At last week’s Conference of the Parties (COP5) of the Minamata Convention on Mercury, the delegates from 147 countries agreed decided to phase out all fluorescent lamps by 2027. This decision will accelerate adoption of LEDs, but the delayed phase out period of four years means that large windfall energy savings and reduced carbon emissions will be lost.

COP5 lighting decisions primarily addressed linear fluorescent lamps (LFLs), the largest contributor to lighting-based mercury pollution in the world, ubiquitously found in offices, stores, and other commercial settings and institutions. LFLs are also a major source of energy-related CO2 emissions. The decisions close the loop on continued efforts to stop the manufacture, export and import of mercury in lighting worldwide.

According to CLASP, an appliance and product efficiency NGO, the phase out will (cumulatively from the phase out dates to 2050):

  • Avoid 2.7 gigatonnes of CO2 emissions
  • Eliminate 158 tonnes of mercury pollution, both from the light bulbs themselves and from avoided mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants
  • Save US$1.13 trillion on electricity bills

Had the delegates agreed phasing out fluorescents just one year earlier, cumulative savings and carbon emissions could have been even larger. It is possible: the EU, for instance, has already decided to phase out fluorescent lighting by 2023. Nevertheless, having a global decision is still important:

“This decision paves the ground for an accelerated adoption of LEDs. For instance, there is no reason to install any new fluorescent lamp luminaire anymore, since the lamps will not be available. Also, the decision paves the way for national and regional decision to ban the sale of fluorescents earlier than 2027, just like the EU has done”, says Nils Borg, Executive Director of eceee.  “However, it is troubling that the EU continues to allow exports of fluorescent lamps to other regions, such as Africa, despite the ban of sales at home”, said Mr Borg.

A number of studies have shown that there are cost-effective, plug-and-play linear (tubes) LED retrofit lamps available. According to a number of analysis LED lamps on the market today pay for themselves quickly in energy savings. For instance, CLASP claims that recent global analysis indicates that payback periods for LED alternatives to LFLs are improving, from an average of 6.3 months in 2022 to 2.4 months in 2023.

Africa is one of the regions that is eying stricter regulation on lighting:  “The Africa region, in deep collaboration with colleagues around the world, are proud to have made momentous progress to Make Mercury History,” said David Kapindula, Minamata COP3 President and Africa Region expert. Proposals to phase out fluorescents at COP4 and COP5 were introduced by delegates from Africa.

See also: IEA 4E SSL Annex finds LED retrofit lamps cut environmental impact by 44 to 61% compared to T5 and T8 fluorescent lamps

EU Commission adopts regulation to ban all fluorescent lighting by September 2023

Source: ECEEE

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