Attitude of UNEP towards CFLs
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
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.
- 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:
||Range of the estimate
|Fossil fuel burning: Coal burning (all uses)
||304 - 678
|Fossil fuel burning: Oil and natural gas burning
||4.5 - 16.3
|Primary production of ferrous metals
||20.5 - 241
|Primary production of non-ferrous metals (Al, Cu, Pb, Zn)
||82 - 660
|Large scale gold production
||0.7 - 247
|Mine production of mercury
||6.9 - 17.8
||65.5 - 646
||7.3 - 26.4
||70 - 95
|Artisanal and small-scale gold mining
||410 - 1040
||10.2 - 54.7
|Consumer product waste
||23.7 - 330
|Cremation (dental amalgam)
||0.9 - 11.9
||1010 - 4070
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 states that, at this stage, no affordable and available alternative is currently available at the global
level. (p. 7) However, Hg-free substitutes are affordable: incandescent light bulbs have a much better quality than
CFLs. Therefore, incandescents have to be available again and the mercury containing lamps have to be withdrawn from
the market. With this latter idea, UNEP seems to agree:
- Nonetheless, we need to be working to phase these out and push the market towards
alternatives. It is regrettable that UNEP, after having uttered this brilliant idea, once more slips back
in old mistakes:
- In the interim, it should also be noted that, where power is generated by coal combustion, the
provision of energy efficient lighting can result in significant reductions in the emissions of mercury through
decreased power consumption, which may (even with mercury-containing fluorescent lamps) result in a lower net
mercury release or emission to the environment. These reductions in the emissions of mercury are totally dependent
on the fuel mix used by power plants. If much coal is used without sufficient air pollution control
devices, the electricity generation will be marked by a very noxious mercury emission. I thought that it was the
strict responsability of the policy to guarantee a safe production manner and not to tolerate a mercury
emission so high that mercury containing lamps may sometimes lower mercury release to the environment. The fact
that CFLs are tolerated means that something is wrong concerning the electricity production. We have to work on
the causes of the pollution, not on the symptoms.
- UNEP is very well aware of the fact that CFLs cause damage to the environment in countries that generate electricity largely
These lamps reduce electricity consumption so that in countries that generate electricity largely from coal,
there could be less electricity required for lighting, thereby saving about 10 per cent of emissions into the
environment (EU, 2010). (p. 35) So, UNEP accepts that in countries where no coal is used, CFLs are only noxious.
But UNEP does still not understand that the calculation whereon the study is based (EU, 2010, i.e. "SCHER (Scientific Committee
on Health and Environmental Risks), Opinion on Mercury in Certain Energy-saving Light Bulbs, 18 May 2010")
is erroneous! One should read, as I have proven here: These
lamps reduce electricity
consumption but on a lower scale than is needed to reduce mercury emission. Even in countries that generate
electricity largely from coal (as in the EU), using CFLs, the mercury emission into the environment could thereby
increase about 78 per cent.
- However, despite continuing industry efforts to reduce the mercury content of each CFL and proven recycling
techniques allowing effective recovery of mercury at the end of a lamp’s life cycle, the high global demand for
CFLs might present a challenge to achieving the goal of effective reduction of mercury use.
The high global demand is a direct consequence of the policy of the governments. UNEP has to conclude that the
only solution is to take the CLFs out of circulation and to advice to provide an end to the ban on incandescent lighting.
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:
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:
(Source: Achieving the Global Transition
to Energy Efficient Lighting Toolkit)
- Lighting Policy - including mandatory and voluntary approaches to regulating lighting, finance, standart-setting
- 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
The first writings of en.lighten initiative gave the following targets:
(Source: Multi Billion Dollar Benefits of World-Wide Switch to Energy Efficient Lighting Spotlighted in 100 Countries, 1 December 2010)
- 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.
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.