Guest Article #73

The Phase-out of Inefficient Lighting to Mitigate Climate Change and Increase Energy Access by 2016

The phase-out of inefficient lighting is one of the quickest, easiest and most cost-efficient ways to combat climate change and save energy globally. Electricity for lighting accounts for almost 20% of electricity consumption and 6% of carbon dioxide emissions worldwide. The UN Environment Programme (UNEP)/Global Environment Facility (GEF) en.lighten initiative is a globally-coordinated effort to accelerate the transition to efficient lighting to mitigate climate change.

It aims to halve these carbon dioxide emissions, while increasing access to energy-efficient lighting in developing and emerging countries. en.lighten is a public-private partnership between UNEP, the GEF, Philips Lighting, OSRAM AG and the National Lighting Test Centre of China (NLTC).

The transition to efficient lighting significantly impacts the ability to harness existing power without having to build new and expensive generation capacities. For example, India would be able to electrify 35 million homes, and South Africa 4 million homes, from the power saved from replacing all existing incandescent lamps with energy-efficient alternatives. In a time of global recession, avoiding the construction of new power plants is financially significant to a country's economy.

If the benefits of efficient lighting are so impressive why has this transition not yet happened globally? Incandescent lamps have already, or are in the process of being phased out in most OECD countries plus Brazil, Mexico and Argentina. China has just announced that will it complete a phase-out by 2016. However, over 130 countries still engage in the widespread utilization of inefficient incandescent lamps.

Achieving a global phase-out by 2016

In order to assist these countries and to mobilize efforts to make this transition a reality, UNEP has convened government representatives and international lighting experts from over 40 organizations to provide guidance on the development and implementation of successful national efficient lighting strategies. Together, they have identified a target date of 2016 to phase-out all incandescent lamps globally. This date will provide momentum and impetus to generate action at the country level that will be supported by UNEP, the GEF and its partners.

The recommendations developed by these experts constitute the most effective approach to achieving a global transition to energy-efficient lighting and follow an “integrated approach” that includes: globally-harmonized minimum energy performance standards to ensure the efficiency and quality of energy-saving lighting products; supporting policies and options to restrict the supply of inefficient lighting and promote the demand for energy-saving products; monitoring, verification and enforcement programmes to discourage the distribution of non-compliant products; and environmental sustainability actions that include establishing maximum mercury content limits and setting up collection, sound disposal and/or recycling programmes for used lamps.

The Global Efficient Lighting Partnership: Supporting country efforts

The Global Efficient Lighting Partnership Program, launched by the en.lighten initiative, will assist countries in developing efficient lighting transition strategies to meet the 2016 global target. Providing country-specific support in the form of technical and policy guidance, the Program will lead to the rapid phase-out of incandescent lamps while ensuring that replacement products meet global minimum standards and that spent lamps are disposed of in an environmentally sound manner. To date, a total of 26 countries from four continents have joined the Global Partnership Program and more countries are expected to join soon.

The overall effectiveness of a phase-out programme may be compromised without adequate resources to support the imple­mentation of policy approaches and critical complementary activities, such as compliance programmes. Investments in the transition to energy-efficient lighting however, have proven to be highly cost-effective and beneficial. Additionally, the heightened global concern over climate change, along with the increased availability of international financial mechanisms such as development funding, carbon financing, etc., means that governments today have the ability to access various sources to finance their transition to energy-efficient lighting.

Countries around the world should mobilize to ensure that existing resources are utilized in a sustainable manner in order to reduce dangerous carbon emissions. The transition to energy-efficient lighting is one of the most straightforward and cost-effective approaches to significantly reduce the threat of global climate change and improve the quality of life for citizens of the world. UNEP and its partners would like to invite countries to join this global transition and become members of a network committed to delivering a brighter and more sustainable future.