Attitude of UNEP towards CFLs

  1. UNEP: Press release 19 January 2013
  2. UNEP: Impact of coal burning as described in UNEP Global Mercury Assessment 2013
  3. Discussion of the publication "Mercury: Time to Act" (2013)
  4. UNEP and private companies

We welcome the statements of UNEP that we need to be working to phase out CFLs (Mercury: Time to Act) and to set 2020 as date after which the manufacture, import or export of the product shall not be allowed. As explained further, only certain types of compact fluorescent lamps will be phased out. According to the blog of Kevan Shaw, only the ban of the manufacture, import and export of lamps containing more than 5 mg of mercury was proposed. On the other hand, the global mercury deal put once more a slur upon the already bad reputation of CFLs.

UNEP (United Nations Environment Program) Press release 19 January 2013

'Minamata' Convention Agreed by Nations. Global Mercury Agreement to Lift Health Threats from Lives of Millions World-Wide

Geneva/Nairobi, 19 January 2013: International effort to address mercury - a notorious heavy metal with significant health and environmentel effects - was today delivered a significant boost with governments agreeing to a global, legally-binding treaty to prevent emissions and releases.

The treaty was approved by 147 governments Saturday at a forum in Geneva.

The Minamata Convention on Mercury - named after the Japanese city where serious heath damage occured as a result of mercury pollution in the mid-20th Century - provides controls and reductions across a range of products, processes and industries where mercury is used, released or emitted.

This range from medical equipment such as thermometers and energy-saving light bulbs to the mining, cement and coal-fired power sectors.

The treaty, which has been four years in negotiation and which will be open for signature at a special meeting in Japan in October, also addresses the direct mining of mercury, export and import of the metal and safe storage of waste mercury.

Pinpointing populations at risk, boosting medical care and better training of health care professionals in identifying and treating mercury-related effects will also form part of the new agreement.

"This treaty will not bring immediate reductions of mercury emissions. It will need to be improved and strengthened, to make all fish safe to eat," said David Lenneth from the Natural Resources Defense Council representing the Zero Mercury Working Group a global coalition of environmental NGOs. "Still, the treaty will phase out mercury in many products and we welcome it as a starting point."


Governments have agreed on a range of mercury containing products whose production, export and import will be banned by 2020. These include:

  • Batteries, except for 'button cell' batteries used in implantable medical devices
  • Switches and relays
  • Certain types of compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs)
  • Mercury in cold cathode fluorescent lamps and external electrode fluorescent lamps
  • Soaps and cosmetics

Certain kinds of non-electronic medical devices such as thermometers and blood pressure devices are also included for phase-out by 2020.



  • UNEP
    • Summary of the fifth session of the intergovernmental negociating Committee: Part I of Annex C lists those products subject to a phase-out, setting 2020 as the date after which the manufacture, import or export of the product shall not be allowed. Products listed in Part I include specified types of: batteries, switches and relays, compact fluorescent lamps, linear fluorescent lamps, high pressure mercury vapor lamps; mercury in CCFLs and external electrode fluorescent lamps for electronic displays; cosmetics; pesticides, biocides and topical antiseptics. (...) Where such health trade-offs were not at play, delegates committed to a phase-out, rather than a phase-down, by 2020 for a number of other mercury-added products, ranging from compact fluorescent lamps to non-electronic medical instruments. The mere fact that some of these products are now listed may send an important signal regarding their risks and might in itself serve as a motivator to decrease use ahead of schedule. The 2020 target, however, seemed to others not ambitious enough, especially as the convention provides for two five-year exemptions should a party request them.
  • Will this global mercury treaty reduce mercury releases?
  • Is it wise to select the name 'Minamata Conference' for this moderate global mercury treaty?

Other organizations involved in the mercury issue

  • ICMGP (International Conference on Mercury as a Global Pollutant).
  • ZMWG (Zero Mercury Working Group). "Adoption of a global legal agreement on mercury is a major accomplishment, " said Michael T. Bender, co-coordinator of the Zero Mercury Working Group. "Yet the instrument is hampered by weak controls on mercury emissions from major sources like coal-fired power plants." Yet ZMWG says there are bright spots in the treaty. These include provisions to reduce trade, prohibit the primary mining of mercury, and phase out the toxic element in most products containing mercury, like thermometers, measuring devices and batteries. The Zero Mercury Working Group looks forward to treaty implementation, as the real challenge begins for the governments especially in developing and least developing states. The new mercury treaty, in spite its flaws, presents a real opportunity to work towards significant reduction of mercury globally.

Calendar of conferences and activities concerning mercury

  • UNEP: The Minamata Convention on Mercury will be forwarded to the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Governing Council, which will meet from 18-22 February 2013, in Nairobi, Kenya.
  • ICMGP: The 11th ICMGP International Conference on Mercury as a Global Pollutant will take place in Edinburgh, Scotland from 28 July to 2 August 2013. The theme of the ICMGP 2013 conference is "Science informing global policy"
  • UNEP: The Minamata Convention will be adopted and opened for signature during a diplomatic conference to be held from 7-11 October 2013, in Kumamoto/Minamata, Japan.

Impact of coal burning as described in UNEP Global Mercury Assessment 2013

Emissions from various sectors, in tonnes per year with the range of the estimate, and as a percentage of total anthropogenic emissions:

Sector Emission (tonnes) Range of the estimate Percentage
Fossil fuel burning: Coal burning (all uses) 474 304 - 678 24
Fossil fuel burning: Oil and natural gas burning 9.9 4.5 - 16.3 1
Primary production of ferrous metals 45.5 20.5 - 241 2
Primary production of non-ferrous metals (Al, Cu, Pb, Zn) 193 82 - 660 10
Large scale gold production 97.3 0.7 - 247 5
Mine production of mercury 11.7 6.9 - 17.8 < 1
Cement production 173 65.5 - 646 9
Oil refining 16 7.3 - 26.4 1
Contaminated sites 82.5 70 - 95 4
Artisanal and small-scale gold mining 727 410 - 1040 37
Chlor-alkali industry 28.4 10.2 - 54.7 1
Consumer product waste 95.6 23.7 - 330 5
Cremation (dental amalgam) 3.6 0.9 - 11.9 < 1
Grand Total 1960 1010 - 4070 100

Sources: UNEP, Global Mercury Assessment 2013

Remark: In 2005, the mercury needed globally for lighting was estimated at 135 tonnes. (UNEP, Rapport 2008, p. 21)

Coal burning, and to a lesser extent the use of other fossil fuels, is one of the most significant anthropogenic source of mercury emissions to the atmosphere. (...) Increased application of air pollution control devices, including some mercury-specific technologies, together with more stringent regulations in several countries have the effect of reducing mercury emissions from coal burning sectors and thus offset some part of the emissions arising from increased activity. (...) In China, many of the new coal-fired power plants have state-of-the-art pollution controls installed. (p. 6, 10, 16) The use of "adequate technologies" could reduce emissions of mercury from coal-fired power stations by up to 90%. (Mark Kinver, BBC News, 21 January 2013

Discussion of some excerpts from the publication "Mercury: Time to Act" 2013

UNEP and en.lighten-initiative

As early as 1996, initial policy frameworks for private sector engagement were developed through GEF Council papers that provided a foundation from which the GEF [Global Environment Facility] engaged with the private sector, largely through direct project support. (...) The 2006 private sector strategy documents included an innovative proposal to establish a pilot public-private partnership (PPP) initiative to enhance GEF engagement with the private sector. A pilot PPP initiative was approved by the GEF Council in June 2007 along with funding of US$50 million. The concept was further developed as a pilot project in conjunction with IFC as a strategic partner, was renamed the GEF Earth Fund, and was approved by the Council in May 2008. (...) The first US$30 million operational Platform was approved by the Council in May 2008, and is currently being managed by the IFC [International Finance Corporation]. A second US$5 million Platform proposal, “Global Market Transformation for Efficient Lighting,” to be managed by UNEP, was submitted for Council approval in May 2009. Other Platform proposals are currently being prepared for submission to the Council for approval during 2009, which will complete the initial funding allocation of US$50 million. (Source: www.thegef.org)

A key element in the structure of the en.lighten initiative is a network of international energy efficient lighting experts and a Centre of Excellence, established in 2010. The focus is on:

  • Lighting Policy - including mandatory and voluntary approaches to regulating lighting, finance, standart-setting and compliance
  • Consumer and Environmental Protection - including product safety, environmental impact of efficient lighting alternatives, requirements for end-of-life treatment of CFLs and awereness-raising communication on environmental, health and safety concerns
  • Country Lighting Assessments - demonstrating the potential of efficient lighting globally and in individual countries in the form of financial and energy savings, as well as climate benefits
(Source: Achieving the Global Transition to Energy Efficient Lighting Toolkit)

The first writings of en.lighten initiative gave the following targets:

  • The assessments analyze the benefits of shifting the obsolete incandescent lamp technology to compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs).
  • In parallel to the assessment work, en.lighten is convening experts from over 30 developing and developed countries and various sectors, including; governments, civil society and private sector, to develop a draft road-map for the global phase-out of inefficient lighting.
(Source: Multi Billion Dollar Benefits of World-Wide Switch to Energy Efficient Lighting Spotlighted in 100 Countries, 1 December 2010)

The private companies are Philips and Osram. The NLTC (National Lighting Test Centre China) is a key partner of the UNEP/GEF en.lighten initiative.

More information:

Last update February 20, 2013