LAST WORD | Policymakers renew rallying cry for fluorescent lamp phase-out

July 28, 2023
Co-chairs of the Minamata Convention on Mercury – Africa Region call upon the global lighting industry to support an amendment to mercury-lamp phase-out plans.

In 2021, on behalf of the Africa region, Roger Baro wrote to LEDs Magazine to highlight the opportunity for lighting giant Signify to support the phase-out of mercury-containing fluorescent lamps through the Minamata Convention on Mercury COP4. During the COP4 negotiations, progress was made, where governments unanimously agreed to phase out compact fluorescent lamps by 2025. We again address the lighting industry to underscore the importance of continued progress to protect public health and the environment from all fluorescent lighting, unhindered by industry interest.

The transition to cleaner lighting is well underway. The decision taken by 137 Parties at Minamata COP4, to phase out compact fluorescents by 2025, attests to this, and it will avoid 261.5 million metric tons of CO2 emissions and 26.2 metric tons of mercury pollution from 2025 to 2050, according to experts on clean lighting.

On April 28, 2023, the Africa Region — represented by 40 countries — has taken the lead again to propose a new amendment to the Minamata Convention to be discussed at the upcoming fifth Conference of Parties (COP5) this year in Geneva. This amendment aims to end exemptions for all major categories of mercury-containing lighting. LED alternatives remain widely available around the globe, with solutions to cost effectively meet nearly every need.

In brief, the proposed amendment looks to address the following general-illumination products: compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) that consume more than 30W and CFLs with a non-integrated ballast that consume less than or the equivalent of 30W with a mercury content of 5mg and below; linear fluorescent lamps utilizing tri-band phosphor and consuming 60W or more; and nonlinear fluorescent lamps, such as U-bend and circular form factors, utilizing either tri-band phosphor or halophosphate phosphor at all wattages. Annexes I and II in the amendment linked above define such products and summarize the availability of economical alternatives.

As the now 143 parties to the Minamata Convention prepare to complete the global transition to LED lighting at COP5 this year, industry leaders have a responsibility to catalyze progress toward healthier objectives for the planet.

Upholding the proliferation of mercury-containing lamps in pursuit of profit threatens to hold back advances toward global climate targets and the wellbeing of billions. According to the Clean Lighting Coalition, a 2025 phase-out of linear fluorescent lamps alone will cumulatively avoid 3.3 Gt of CO2 emissions and save $1.34 trillion in electricity bills by 2050. However, each year delaying the removal of linear fluorescents from the market dilutes these benefits and allows the emission of an additional 300 Mt of CO2.

We invite industry associations to seek routes to solutions, rather than favoring delays that could prolong the use of inefficient and toxic fluorescent lamps for more than 10 years.

As governments across the global north increasingly ban fluorescents, there is a risk that exporters will turn their attention to our un- and under-regulated markets in Africa. The continued distribution of inefficient, toxic lamps is exasperating regional challenges, such as the current high costs of living, lack of potable water, and strained energy grids. Higher energy requirements for fluorescents also risk feeding into Africa’s already high debt burden, further hindering economic progress of the region.

In Africa, we regularly face the worst effects of the climate crisis, including dangerous droughts, food scarcity, flooding in West Africa, and a cyclone traveling across the continent, devastating countries like Malawi and Zimbabwe twice over. Per the IEA Net Zero Roadmap, a global shift to clean lighting by 2025 is vital to slowing movement toward the 1.5°C benchmark described by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The lighting industry as well as regional and national industry associations have a responsibility to citizens of the world to champion and effectively manage the global transition to LED lighting, ensuring that fluorescent technologies are removed from the commercial market without entering an unregulated consumer stream. We welcome LEDs Magazine readers and members of the global lighting community to join us in accelerating the clean lighting transition to protect life and health across the globe.

— Prepared by Oarabile M. Serumola and Roger Baro, Co-chairs, COP5 Minamata Convention on Mercury for Africa Region

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About the Author

Oarabile Serumola

Co-chair, COP 5 Minamata Convention on Mercury for Africa Region - Botswana representative