Ending toxic mercury lighting
The Clean Lighting Coalition supports a global shift to mercury-free lighting through the Minamata Convention.
The Minamata Convention on Mercury is a global treaty to protect human health and the environment from the adverse effects of mercury. The Convention launched in 2013 with the goal to “Make Mercury History” by eliminating the use of mercury in products and processes worldwide. It is named after the city of Minamata, Japan, where the population experienced widespread mercury poisoning after wastewater from a nearby chemical plant was discharged into Minamata Bay.
The Convention entered into force in 2017 following ratification by 50 countries. As of February 2023, 140 parties have ratified the Convention. Major highlights of the Minamata Convention include a ban on new mercury mines and phase-out of existing ones, the phase-out and phase-down of mercury use in a number of products and processes, 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.
Despite significant progress to reduce mercury, the Minamata Convention includes special exemptions for mercury-based fluorescent lighting products in Annex A of the Convention text. 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.
At the Minamata Convention Conference of Parties (COP4) in 2022, 137 parties agreed to phase out compact fluorescent lamps by 2025. However, parties did not conclude their negotiations on the phase-out dates for linear fluorescent lamps (LFLs). At COP5 in October 2023, the parties will have an opportunity to continue their negotiations on phase-out dates of linear fluorescent lamps (LFLs).
As shown in the table below, a 2025 phase-out scenario would save 198 tonnes of mercury pollution, US $1.34 trillion in electricity bills, 3.3 GT of CO2 emissions, and 9,602 TWh of energy consumption from 2025-2050.
Each year a phase-out is delayed, there are significant losses. A 2027 phase-out scenario (2-year delay) would result in 36 tonnes of avoidable mercury emissions released, $221 billion in electricity bill savings forfeited, and 600 million tonnes of CO2 savings lost. A 2030 phase-out scenario (5-year delay) would result in 82 tonnes of mercury released, over half a trillion USD in electricity bill savings forfeited, and 1.4GT of CO2 savings lost.