Call to end toxic mercury containing fluorescent lighting, also saving greenhouse gas emissions

March 13, 2022 at 3:16 pm Leave a comment

Source: Clean Lighting Coalition highlighting mercury pollution

Climate Action Moreland has joined more than 200 organisations globally in signing a letter to remove 3.5 Gigatons of CO2 emissions between 2025 and 2050 by ending toxic lighting. The letter is targeted at Heads of Delegations to COP4.2 of the Minamata Convention on Mercury. It would also avoid 232 metric tons of mercury pollution from leaking into the environment between 2025-2050, both from the lamps themselves and from avoided burning of coal in power plants.

The open letter asks that the fourth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Minamata Convention on Mercury (COP-4) – Second segment – must deliver on its mission to Make Mercury History and phase-out toxic mercury-containing fluorescent lighting.  The meeting is on March 21, 2022.

Australia signed the Minnamata Convention on 10 October 2013, and ratified the convention on 7 December 2021. Read more at the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment on Australia and the Minamata Convention on Mercury.

Open Letter to phase out mercury in Flourescent Lighting

COP4 President Rosa Vivien Ratnawati, COP4 Vice Presidents and Heads of Delegations,  

We, organisations from across the world, spanning a broad range of institutions and movements, from environmental and chemical organisations, public health advocates, youth groups, private sector and climate justice groups, call on you to ensure that COP4 delivers on its mission to Make Mercury History and phase out toxic mercury-containing fluorescent lighting.  

Chemical pollution from man-made products and processes is contributing to the ongoing damages to our dwindling natural resources, putting human and environmental health at risk. Climate change threatens billions of lives every year. Famine, droughts, floods, fires, typhoons and melting ice caps have created a reality the world is struggling to adapt to. We must do everything in our power to avoid reaching 1.5 C if we hope to leave a world habitable for future generations.  

On March 21, the world has a unique opportunity to remove 3.5 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, while simultaneously eliminating 232 tonnes of mercury pollution from the environment by ending the manufacture, sale and export of mercury-containing fluorescent lighting products.  

The 137 countries you represent will meet at the United Nations Minamata Convention on Mercury fourth Conference of Parties (COP4) to vote on the amendment, under Annex A, proposed by the African region to end exemptions for toxic, mercury-containing fluorescents. The amendment aims to accelerate the global transition to mercury-free, superefficient and safe LED lighting.

The cumulative (2025-2050) global benefits of adopting this African Lighting Amendment would be significant: 

  1. 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; 
  2. Reduce global electricity use by 3%; 
  3. Avoid 3.5 gigatonnes of CO2 emissions; equivalent to removing all passenger cars globally from the road for a whole year; and 
  4. Save US$1 trillion on electricity bills. 

As 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 regulations that will ban the sale of mercury-laden, inefficient lighting products in their domestic markets. However, they would still allow their domestic manufacture and export to less developed and emerging markets.  The import of fluorescents places the public and environmental health of those countries at unnecessary risk.

In contrast, transitioning to clean, energy-efficient LED lighting will lower the energy burden on increasingly strained national grids and ensure that people, regardless of nationality, have access to safe, toxic chemical-free lighting technologies while also making significant savings on their electricity bills. 

We therefore demand that the 137 governments you represent at the upcoming COP4 vote in favor of the African Lighting Amendment and end exemptions for mercury in fluorescent lighting. Transitioning to cost-effective, toxics-free and energy-efficient LED lighting technologies is the lowest of low-hanging fruit in the fight against climate change and mercury pollution.  

=== End ===

Early sign-ons, including from Climate Action Moreland, can be seen at the Climate Action Network website.

Australian policy position – Update 25 March 2022

A response was received on March 25 to an email sent to the Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley. It said Australia was negotiating on amendments regarding flourescent lighting and other manufacturing processes, but provided little detail.

“The Australian Government is proud to be a Party to the Minamata Convention on Mercury, and work with our global partners to protect human health and the environment from human-induced mercury pollution. The Government has engaged broadly to form a position on the proposed amendments to Annexes A and B of the Convention at COP 4.
The Australian Delegation is currently at COP 4 working with other Parties to reach a consensus on the best path forward to phase out mercury from several products, including lighting, and manufacturing processes. COP 4 represents the first opportunity for Australia to participate in negotiations on amendments to the treaty since ratification in December 2021. There are a range of publicly-available avenues available to keep in touch with the proceedings of COP 4.”
Acting Assistant Secretary
Chemicals Management Branch
Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment

Excerpt of Email Response to Climate Action Moreland

Update 29 March 2022 – Final Outcome Minamata Convention COP4.2 on fluorescent lights phaseout

Final Outcome: In its decision (UNEP/MC/COP.4/CRP.16), the COP amends part I of Annex A to phase-out by 2025:

  • compact fluorescent lamps with an integrated ballast for general lighting purposes that are ≤ 30 watts with a mercury content not exceeding 5 mg per lamp burner;
  • cold cathode fluorescent lamps and external electrode fluorescent lamps of all lengths for electronic displays not already phased out;
  • strain gauges used in plethysmographs;
  • melt pressure transducers, melt pressure transmitters and melt pressure sensors, except those installed in large-scale equipment or those used for high precision measurement, where no suitable mercury-free alternative is available;
  • mercury vacuum pumps;
  • tire balancers and wheel weights;
  • photographic film and paper; and
  • propellant for satellites and spacecraft.

The COP also decides to amend part II of Annex A on dental amalgam to require parties to:

  • exclude or not allow, by taking measures as appropriate, the use of mercury in bulk form by dental practitioners; and
  • exclude or not allow, by taking measures as appropriate, or recommend against the use of dental amalgam for the dental treatment of deciduous teeth, of patients under 15 years, and of pregnant and breastfeeding women, except when considered necessary by the dental practitioner based on the needs of the patient.

The COP requests the Secretariat to draft a revised reporting format under Article 21 to collect information on the measures taken related to the provisions that were added by the present amendment, for their consideration by COP-5.

The COP decides to consider amending part I of Annex A to set the date after which the manufacture, import or export of the product shall not be allowed (phase-out date) for:

  • button zinc silver oxide batteries with a mercury content < 2% and button zinc air batteries with a mercury content < 2%;
  • very high accuracy capacitance and loss measurement bridges and high frequency radio frequency switches and relays in monitoring and control instruments with a maximum mercury content of 20 mg per bridge switch or relay;
  • linear fluorescent lamps for general lighting purposes: (a) halophosphate phosphor ≤ 40 watts with a mercury content not exceeding 10 mg per lamp; (b) halophosphate phosphor > 40 watts; and (c) triband phosphor < 60 watts with a mercury content not exceeding 5 mg/lamp.

The COP decides to consider at COP-5 adding the production of polyurethane using mercury-containing catalysts to part I of Annex B. The COP requests the Secretariat to compile information on the availability and technical and economic feasibility of mercury-free alternatives to the production of polyurethane using mercury-containing catalysts, to submit to COP-5.

Lastly, the COP requests the Secretariat to prepare, for consideration by COP-5, a short report on the technical and economic feasibility of mercury-free alternatives for the two processes listed in part II of Annex B, vinyl chloride monomer and sodium methylate, that refer to the COP establishing such feasibility.

Read the full Summary report by IISD Earth Negotiation Bulletin for all the final outcomes

IISD Earth Negotiation Bulletin, Summary report, 21–25 March 2022, 4th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Minamata Convention on Mercury (2nd Part)

Report back by CANSEA

The combined efforts of CAN with the Clean Lighting Coalition (CLiC) met with partial success: COP4 adopted amendments to phase out a major category of fluorescent lighting – compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) – by 2025.

This move, which accelerates the transition to the more energy-efficient and non-toxic LED lighting, will avoid 26.2 metric tonnes of mercury pollution and 261.5 million metric tonnes of C02 emissions from 2025-2050, and save people $77.8 billion in lower energy bills.

Unfortunately, last-minute interventions delayed a decision on phasing out linear fluorescent lamps (LFLs) until Minamata COP5 in November 2023, even though they can already be seamlessly replaced by LEDs.

Over days of intense negotiations, a group of countries came together to agree on phase-out dates for all lighting categories, including the EU, India, Indonesia, Japan, Norway, Pakistan, Switzerland, the US, and many Latin American governments, including Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile and Colombia.

Even so, not all Parties were prepared to move forward, citing the need for more time and additional feasibility analysis.

A phase-out of LFLs by 2027 – the date that most countries rallied around by the end of the week – would have captured significantly greater benefits, avoiding a further 71.7 million metric tons mercury pollution and 2.72 Gt of CO2 emissions and saving $1.06 trillion in cost savings, according to experts at CLASP.

Given the briefrapidly closing window to secure a liveable future as stated in the IPCC WGII report, released ahead of COP4, one would have expected all Parties to have grabbed this low hanging fruit and quick win to both mitigate climate change and protect human and environmental health.

This lack of action presents an additional threat. As countries in the Global North ban LFLs due to their toxicity and inefficiency, countries in the Global South with weaker or no regulations will be targeted for dumping of these lighting products.

CANSEA in collaboration with CLiC will continue to monitor developments in this space.

Best regards.


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