The UK government's position on energy inefficient lightbulbs was thrown into doubt today after its Irish counterpart announced legislation to introduce mandatory efficiency standards for light bulbs which will see them banned by the beginning of 2009.
As part of its National Carbon Budget, the Irish Government announced what will be, in effect, the European Union's first ban on energy-wasting incandescent lightbulbs. In contrast, the UK plan proposes a "voluntary agreement" between major retailers which has no legal teeth and will only come into full effect in 2011.
In a letter to Greenpeace UK, the UK's Department for the Environment, Food and Rural affairs initially claimed that a mandatory ban on the sale of old fashioned, incandescent light bulbs would contravene EU law - before modifying its message to suggest that such a move would not be "appropriate". Today's decision casts both opinions into serious doubt.
Responding to the news, Greenpeace climate campaigner Louise Molloy said: "By banning all wasteful lightbulbs within months, Ireland has shown the rest of Europe that it's serious about energy efficiency and fighting climate change. Meanwhile the UK government talks tough but then introduces weak voluntary agreements that won't even come into effect until 2011. We can't rely on industry to deliver this- the Government has to act."
Retailers have told Greenpeace that without actual legislation, there is nothing forcing manufacturers to meet a higher demand for energy efficient, Compact Fluorescent (CFL), bulbs. Lightbulb manufacturers such as Philips, GE and Osram are trying to keep incandescent bulbs in the shops until 2019. Every year of delay in ‘banning the bulb' will see Europe unnecessarily pumping 20 million tonnes of climate-changing carbon dioxide into the air, say campaigners.
Over the past year, a number of EU countries have talked about similar bans, but Ireland is the first to act. Last month, French President Sarkozy declared his support for a 2010 national ban but concrete proposals have not been published yet. The Dutch Environment Minister Jacqueline Cramer, a former Philips employee, announced initial support for a phase-out of incandescent lightbulbs in 2011 but then reversed her opinion.
Cramer now supports the manufacturers' call for a prolonged phase out lasting until 2019.