Information Document on Linear Fluorescent Lamps for General Lighting Purposes
At the fourth Conference of the Parties (COP4) of the Minamata Convention on Mercury, Parties did not conclude their negotiations on the phase-out dates for linear fluorescent lamps (LFLs). It was agreed that this discussion would continue at COP5. The Clean Lighting Coalition (CLiC) prepared this information document to provide Parties with information about LFLs in order to support the negotiations at COP5.
The Clean Lighting Coalition’s (CLiC) assessment concludes that LFLs should be phased-out as early as possible, but no later than 2025. Linear fluorescent lamps are within scope of the Minamata Convention on Mercury, however they are allowed to continue to be sold even though there are cost-effective, mercury-free LED retrofit tubular lamps that can be installed and will operate in the same sockets, simplifying the upgrade to LED.
At the global level, delaying the phase-out results in costly losses. CLiC prepared an assessment of the phase-out dates for LFLs, and how delaying the phase-out will result in lost benefits in terms of mercury, electricity and greenhouse gas emissions. The cumulative benefits (2025-2050) of phasing out LFLs in different years under the Convention are presented in Table 1. This table shows the mercury savings, financial savings (i.e., lower electricity bills), carbon dioxide and energy savings according to the year of phase-out.
Table 1. Cumulative benefits of a phase-out of Linear Fluorescent Lamps (2025-50)
Table 1 shows that a two-year delay from 2025 to 2027 results in a loss of 36 tonnes of avoidable mercury pollution and US$221 billion in electricity bill savings. This two-year delay will add another 600 million tonnes of CO2 to the atmosphere and forego 1,580 TWh of electricity savings. A 5-year delay from 2025 to 2030 results in a loss of 82 tonnes of avoidable mercury pollution, and over half a trillion dollars in electricity bills. It means an additional 1.4 GT of CO2 will be released to the atmosphere and 3,757 TWh of electricity savings are lost.
At the local level, not upgrading to LED tubes is costing businesses and households money. CLiC gathered product and performance data from dozens of countries across the African, Asia-Pacific and Latin American regions, and in all cases found that payback periods from switching to LED tubes had a one-year payback or less. Two thirds of the countries studied had payback periods of six months or less. Overall, across the 25 countries shown in the Figure 1, the payback period was just 5.1 months. This graph shows specifically that some countries had very short payback periods.
Figure 1. Payback Periods Around the World for Upgrading from LFL to LED (CLiC 2022)
Short payback periods translate into lower running costs for businesses and consumers, and during a cost of living crisis when everyone is facing significantly higher energy prices and inflationary pressure, energy-efficient LED lighting can offer some relief. Switching to energy-efficient LED lighting is a simple, easy upgrade that can cut electricity bills for lighting in half. Furthermore, it should be noted that the distribution of payback periods plotted in Figure 1 will shift further to the left (i.e., even shorter payback periods) as the cost of electricity increases and the price of LED retrofit bulbs continues to fall.
Policymakers around the world are developing and adopting bans on fluorescent lighting based on both its toxicity and inefficiency. The European Union, the states of California and Vermont, the Southern and Eastern regions in Africa, Canada and elsewhere are all adopting national and regional policy measures that phase-out fluorescent lamps.
The time to say “farewell to fluorescents” is now. Linear fluorescent lamps can and should be phased out no later than 2025. This report shows the feasibility and benefits of removing fluorescent lamps from the market through the Minamata Convention. An ambitious and early phase-out of linear fluorescent lamps is a triple win for people’s wallet, public health and the environment.