India's light bulb phase out: setting a smart example

Feature story - February 26, 2009
NEW DELHI, India — How many light bulbs can 1 billion people change? About 400 million wasteful incandescent bulbs, in India’s case.Today, India has put in place a market mechanism that will phase out incandescent bulbs, making way for a cleaner energy future. The Bachat Lamp Yojana programme will replace 400 million incandescent bulbs with CFLs by 2012, which would save about 55 million tonnes of CO2 each year.

New Delhi, 2007: Activists asking for a phasing out of inefficient light bulbs in India by 2010.

Greenpeace has been campaigning for the phase-out of incandescent bulbs in several countries, and, this decision puts India in the company of other countries leading on light bulbs legislation, Australia, Ireland and Argentina.

It's truly amazing how big the savings can be from strong action on energy efficiency. With this decision, India will be cutting the same amount of emissions that would come from four coal-fired power plants. If the whole world followed India's lead, eliminating wasted electricity from lighting, the cumulative effect would be equivalent to shutting down around 220 coal-fired power plants.

In this case, India has used a mechanism set up under the Kyoto protocol to bring down the cost of compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs) for ordinary people. The more efficient bulbs were previously 80 - 100 rupees and will now be only 15 rupees, the same price as an incandescent bulb.

The funding comes via the cleaner development mechanism (CDM), effectively a way for developed nations to fund emissions reductions in developing nations. This programme sets an example of how nations can work together now to cut emissions, but a much bigger deal is needed urgently to stop runaway climate change.

A demonstration outside the Mysore Palance, India, in 2007

The world's best chance for real action is at the UN Climate Summit in Copenhagen in December. There, industrialised countries must agree to fund around USD 140 billion a year to help economies in the developing world cut emissions, protect tropical forests and adapt to the effects of climate change. Of course, countries too must implement tough domestic targets to ensure that global greenhouse gas emissions reach a peak by 2015, and start declining rapidly thereafter, reaching zero by 2050.

In India, lighting makes up 20 per cent of all residential electricity consumption, so this is a good first step. We congratulate the Indian government, and hope it is going to carry out more actions in its plan, along with targets and timelines.

Energy efficiency is a really smart way to reduce demand and reduce CO2 emissions quickly, but it is only one half of the solution to climate change. The other is to quit coal and to replace it with non-polluting renewable energy sources like wind and solar - a real energy revolution.  

India's rapid pace of development means its CO2 emissions are going up. It also faces peak power shortages even now, so a clean energy revolution will deliver big solutions to these big challenges.

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