Phasing-out of Inefficient Lighting, Can Culminate in Major Economic And Climate Benefits


By Marianne de Nazareth

22 June, 2012

Rio is not all negative, with positive national decisions being taken by countries, keeping the environment firmly in focus. Phasing out of inefficient lighting has been found to provide both major climatic benefits but also salient economic savings as well. In Rio ,countries have agreed to 2016 as the target date for transition to energy efficient bulbs. Plus looking at the various countries new policy status map and huge savings potentials have been assesed with these measures.

As high as a total of five percent of global electricity consumption could be saved every year ,through a transition to efficient lighting, resulting in annual worldwide savings of over US$ 110 billion, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and partners have said in a statement in Rio de Janeiro .

In some cases, the assessments show that the financial savings and climate change mitigation benefits achieved by phasing out incandescent lighting in developing and middle-income countries are much more significant than previous studies suggested.

The staggering yearly savings in electricity of the phase-out, has been found to be equivalent to closing over 250 large coal-fired power plants, resulting in avoided investment costs of approximately US$ 210 billion. Additionally, the 490 megatonnes (Mt) of CO2 savings per year is equivalent to the emissions of more than 122 million mid-size cars. A group of 14 pilot countries will seek to benefit from such opportunities as part of a Global Efficient Lighting Partnerships Programme, co-ordinated by UNEP and partners, that will get underway next month.

Interested countries can receive support to develop national phase-out plans for inefficient lamps from experts provided by the en.lighten initiative: a public-private partnership led by UNEP and the Global Environment Facility (GEF) in collaboration with Philips Lighting, Osram AG, and the National Lighting Test Centre of China.

Plus a new global policy map was launched, also produced by the en.lighten initiative, shows in detail the status of efficient lighting policies in countries around the world. The first resource of its kind in the lighting industry, the online map provides an overview of efficient lighting policies and successes, specifically in the residential sector. The information for each country covers standards, labels, supporting policies, product quality control activities and end-of-life policies, as well as a national ranking in terms of policy development. Ratings say en.lighten will be regularly updated according to a country’s progress in achieving a sustainable transition to efficient lighting.

“One of the most cost-effective ways to contribute to the reduction of global carbon emissions is the phase-out of inefficient lighting technologies,” said Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director.

“Increasing numbers of countries are now achieving major financial savings, generating green jobs, and seeing reductions in mercury, sulphur dioxide, and other pollutants from power stations, through a switch to efficient lighting. As the Rio+20 negotiations continue, these new findings from the en.lighten initiative demonstrate that ambitious policies and partnerships must be seized if the social, economic, and environmental benefits of a transition to a low-carbon, resource efficient green economy are to be realized.”

“The en.lighten initiative is a showcase for the benefits of public private partnership,” said Monique Barbut, CEO and Chairperson of the Global Environment Facility.

“Working together, we are accelerating the understanding of technology options, establishing quality and certification protocols, and promoting sound policies for countries to achieve their climate mitigation goals. We need more private sector leaders to follow the example of Philips and Osram and join the GEF in advancing technologies to protect the environment and foster sustainable development.”

Country lighting assessments, were released in Rio +20 which analyzed the benefits of shifting from inefficient light bulbs for consumers, the industrial, commercial and street lighting sectors. Products cover a wide range of technologies including innovative LEDs.The assessments were produced in conjunction with the International Energy Agency (IEA) and over 150 countries including Russia , India , China , and Brazil .

“The cleanest, most secure type of energy is the one that is not needed, which is why the IEA attaches so much importance to energy efficiency in our 28 member countries and beyond,” said Maria Van der Hoeven, Executive Director of the International Energy Agency (IEA)

“Lighting has a key role to play in improving energy efficiency, and continuing efforts to phase-out inefficient lighting products at a global level will enhance energy security and reduce global energy demand.”

The new assessments show that India could cut its lighting electricity consumption by over 35 percent, which is equivalent to avoiding the construction of 11 large coal-fired power plants and taking over 10 million cars off the road. The annual saving would be over US$2 billion. Due to the technological shift towards innovative LED technology, there is a great opportunity for countries to leapfrog to this advanced lighting solution in national markets.

Although LED lamps are currently expensive to buy for individual consumers, bulk procurement by governments, tax incentives and subsidies are making them a viable alternative. LEDs do not contain any mercury and last up to ten times longer than their CFL counterparts.

“Lighting accounts for around 20 percent of global electricity consumption. Therefore, energy efficient products are key to a sustainable and green future. Green is lean,” said Constantin Birnstiel, Chief Sustainability Officer, Osram AG. “As a long-term partner of the UN’s en.lighten initiative, OSRAM strongly supports the combat against climate change with energy-efficient lighting around the globe. Private partners can accelerate the success of global initiatives with their experiences and resources in individual countries.”

“Already many emerging and developing countries have committed to phase out inefficient lighting, thereby helping to create the first global industry sector transition to low-carbon innovative and sustainable solutions,” said Harry Verhaar, Head of Global Public & Government Affairs, Philips Lighting.

To date, almost 50 developing and emerging countries supported by en.lighten have committed to phasing out incandescent lamps by 2016. Work also begins next month in 14 new pilot countries to develop national plans towards phasing out incandescent lighting, as part of the UNEP en.lighten Global Efficient Lighting Partnerships Programme. The first national workshops will be held in July in Uruguay and Chile , followed by Belize , Costa Rica , Dominican Republic , El Salvador , Guatemala , Honduras , Nicaragua , Panama , Morocco , Jordan , Philippines and Tunisia .

2012 marks the United Nations International Year of Sustainable Energy for All, which aims to double the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency by 2030. For the lighting sector, this goal can be reached in just four years, if the target to phase out inefficient incandescent lamps worldwide by 2016 is met.

Key facts at a glace:

· Electricity for lighting accounts for almost 20 percent of electricity consumption and 6 percent of CO2 emissions worldwide. According to the IEA, approximately 3 percent of global oil demand can be attributed to lighting.

· The global demand for artificial light will be 60 percent higher by 2030 if no switch to efficient lighting occurs.

· Incandescent lamps have already been phased-out, or are scheduled to be phased-out in most OECD countries, Argentina , Brazil , China , Colombia , Mexico , Vietnam and other developing countries.

· If Brazil extends current legislation to include commercial, industrial and street lighting applications, the country could save close to US $ 4 billion and reduce carbon dioxide emissions equivalent to 400,000 cars being removed from the road.

· The complete transition to efficient lighting in all sectors throughout Africa could reduce electrical demand enough to electrify over 14 million presently un-serviced households.

· Up to 95 percent of the energy emitted by incandescent lamps is heat, and their efficiency is low. In comparison, incandescent bulbs last around 1,000 hours which is significantly shorter than compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) which can last up to 12,000 hours.

· Like all fluorescent lamps, CFLs contain small amounts of mercury, which complicates their disposal.

· Some countries, such as Nigeria and China , are leapfrogging directly to light emitting diodes (LEDs) from incandescent lamps. LEDs do not contain mercury and have other advantages such as long life and low heat generation.

(The writer is a UNEP and UNFCCC fellow)


Lethal ingredients in the Rio+20 mocktail

United Nations Conference on Environment and D...

United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (Photo credit: United Nations Photo)

      N. S. TANVI, The Hindu


Commodification, commercialisation and financialisation of nature will produce a greedy, not green, economy

Over 100 world leaders will meet in Rio de Janeiro this week for the U.N. Conference on Sustainable Development, popularly referred to as Rio+20 Global Earth Summit.

It is being held amidst “‘a world running low on drinking water and productive land’ and set against the backdrop of accelerating global warming, climate change, chemical contamination of air, land and water, drinking water depletion, extinction of forest and bio-diversity organisms, extreme weather events, energy insecurity, ocean acidification and environmental degradation.” The current growth process has devastated natural resources and habitats, created environmental refugees and is, today, posing a serious threat to continuation of life on planet earth itself.

The Rio+20 meet is taking place 20 years after the 1992 First Earth Summit, when more than 120 heads of state met against the background of imminent ecological disaster caused by a development paradigm based on unlimited growth and industrial expansion premised on the limitlessness of natural resources.

“Sustainable development” — growth which does not endanger the rights of future generations to access and enjoyment of the same resources — came to be accepted as the test for deciding the path of all growth and development processes. Protecting environmental resources, empowering marginalised communities and a central role for public institutions remained the central pillars of the Rio 1992 approach.

The failing of the “sustainable development” model was that it created a false understanding that “sustainability” was possible without having to counter the logic or model of industrial society with its paradigm of accumulation of capital.

The context for the U.N. Conference on Sustainable Development Rio+20 meet is outlined in the UNEP Document “Towards a Green Economy: Pathways to Sustainable Development and Poverty Eradication.” The document details the “widespread disillusionment with our prevailing economic paradigm, a sense of fatigue emanating from the many concurrent crises and market failures experienced during the very first decade of the new millennium, including especially the financial and economic crisis of 2008.”

Economic value on nature

The Rio+20 document seeks to create an architecture of environmental protection by placing an economic value on nature and natural processes. Nature would be treated as “products” to be traded in “commodities and futures” markets, open for speculation in the “derivatives” markets. Similar to “carbon credit trading,” those who damage nature in one region could continue environmentally damaging processes by growing forests in some other part of the world to earn “natural resource” or “bio-diversity” credit.

What the new “Green Economy” is putting forward is the notion that it is because nature and nature’s resources are not “valued” that people abuse nature. The heart of the new UNEP “green economy” paradigm is a corporate-led, evolved and inclusive vision of the future of the planet. This definitional paradigm is, however, destructive, dangerous and damaging.

The Green Economy proposes that a financial value be placed on “nature” and, what the paper calls “Nature’s Services” like clean air, water, trees, fruits and so on. In simple words, what the Green Economy proponents propose is that organisms like “bees, butterflies and birds” act as nature’s service providers providing “services” like pollination, fertilization, seed germination which today, they say, is done free. If these services are “priced” they can be made available for sale in the “biodiversity” market!

Thus, once ecosystem “services” and biodiversity “goods” are priced and can be sold and purchased like any other commodity, new markets in ecosystems and biodiversity will be created.

Arising from this framework are a number of new speculative, derivative based market instruments — very thoughtfully and evocatively packaged as “ecosystem services” and “biodiversity banking.” Thus forests and rivers become “natural capital” and natural processes such as pollination by bees become “ecosystem services” provided by the corporate entity, “Earth.”

“Benefit transfers,” “biodiversity banks” and speculator trading in financial instruments derived from the artificially assigned value of ecosystems set the context for “forest carbon credit” markets and “biodiversity credit markets.” The outlines of this process is etched by one of the architects of the Green Economy, a former banker of Deutche Bank, Pavan Sukhdev in his report, “The Economic of Ecosystems and Biodiversity.”

Ignoring the crisis factors

The voluminous 600+ pages of the Green Economy document pays pious homilies to the sanctity of the environment and the need for eco-restoration. But not even once does the report acknowledge that today’s crises have been caused by dangerously polluting industries, the extractive mining sector, chemical industries or industrial agriculture.

The fixation with corporate-techno-managerial solutions presented by the UNEP report stands out against the poor respect and recognition given to traditional knowledge systems for governing the commons and customary practices of managing waterways, forests, bio-mass and seas.

Some positive proposals include “sustainable public procurement policies, ecological tax reform, public investments in sustainable infrastructure — including in public transport, renewable energy or retrofitting of existing infrastructure and buildings for improved energy-efficiency.”

The core issue of a true green economy, however, is the fundamental principle that all natural resources belong to the global commons and are too critical for life to be commoditised or financialised, to be determined by the fickle world of markets.

Contrary to the UNEP view that “it is a myth that there is a dilemma between economic progress and environmental sustainability,” the truth is — as a set of concerned world citizens put it — that “a sustainable, commons-based model cannot, in good conscience, further the myth of limitless, extractive development. That would be to promote a false expectation that will lead to the collapse of our societies and planet.”

The corporate centredness of UNEP is exposed by the calculated manner in which it ignores examples of alternate attempts to evolve a more holistic, integrated, equitable, inclusive paradigm. Environmentally ravaged countries in Latin America like Bolivia and Ecuador have come up with exciting new paradigms for development. Bolivia’s “Mother Earth” policy recognises the “right to life and to exist; the right to continue vital cycles and processes free from human alteration; the right to pure water and clean air; the right to balance; the right not to be polluted; and the right to not have cellular structure modified or genetically altered.” It also enshrines the right of nature “to not be affected by mega-infrastructure and development projects that affect the balance of ecosystems and the local inhabitant communities.”

In Ecuador there has been a vigorous movement for a “Universal Declaration of the Rights of Nature.” Noted Ecuadorian economist Alberto Acosta put it eloquently, “Nature has much to say and it is high time we, its children, stopped playing deaf.”

The Second Earth Summit will come and go the way many other summits have gone, with little, if any, difference to Mother Earth’s predicament. The Government of India too, did not deem it necessary to consult its citizens to ask them how, together as a nation, we should face the pressing environmental crises of our times. But considering the pro-corporate dispensation of the UPA-II, it is not surprising at all. For India’s elite, as elsewhere too, have forgotten Mahatma Gandhi’s solemn warning: “Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need but not every man’s greed.”

(V. Suresh is National Secretary, PUCL, and N.S. Tanvi is a student at the National Law University, Jodhpur.)


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