COMMENTARY: Philips/Signify should support the African Lighting Amendment proposed to the Minamata Convention on Mercury

Oct. 12, 2021
In a letter to LEDs Magazine, policy maker ROGER BARO urges industry leaders like Signify to deliver their support to phase out mercury lighting in order to protect public health and the environment, lower energy bills and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

In August 2021, LEDs Magazine contributing editor Mark Halper reported on comments made by Signify CEO Eric Rondolat regarding the European Commission’s “Fit for 55” plan and the positive impact that the switch to LED-based solid-state lighting (SSL) would have on energy regulations and new policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In response to that news report, we received the following letter from reader Roger Baro, who is director of pollution and environmental risk prevention with the Ministère de l'Environnement, de l'Economie Verte et du Changement Climatique (Ministry of Environment, Green Economy and Climate Change) in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. Baro is also the Vice President of the 4th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP4) of the Minamata Convention on Mercury, which will take place in early November. Baro’s letter offers a synopsis of the Convention’s charge, and discusses the urgency of acting to address climate and environmental conditions across Africa in particular. Part of that solution is the increased uptake of energy-efficient and sustainable lighting. Carrie Meadows, Associate Editor, LEDs Magazine

Dear Editor:

I read with interest the comments from Mr. Eric Rondolat, CEO of Philips/Signify, which you published on 20 August. I agree with his conclusion: Conventional lighting technologies are still emitting massive amounts of CO2 in Europe and everywhere else in the world. I applaud him and his company for their stance, and would like to call his attention to an opportunity through an international treaty to achieve exactly what he is calling for an acceleration in the global transition to more energy-efficient, mercury-free LED lighting.

On 30 April this year, I led the African Region (36 countries) to propose an Amendment that would remove exemptions for fluorescent lighting under the Minamata Convention on Mercury. Minamata is an international treaty with 135 ratifying countries seeking to end the use of mercury in products and processes around the world. Despite significant progress, when it was drafted in 2013, the Convention included special exemptions for mercury-based fluorescent lighting products. The justification for this exemption almost a decade ago was insufficient cost-effective alternatives across global markets.

Today, thanks to billions of dollars of investment by lighting companies like Philips/Signify, LEDs have now surpassed even the most energy-efficient fluorescents. Given this development, policy makers including myself are working together to accelerate the transition to LED both domestically and globally.

The accelerated phase-out would translate into considerable benefits for people everywhere. Not only would it eliminate massive amounts of mercury from being released into the environment, but it would also avoid 3.5 GT of CO2 emissions from 2025 to 2050 and do it all cost-effectively for consumers, businesses, and national governments. This is a huge reduction in CO2, just when we need it most to try and keep to the IPCC’s 1.5°C target. Additionally, in countries and regions which are experiencing shortages in electricity supply, switching to mercury-free LED bulbs saves power and money at the same time.

Here in Africa, Madagascar has experienced four years of drought and is on the verge of famine. West and Central Africa is facing ongoing flooding that is destroying entire communities. On the 8th September 2021, Kenya declared the ongoing drought a national disaster. We see climate-induced fires that span hundreds of hectares, deadly floods, and higher frequency of storms, and melting ice caps and permafrost across every continent. There clearly is no time to waste and every stakeholder the including lighting industry must do their part.

Mr. Rondolat is right in his call to action on climate, and to promote this agenda, I am calling on him to support the African Lighting Amendment proposed to the Minamata Convention on Mercury. Signify the largest lighting company in the world has offices in many countries, and we are counting on their support in the global movement to phase out fluorescent lighting by 2025.

Eric please join us in making a difference. Your company could play a key role to support a smooth transition to LEDs especially in developing countries, being a key stakeholder and leading lighting company in many parts of the world. Please lend us your support, and together we can have a massive positive impact for people and the planet.

Roger Baro

Co-chair, COP 4 Minamata Convention on Mercury for Africa Region

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