11th Dec 2019

Call to ban inefficient lightbulbs in EU

Germany's environment minister Sigmar Gabriel has written to the European Commission proposing that inefficient light bulbs be banned in the EU.

"Europe can no longer afford products that, like conventional light bulbs, are only five percent efficient," Mr Gabriel wrote in the letter, according to German newspaper Bild am Sonntag.

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  • More efficient light bulbs could reduce CO2 emissions in the EU by 25 tonnes annually (Photo: European Community, 2006)

"From my viewpoint, ambitious efficiency criteria for lights need to be introduced in this area of regulation."

Addressed to the EU commissioner Stavros Dimas, the letter points to studies that show the EU could reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 25 million tonnes a year if both households and the services sector exchanged traditional light bulbs for energy saving lights.

Traditional incandescent bulbs produce light by passing electricity through a wire filament, but are inefficient because a large amount of energy is wasted in the form of heat. Fluorescent light bulbs, by contrast, use less energy to produce the same amount of light.

For its part, the European Commission is open to such a suggestion. "We are currently looking into whether an EU standard for environment friendly light bulbs is doable," Mr Dimas told news magazine Focus.

The move comes just days after Australia made headlines around the world by saying it would phase out incandescent light bulbs in favour of energy efficient ones by 2010.

It also represents a happier exchange on green issues between Germany, currently holding the EU presidency, and the European Commission.

Recent months have been blighted by two major spats concerning industry emissions (the commission said Germany's target was too lenient) and proposed EU rules for CO2 emissions from new cars (which saw the German government side with the country's car manufacturers against the commission).

Meanwhile the commission is still hammering home its environment message ahead of an important summit on energy on 8-9 March.

Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso told Bild am Sonntag "We have spoken enough, now it is necessary to act."

He said he expects member states to "take clear decisions on the main points of future energy policies because 80 percent of greenhouse gases come from energy."

The EU leaders summit will be an opportunity to "take decisive measures in one of the most important global challenges of our era," he added.

However, diplomats believe the summit is not likely to yield much by way of results with EU member states already bickering heavily about the extent to which they want to commit themselves to binding targets.

Germany has acknowledged that the discussions are going to be difficult but has pledged to act as an honest broker.

"It would be an error if we were to continue to pursue our own interests and we're not going to make that mistake," German chancellor Angela Merkel said earlier this month.

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Europe is seeking to get rid of traditional incandescent light bulbs as part of an overall step to cut greenhouse gas emissions and limit global warming - the move could reduce the EU's CO2 emissions by 25 million tonnes a year.


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