Lights turn off for Earth Hour

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Lights were turned off across Australia tonight as Melbourne and other capital cities observed Earth Hour, the greenhouse awareness initiative.

Dozens of key buildings in the nation's capitals and many individuals around the country turned off their lights, including iconic Melbourne buildings such as Flinders Street Station, Federation Square and Sydney's opera house and harbour bridge

Earth Hour will be observed around the world at the stroke of 8pm, in each timezone, on March 29.

Only Christchurch in New Zealand and Fiji's Suva were ahead of Australia as the hour rolled around, and more than 30 nations are to follow.

The US cities of San Francisco, Phoenix and Canada's Vancouver will be the final population centres to mark Earth Hour, at 2pm tomorrow Australian-time.

More than 2.2 million Sydneysiders took part in the inaugural Earth Hour, but this year organisers are hoping for a massive and global participation.

"I'm putting my neck on the line but my hope is that we top 100 million people," World Wildlife Fund Australia chief executive Greg Bourne said late today.

"There's 370 cities and municipalities taking part that we know about, and many others as well, so we only need 50 cities of two million people and we'll do it.

"When Canada goes ... tomorrow our time they are estimating some 70 per cent of Canadians will be involved."

Mr Bourne also said Earth Hour, and its images of blacked-out cities, was akin to New Year's Eve as it was celebrated in the world's major cities with fireworks.

"Now we have this image of darkness, and consciousness, going around the world," he said.

"It is a message of hope and optimism ... we the citizens of the world are prepared to take action and we want to defeat climate change."

The core message of Earth Hour is for people to reduce their consumption of electricity, which is usually generated by the burning of fossil fuels.

In Victoria, Flinders Street Station, Federation Square, Eureka Towers Skydeck and the Rialto Towers will be darkened.

A public event will be held at Federation Square, with Victorian Opera, community singers and fire-twirling dancers keeping people entertained.

The Criterion Hotel in the north-central Victorian town of Tatura will host a pyjama party, with a free beer on offer for those who bring a black balloon along - a symbol of an individual's carbon footprint.