The organisations are calling for a global phase-out of mercury containing fluorescent light products by 2025, in line with a proposed amendment submitted by the African region to the Minamata Convention on Mercury.
As lighting markets in wealthy countries shift to clean LED lighting, less-regulated markets may experience “environmental dumping” of old fluorescent technologies. Many countries in the global North have passed or are considering policies that will ban the sale of mercury-laden, inefficient lighting products in their domestic markets, however they would still allow domestic manufacture and export to less developed and emerging markets.
The import of fluorescents puts the public and environmental health of those countries at unnecessary risk. The proposed amendment by the African region would ensure a global phase-out of fluorescent lighting, eliminating fluorescent lighting at the source by ending the manufacture, export and import of mercury-based lighting products.
The cumulative (2025-2050) global benefits of the African Lighting Amendment would be significant:
- Eliminate 232 tonnes of mercury pollution from the environment, both from the light bulbs themselves and from avoided mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants;
- Reduce global electricity use by 3%;
- Avoid 3.5 gigatonnes of CO2 emissions cumulatively between 2025-2050; equivalent to removing all passenger cars globally from the road for a whole year; and
- Save US$1 trillion on electricity bills
Despite significant progress to reduce mercury, the Minamata Convention includes special exemptions for mercury-based fluorescent lighting products. While these fluorescent exemptions may have been necessary in 2013 when the Convention was drafted, lighting technology has moved on rapidly – and today, the accessibility and affordability of mercury-free LED retrofit lamps makes the fluorescent lamp exemption unnecessary.
The signatories, representing climate and environment advocates, healthcare networks, youth groups, lighting industry representatives and energy experts from across the world are calling for an end to the sale of toxic, polluting lighting products to protect both people and the planet.
“Ending exemptions for mercury-added fluorescent lighting at COP4.2 of the Minamata Convention on Mercury on March 21 and removing 3.5GT of carbon dioxide emissions between 2025-2050 is the quickest win and lowest hanging fruit for climate mitigation,” said Nithi Nesadurai, Director and Regional Coordinator, Climate Action Network Southeast Asia during a media advisory on March 14. “It will be beneficial from the cost, health and environmental perspectives as well. It has to be done now; there is no time to lose.”
The letter comes as research from the Clean Lighting Coalition and partners demonstrate the health risks of mercury in lighting – particularly to vulnerable groups like developing fetuses, babies, and children; workers who handle fluorescent lamps at manufacturing and recycling facilities, as well as maintenance workers in commercial and institutional buildings; and communities of color and people living in low-income neighborhoods who may be chronically exposed to a combination of toxic substances, including mercury.
The letter underscores that the phase-out of fluorescents must be a coordinated global effort. From 21-25 March 2022, the Minamata Convention will host the fourth Conference of Parties (COP4). To enter into effect, the amendment must be passed with a majority consensus of the 137 Parties (countries) to the Convention.
NOTES TO THE EDITOR
- The Minamata Convention is a global treaty to protect human health and the environment from the adverse effects of mercury – a neurotoxin that can cause harmful and long-term health effects. The Convention launched in 2013 with the goal to “Make Mercury History” by eliminating the use of mercury in products and processes worldwide. Major highlights include a ban on new mercury mines and phase-out of existing ones, control measures on emissions to air and on releases to land and water, and the regulation of the informal sector of artisanal and small-scale gold mining. Currently, 137 parties (countries) have ratified the Convention.
- Please read the full open letter and full list of signatories here.
About the Climate Action Network
The Climate Action Network (CAN) is the world’s largest climate network made up of over 1,500 civil society organisations in over 130 countries, together fighting the climate crisis. To learn more, visit https://climatenetwork.org/.
About the Clean Lighting Coalition
The Clean Lighting Coalition is a global partnership coordinated by CLASP to capture the health and environmental benefits of eliminating mercury-based lighting. To learn more, visit www.cleanlightingcoalition.org and follow the Coalition on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.
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