Earth Hour was celebrated globally with great enthusiasm on Saturday, March 29, 2014, between 8:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. It highlighted an important message of energy conservation by switching off unnecessary lights to tackle various environmental issues, especially climate change.

The movement began in Sydney, Australia when WWF-Australia tried to engage with Australians on the issue of climate change. Turning off lights on a large scale was put forwarded and lights were turned out under The Big Flick campaign. The event gained global recognition as Earth Hour and was celebrated in 35 countries in 400 cities on March 29, 2008.

Since then the event is now celebrated internationally all across the world. This year the movement has gained tremendous momentum as 156 countries and 7,000 cities across the globe celebrated WWF's largest voluntary environmental act to show their commitment for the planet.

WWF-Pakistan celebrated Earth Hour across the nation. The main event was organized at Qarshi University in Lahore, with several simultaneous events taking place in Karachi, Islamabad, Quetta, Peshawar, Faisalabad, Multan, Sheikhupura and other cities which had pledged to conserve Pakistan’s environment and natural treasures. It was celebrated with a spirit to ensure the reduction of involuntary power cuts in Pakistan.

Earth Hour officially started in 2010 in Pakistan, and since then the campaign has become bigger each year with increasing public support. Renowned actor Humaima Malik; singer Zoe Viccaji; actor Ahsan Khan; former Pakistan cricket team  player Shoaib Akhter; writer, activist and documentary maker Feryal Ali Gauhar and actor, director and script writer Sarmad Khoosat were the official 2014 Earth Hour ambassadors and collectively promoted the urgent need to save our environment from climate change impacts.

Director General and CEO of WWF-Pakistan, Ali Hassan Habib, has also lent his unreserved support to Earth Hour 2014. He commented, “Earth Hour in Pakistan has become a motivation for our youth to recognize their contribution to the green movement. We have students in schools, colleges and universities who translate the message of Earth Hour into their daily lives by not wasting electricity and water, by not littering, by planting trees, and by refusing to use plastic bags. It’s these small but critical choices in our daily lives that can mean a world of difference for our environment.”

The main Earth Hour ceremony at Qarshi University included celebrity ambassadors from various walks of life who joined the event to spread the message of conservation among people. Feryal Ali Gauhar and Zoe Viccaji were present at the occasion in their official capacity. In addition, other guests included Mehreen Raheel, Nadia Jamil, Ali Tahir, Rehan Butt and Omair Rana, who committed to undertaking green activities in their lives and to lead by example. The event also included a talent show by university and school students, a pledge signing and candle lighting ceremony.

Zoe Viccaji, one of the most enthusiastic ambassadors stated, “It’s everybody’s responsibility to save the planet. A small action like switching the fan off can have an impact on electricity bills, also saving natural resources. This step can take us towards a brighter future.”

Several new themes for Earth Hour were also introduced for the first time in Pakistan which included a city challenge, university challenge and digital challenge. Earth Hour City Challenge is celebrated internationally and was introduced in Pakistan for the first time which meant getting 12 districts in Punjab to promote Earth Hour at the district level. Participating districts included Lahore, Rawalpindi, Faisalabad, Sialkot, Gujranwala, Multan, Sahiwal, Sheikhupura, Okara, Gujrat, Muzaffargarh and Bahawalpur.

To accomplish the city challenge 3,500 pledges from each district were required (including educational institutions, hospitals and government offices) showing the commitment to reduce their carbon footprint and play an active role in the conservation of the planet. The challenge also included symbolically switching off lights on Earth Hour and plantation drives to express a commitment for a greener future. City district governments of all participating districts pledged to promote the Earth Hour campaign locally to involve the community to help spread awareness.

The second challenge was the University Challenge which included universities from four cities of Lahore, Islamabad, Karachi and Faisalabad. University students stated their pledges on WWF-Pakistan's facebook page and the university having maximum number of students pledging for earth hour receive the award of being the most aware university.

The Digital Challenge was another challenge which required participants to pledge to conserve the planet’s resources and share the commitment on social media in the form of a picture or video. The winners of the challenge received iPod and iPads etc.

In order to sensitize the government on energy conservation WWF-Pakistan engaged with the Punjab and Sindh Assembly for candle lighting and pledge ceremonies on Earth Hour.

Sindh was also declared an Earth Hour province and passed a resolution to celebrate Earth Hour and other important environment days. The pledge was presented by Dr. Sikander Mendhro, Minister Environment and Parliamentarians Affairs. All the parties unanimously passed this resolution. A grand candle lighting ceremony was also held on the premises of the Sindh assembly after switching off all un-necessary lights to show solidarity with the rest of the world.

For the very first time in the history of Pakistan more than 500 landmarks celebrated Earth Hour this year including the Punjab Assembly, Badshahi Mosque and Minar-e-Pakistan in Lahore, followed by National Assembly, Supreme Court, Shah Faisal Mosque, Senate in Islamabad. Sindh Assembly, city high court, Governor House, CM House, State Bank, Sindh Secretariat, airport, DC offices, police stations, session courts, police stations, civil hospitals and MQM sector offices in all districts of Sindh showed their commitment for conservation of this country by switching off their lights and pledging to conserve energy to tackle the energy crisis of Pakistan. Other cities in Punjab including Faisalabad, Sialkot, Okara, Muzzafargarh, Sahiwal, Gujranwal, Bahawalpur and Sheikhupura also observed Earth Hour by voluntarily switching off lights of government institutions.

Unlike other countries with surplus energy sources, Pakistan is struggling with an energy shortfall that causes power outages regularly in many cities. For this very reason, WWF-Pakistan promotes celebrating the spirit of Earth Hour which goes beyond just turning off lights for one hour. It is focused on engaging people in conserving energy resources that we do have and lobbying with policymakers to find alternative and clean energy solutions.

Earth Hour is meant to create awareness of environmental issues that our nation faces today, such as energy shortfalls and food and water security, which are creating economic and health issues for us. The Earth’s resources are depleting and Earth Hour requires the country to be more aware about how we use our planet’s finite resources. WWF-Pakistan is focused on engaging people in conserving resources that we do have. This movement has taken the world by storm and everyone should join hands to show their commitment and solidarity for the cause. With increasing awareness it can be hoped that Earth Hour will further help in infusing the message of conservation of our planet among people and make this world a better place to live.