lack of awareness of this concept amongst Hong Kongers.

The event also featured a series of how-to videos on sustainable living including one on how to dress more sustainably. Our throwaway culture has made fast-fashion the second most polluting industry after oil. To change this, we should only buy new clothes when needed and take better care of ones we already own for them to last. When we do buy new clothes, they should ideally be made from high-quality materials that may cost more but could also last longer. We should also eat less meat, the easiest and most impactful way for individuals to reduce their ecological footprint.

And with their considerable resources and influence, businesses should invest in and lead in the push for more renewable energy to facilitate a faster transition away from fossil fuels. For instance, Chinese vehicle brand DFSK Motor Company Ltd. invests in zero-emission transportation and manufactures competitively priced electric vans in order to electrify more of Hong Kong’s transport — particularly commercial vehicles, which currently contribute 80 per cent of the city’s transport emissions.

Over the years, Earth Hour has highlighted the city’s growing awareness of the need to protect our planet. This year was no different: at 8:30 pm sharp, nearly 4,500 companies and organisations, more than 100 primary and secondary schools, and several landmark buildings like ifc and Government House turned off their non-essential lights in a show of solidarity for the urgent action needed to save our planet.

“I am very glad to see that the people and businesses of Hong Kong are united and are continuously committed to a better future for our planet,” said WWF-Hong Kong Chairman Edward Ho. “Simple actions such as turning off unnecessary lights or saying ‘No’ to single-use plastics can have a big impact to sustain our living planet. It is a big challenge but together we can make it possible!”



WWF contributors share daily insights on Hong Kong biodiversity and WWF-Hong Kong projects

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WWF contributors share regular insights on Hong Kong biodiversity and conservation issues