B.Bujinlkham: Earth Hour calls on everyone to be part of the solution and take action against climate change.

ariunzaya ariunzaya
2021-06-14 11:17:13
Category: Environment

Mongolian Economy magazine spoke with B.Bujinlkham, organizer of the world’s largest grassroots movement Earth Hour in Mongolia, about preserving nature, collective actions against climate change, and the story behind Earth Hour Mongolia. 

-Could you introduce yourself to our readers?

-Thank you for having me. My name is Bujinlkham Bandikhuu. I graduated from the University of Finance and Economics with a degree in business economics in 2017. I strive to dedicate my time outside of work to social and environmental issues as a citizen and a young environmental activist. 

You might be wondering how an economics major stumbled into environmental activism. Between 2017 and 2018, I participated in the 8th Environmental Fellowship Program (EFP) of Zorig Foundation which gave me much deeper knowledge about environmental issues. Since then, with amazing young environmental activists, we have been focusing on increasing awareness about environmental issues and on urging people to advocate proactively for climate change.   

When I was participating in EFP, I met people with diverse backgrounds such as doctors, lawyers, financiers, journalists, and many more who deeply care about the environment and are passionate about making their contribution to fighting against climate change. I believe that the EFP and our team laid the foundation for the success of the first virtual Earth Hour Mongolia in 2021.

-Could you briefly introduce the Earth Hour Mongolia? When did it start in Mongolia? How are the activities of Earth Hour Mongolia funded? 

-Earth Hour was started by the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) in Sydney as a symbolic lights-out event in 2007. Now it has become one of the world’s largest grassroots movements for the environment. It is held every year on the last Saturday of March. Earth Hour engages millions of people in more than 190 countries and territories. To show support for our planet, people switch off their lights for an hour. 

Climate change is a global issue that needs to be addressed urgently. Earth Hour goes far beyond the symbolic action of switching lights off and saving electricity, it is a call for action to combat climate change. Every one of us has the opportunity to do our part in saving our planet. Increasing awareness should yield positive environmental impact and drive major legislative changes by the power of the people and collective action.

Mongolia joined the movement in 2010. With the help of WWF-Mongolia and the collaboration of government agencies and private companies, Zorig Foundation’s EFP Alumni Association has been organizing the event on a volunteer basis every year on the last Saturday of March at 8:30 PM. Starting from 2017 we began organizing the event not only in Ulaanbaatar but also in all 21 provinces. Furthermore, since 2019, we have been focusing on different environmental issues each year and making content around that particular issue to increase awareness. For instance, in 2021 we focused on water, “blue gold”, and created content directed to kids and youth. 

WWF-Mongolia and our partner institutions are not only making monetary contributions but also giving their best efforts to organize the event successfully. In 2021, we partnered with WWF-Mongolia, Golomt Bank, Mongol Ecology Center, comic creators of “I am Earthman” and many other organizations. The media agencies such as MNB TV, UBS TV, MNB Radio, Family Radio 104.5, Ikon, Gogo.mn, Ub.Life and Lemon Press also actively contributed to spreading the word about Earth Hour.  

This year for the first time, we partnered with Golomt Bank to expand our social awareness by creating short films (Link to the film). The theme of the video was about encouraging people to join our campaign and make small changes in their daily life. With the help of FFM production and producer Bilguun Chuluundorj we successfully created two short films during the pandemic. Hence, we would like to express our sincere gratitude to all our team members, citizens, donors, and partner organizations for their cooperation, time, and effort in making the campaign possible. 

-How many private companies, international organizations, and citizens participated in Earth Hour 2021 in Mongolia? 

-It is an honor to say that, in 2021, Earth Hour was held for the 12th time in Mongolia. Moreover, the event was held online for the first time since it was started in Mongolia. In past years, volunteer citizens, government agencies, international organizations, and private institutions such as commercial banks, private companies, cycling associations, and universities joined our movement. On Earth Hour Day, Ulaanbaatar city agencies, the Government Palace, and other private institutions join the campaign by turning off their lights for 60 minutes and by calling on other organizations to do the same. We estimate that in total 206 organizations turned off their lights and in duplicate numbers, 32,676 people actively participated in Earth Hour from 20:30 to 21:30 on March 27, 2021.

-How can citizens and organizations join Earth Hour Mongolia? What contributions could they make?

-Earth Hour is open to everyone and encourages everyone to make contributions in their own way. Everyone could contribute by informing and educating the people around them on environmental and climate change issues, lead with their actions by saving energy, incorporating waste management into their personal life and in their business, or running your business in an eco-friendly way. A small change such as reducing plastic waste, or avoiding unnecessary spendings can have a big impact in protecting nature and fighting climate change.

 -Around the world, how many countries and people participated in Earth Hour 2021? 

-Earth Hour has always drawn its power from the people, this year was no exception. Everyone around the world who joined Earth Hour 2021 showed that despite the physical distance, we still can unite digitally to speak up for nature louder than ever. It took place just a few months before critical climate and nature conferences that are about to be held in 2021. We believe that Earth Hour has sent an unmissable message to the world leaders that millions of people around the globe demand urgent action in tackling our planet’s biggest environmental challenges.

-How much energy is saved by turning off our lights for an hour?

-That is the most frequently asked question. I would like to point out that the main focus of Earth Hour is to increase awareness. In addition to that, the energy savings vary depending on a wide range of factors. For example, according to our estimates, in 2011, when we turned off all lights around Sukhbaatar Square, we saved around 151,615 kWh of energy which is equivalent to decreasing carbon emissions by 121.3 kilograms. If the rating is 40 watts, and the bulb is on for one hour, it will consume 0.04 kWh. In other words, if you switch off a single light bulb for an hour, you will be saving 0.04 kWh (Source: Energy Saver).

-Within the framework of Earth Hour, you announced a drawing contest for kids between ages 3-14 to raise their awareness about nature preservation. What other contests or activities have been carried out to raise public awareness on climate change, nature preservation, and recycling?

-This year due to the nature of the pandemic, Earth Hour Mongolia was held virtually. In the context of our campaign, we organized the following activities: (i) Various promotion contents by Earth Hour and our participants; (ii) Water usage and significance animated handbook aimed towards children; (iii) “Climate change and youth participation” panel discussion; (iv) “Earth Hour 2021” special podcast; (v) “I will turn off my lights for 60 minutes, will YOU?” virtual challenge; (vi) Online awareness campaign; (vii) Content to increase youth participation; (viii) Earth Hour video content (includes scripted and non-scripted videos of provinces); (ix) Online contest in Orkhon province; and other media related works.

-Could you share information about other upcoming events or activities that will be organized in the context of Earth Hour? 

-It is important to note that Earth Hour is a volunteer movement. Starting from this year, we plan to organize awareness campaigns throughout the year instead of focusing only on Earth Hour Day. With that in mind, we plan to create various content and interviews on a weekly basis if possible. Also, we intend to start the preparation for next year’s event earlier than the previous years. If the COVID-19 measures ease, we will hopefully organize eco-running, tree planting, and other public events.

-A comic book series called “I am Earthman” introduces real-life superpowers to fight against the villains: pollution and waste. When did it start? Who came up with the idea to create a superhero that fights pollution and waste? 

-We wanted to have a superhero character for Earth Hour Mongolia. Thus, this year we organized the event in partnership with the creators of the Earthman comic book. The creators were kind enough to create animated videos with a steep discount for children. 

-Does the Government of Mongolia provide support to Earth Hour Mongolia?

-Every year government agencies such as the Energy Regulatory Commission, and the city environment department have been actively supporting us. With the help of our government agencies, we have successfully organized Earth Hour Mongolia at Sukhbaatar Square in the last couple of years. They have been responsible for encouraging government agencies and organizations to participate in the event by switching off their lights. 

-Could you tell us about the Environmental Fellowship Program? Who can participate in the program? 

-The Environmental Fellowship Program (EFP) which was established in 2010 is a program for young professionals under 25 who want to improve their knowledge on various environmental issues facing Mongolia (Zorig Foundation). To date, the program has reached more than 200 young people. The EFP runs for eight months from September to June each year, and program meetings are held once a week after business hours or on weekends. By joining the EFP, you could improve your leadership skills, gain an in-depth understanding of the environmental challenges facing Mongolia, meet the industry leaders, expand professional networks, and implement micro-projects to address environmental issues in Ulaanbaatar or at a national level. 

-What do you want others to know about Earth Hour Mongolia?

-Our planet is now at a crossroads, and it is totally up to us.  We are the ones who can save our planet and make it a better place. We must realize that we do not have a “planet B”. Therefore, stopping the destruction of biodiversity and negative impacts on our environment should be everyone’s goal. Now is the time for action. Earth Hour calls on everyone to take action and be part of the solution. Also, we would like to call on everyone to join us again next year to speak up for nature on March 26, 2022, at 8:30 pm.  

-What books, movies, or documentaries would you recommend to our readers if they want to learn more about climate change?

-The inspiring, educational, and visually captivating documentaries will certainly motivate you to act on climate change. For example:

  • Before the Flood Actor, Leonardo DiCaprio meets with scientists, activists, and world leaders to discuss the dangers of climate change and possible solutions;
  • Home is a French documentary film by Yann Arthus-Bertrand. The film is almost entirely composed of aerial shots of various places on Earth. Every time I watch this movie, J.Gurragchaa says: “Our world is very beautiful but small. Protect your love” comes to mind;
  • A Plastic Ocean is an adventure documentary shot on more than 20 locations over the past 4 years. Explorers Craig Leeson and Tanya Streeter and a team of international scientists reveal the causes and consequences of plastic pollution and share some solutions;
  • Seaspiracy is a 2021 documentary film about the environmental impact of fishing; 
  • Wall-E A machine responsible for cleaning a waste-covered Earth meets another robot, they set out on a journey that will alter the fate of mankind;
  • An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power (2006) and An Inconvenient Sequel Truth to Power (2017).  The documentary film about former the United States Vice President Al Gore’s campaign to educate people about global warming and climate change. 

For those who prefer reading books, we would like to recommend the following books: 

  • How to Avoid a Climate Disaster: The Solutions We Have and the Breakthroughs We Need is a 2021 book by Bill Gates. In it, Gates presents what he learned in over a decade of studying climate change and investing in innovations to address global warming and recommends strategies to tackle it. 

-How much GHG does Mongolia produce? What are the main sources of GHG emissions?

-Although Mongolia contributes about 0.09 percent of all greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, per capita emissions are 2.7 times higher than the global average. The largest emitters are the energy sector (50 percent of total emissions) and the agriculture sector (48.44 percent) in Mongolia. Mongolia set a 22.7 percent target for its updated NDC for 2030. According to the Mongolian Third National Communication Report (2018), the energy sector is the main contributor to overall GHG emissions excluding LULUCF (land use, land-use change, and forestry) with its share of 50.08 percent and 17,267.79 Gg of CO2 equivalents (CO2e) in 2014. 

Mongolian youth showing their support to Earth Hour Mongolia.

-Why are people not motivated to address climate change even though they believe that climate change is real? How can we motivate people to take action against climate change?

-Education and awareness-raising are essential in addressing climate change. Even though people believe that climate change is happening, they do not speak up about climate change or some do not see climate change as an urgent issue. One day it will be too late to take action to prevent climate change. Therefore, I would like to call on everyone to speak up for nature and climate change and keep up with news on climate change. 

-What can we, as individuals, do against climate change from today? Could you give us examples of actions that could be taken without any costs? 

-First of all, as I mentioned before, we encourage everyone to inform and educate the people around them on environmental and climate change issues, lead with your actions by saving energy, incorporating waste management into your personal life and in your business operations, and running your business in an eco-friendly way. You can find more tips on actions to fight against climate change from our Facebook page Earth Hour Mongolia

Furthermore, it is quite critical to increasing youth participation: young people need to get involved and make themselves heard. For young people, there are many opportunities at both local and international levels. Unfortunately, nowadays “active” participation is relatively low. Thus, I would like to share information about the 16th UN Climate Change Conference of Youth (COY16). The COY16 will take place on October 28th-31st in Glasgow, Scotland. This is the annual gathering of YOUNGO members, the official Youth Constituency to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the conference is the largest gathering of young changemakers from more than 140 countries to tackle climate issues and fight for our mother nature. Representatives of young people aged 17-35 and youth NGOs who want to speak out against climate change are invited to attend. We also encourage all youth environmental groups, NGOs, and educational institutions to submit their own statement and set of proposals relevant to the climate crisis we are facing now. I have been working as a Country Coordinator for Mongolia since this February. For more information & registration please visit our official website and we hope to see your voice in Scotland (Link to COY16). 

Earth Hour #RefusePlastic

-Are there any shops that offer environmentally friendly or sustainably produced products? 

-In the US or in the EU, they use labels to indicate that a certain product is produced in an environmentally friendly way. However, we do not have such labels in Mongolia yet. However, even though we do not have any labels yet, we still can make an environmentally friendly choice if we have enough information. 

-Do you think that the regulations and national development policy documents (ex: Vision-2050, Sustainable development vision-2030, Law on renewable energy and Law on energy) are in line with the goal of the Paris Agreement, to limit the increase in the global average temperature to well below 1.5-2°C? If not, what needs to be improved?

-I would say yes. For the achievement of the above-mentioned NDC target, it should be reflected in the national development policy documents such as the Vision-2050, which covers the development framework. Based on the NDC document, Mongolian national strategies and policy documents such as the Green development policy of Mongolia, State policy on the energy sector of Mongolia, State policy on food and agricultural sector, State policy on the forest, Law on renewable energy, Law on energy, National program on energy saving and others are well-defined stakeholders’ responsibilities and monitoring structure for implementation of the NDC under the Paris Agreement.


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