This week at the Minamata Convention on Mercury Fifth Conference of Parties (COP5), delegates from 147 countries agreed to phase out florescent lighting globally and completely by 2027.
Fluorescent lamps contain mercury, a potent neurotoxin.
The decision will accelerate global adoption of LEDs by effectively putting an end to the fluorescent lighting industry, with the limited exception of special uses like some transport applications. LEDs are on average 40% more energy efficient than fluorescents.
COP5 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.
Global markets are going all LED.
The benefits of a full transition to LEDs by 2027 are massive. The appliance efficiency expert group CLASP estimates the move will have the following benefits (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
“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. “The decision to phase out mercury-based fluorescent lighting will have unprecedented benefits in combatting the triple planetary crisis of climate change, air pollution, and biodiversity loss. Such actions would not have been possible without the spirit of cooperation demonstrated by Parties at this Minamata COP5.”
This week’s move complements decisions at Minamata COP4 in March 2022 to phase out compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), lamps commonly found in homes, by 2025. Proposals to phase out fluorescents at COP4 and COP5 were introduced by delegates from Africa.
“I was pleased to see a high spirit of collaboration amongst the Parties as related to matters concerning mercury lighting,” said Itsuki Kuroda, co-chair for COP5 proceedings and the Delegate from Japan. “Parties were able to align on phase out dates for all fluorescent categories, representing a positive example of successful diplomacy on the world stage.”
Fluorescent lighting contains mercury, a toxic chemical that threatens the health of people and the planet. Most fluorescents are improperly disposed of into general waste streams; broken bulbs pollute land and water, and increase health risks in vulnerable populations like children, pregnant people, and waste workers.
“The mercury-free lighting community came together to achieve a significant feat in the fight against mercury added products. Putting a stop to all lighting-related mercury pollution will have wide reaching benefits for our communities, ecosystems, and for the generations to come. We congratulate the governments and are pleased to join them in saying ‘Farewell to Fluorescents,’” said Elena Lymberidi-Settimo, International Co-coordinator of the Zero Mercury Working Group.
LED lamps pay for themselves quickly in energy savings. 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.
LED sales and manufacturing rates are increasing year on year while fluorescent manufacture and sales are plummeting. Apart from the specialized blue-chip components, LEDs can be manufactured and assembled anywhere, unlike fluorescents, which are only produced by a few companies in a handful of countries. Advocates claim that the transition to all LED will drive local economic growth, especially in low- and middle- income countries, due to the affordability and availability of the lamps and increased clean energy jobs.
CLASP improves the energy and environmental performance of the appliances & equipment we use every day, accelerating our transition to a more sustainable world.
The Clean Lighting Coalition is a global partnership to capture the health and environmental benefits of eliminating mercury-based lighting.