Friends gather to hold hands along the Stanley Park seawall to mark Earth Hour in Vancouver. ((Darryl Dyck/CP))

Millions of Canadians participated in Earth Hour on Saturday evening, once again joining a global campaign to bring attention to climate change by briefly turning off their lights.

Organizers said the point isn't to tally the amount of power saved over 60 minutes, but rather to involve as many people as possible to let governments know they are still failing to do enough to combat climate change.

About one billion people in 121 countries were expected to take part. People in New Zealand, Australia, Beijing and Europe have already had their hour of reduced electricity use between 8:30 and 9:30 p.m. local time.

Events were planned from east to west in Canada. Halifax harbour bridges went dark, as did most of the external lights on Toronto's CN Tower. The exterior lights at Air Canada Centre were kept off in honour of Earth Hour, while inside, the Maple Leafs beat the New York Rangers 3-2 in overtime.

The iconic sails at Vancouver's Canada Place will also be shut off. The clock face on Parliament's Peace Tower was also turned off for the hour.


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Atlantic Canadians were the first in Canada to shut off their lights and observe Earth Hour.

Fredericton asked all businesses and homes to turn off non-essential lights between 8:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. Many large retailers in New Brunswick's capital city, such as Sears and Wal-Mart, said they would be flipping the switch on non-essential lights.

For Fredericton residents who didn't want to spend the hour sitting in the dark at home, the city held a party at the historic downtown Boyce Farmers' Market.

Alycia Moorehouse, a city official, said partygoers would be treated to acoustic music and any lighting will be from energy-efficient sources.

"There are going to be booths set up with local food and local vendors and activities," Moorehouse said.

"And it will be entirely unplugged, just LED lanterns and flashlights."

While Earth Hour is more of an awareness event, NB Power has reported that it does create a noticeable dip on New Brunswick's power grid.

Last year, NB Power reported an energy consumption drop of 20 megawatts during the event, which is equal to 400,000 lights being turned off.

Earth Hour started in 2007

Earth Hour was started by the World Wildlife Fund in Sydney, Australia, in 2007. More than two million people and businesses took part in that first year.

Since then, the event has gone global, with thousands of communities taking part in some way.

The shutdown is voluntary and streetlights, traffic lights and other things powered by electricity that are deemed essential are unaffected.

Andy Ridley, a WWF worker in Sydney who cooked up the idea of Earth Hour in a pub with friends, said he hoped this year's event would inspire world leaders to strive for a much stronger climate agreement than that struck at December's Copenhagen climate change summit, which failed to come up with binding rules on reducing pollution blamed for global warming.

"What we're still looking for in this coming year is a global deal that encourages all countries to lower their emissions," Ridley said Saturday. "China is going to have to be a big part of that but so is every other major economy."

China first took part in the campaign last year, and this year more than 30 cities were planning to switch off their lights, including those at the landmark Forbidden City in downtown Beijing.

With files from The Associated Press/Canadian Press