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The Zero Mercury Working Group and the Clean Lighting Coalition has commended the Africa Region for proposing an amendment to phase out all the remaining fluorescent lamps at the Fifth meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP5) of the Minamata Convention on Mercury in Geneva.

Fluorescent lamps
Fluorescent lamps

The amendment complements the unanimous decision at Minamata COP4 to phase out compact fluorescent lamps (CLFs) by 2025. If adopted in November, the COP5 Amendment will effectively end the manufacture and trade of all fluorescent bulbs globally by 2026.

Phasing out the proposed categories of fluorescent lamps in the timeline proposed in the amendment will cumulatively:

  • avoid 3.00 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide;
  • save $1.26 trillion in electricity costs, and;
  • prevent 176 metric tonnes of mercury pollution – including both mercury used in lamps, and the mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants that would be avoided through lower electricity use for lighting.

“The COP5 African Lighting Amendment is the most effective strategy we have to limiting the dangerous health and environmental impacts of mercury-containing fluorescent lighting,” said Elena Lymberidi- Settimo, International Co-coordinator of the Zero Mercury Working Group. “The Africa region, and most regions around the world, do not have the recycling capacity and resources to properly manage the mercury contents of end-of-life fluorescent bulbs. Widely available LED alternatives mean these exemptions are no longer necessary – there is no justifiable reason to continue manufacturing, importing or exporting harmful fluorescent technologies.”

All fluorescent lamps contain mercury, a neurotoxin that can cause harmful and long-term health effects. Mercury is on the World Health Organisation’s list of the 10 chemicals or groups of chemicals of major public health concern, as it affects the nervous, digestive and immune system. Pregnant people and children are at heightened risk for these health impacts.

When a fluorescent lamp is broken or improperly disposed of, the mercury from the lamp contaminates the atmosphere, land and water – posing a risk to workers and the local environment.

“We applaud the Africa Region for their continued leadership in the transition to more efficient mercury-free lighting,” said Rachel Kamande, Campaign Lead of the Clean Lighting Coalition. “The economic case to phase-out fluorescent lamps is even stronger today because the mercury-free LEDs have become less expensive and energy prices have increased leading to even shorter payback periods.”

LEDs are the most efficient lighting option on today’s market, consuming only half as much energy as fluorescent bulbs and have a lifespan up to three times longer. Due to the reduced energy demand, LEDs bulbs ease strain on the electric grid and have a rapid payback period for consumers. LED retrofits for fluorescents are widely available around the globe, with lamps to fit nearly every need and ballast.

Although some of the world’s largest lighting manufacturers already have plans to fully transition to LEDs in the next decade, many continue to export fluorescents – often to less regulated markets. The Africa region’s Amendment will prime the global LED market for an equitable and economically beneficial transition away from toxic lighting.

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