On February 20, 2007, Australia announced it would phase out the sale of inefficient incandescent light bulbs by 2010, replacing them with highly efficient compact fluorescent bulbs that use one fourth as much electricity. If the rest of the world joins Australia in this simple step to sharply cut carbon emissions, the worldwide drop in electricity use would permit the closing of more than 270 coal-fired (500 megawatt) power plants. For the United States, this bulb switch would facilitate shutting down 80 coal-fired plants.
The good news is that the world may be approaching a social tipping point in this shift to efficient light bulbs. On April 25, 2007, just two months after Australia's announcement, the Canadian government announced it would phase out sales of incandescents by 2012. Mounting concerns about climate change are driving the bulb replacement movement.
In mid-March, a U.S. coalition of environmental groups-including the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Alliance to Save Energy, the American Coalition for an Energy-Efficient Economy, and the Earth Day Network-along with Philips Lighting launched an initiative to shift to the more-efficient bulbs in all of the country's estimated 4 billion sockets by 2016.
In California, the most populous state, Assemblyman Lloyd Levine is proposing that his state phase out the sale of incandescent light bulbs by 2012, four years ahead of the coalition's deadline. Levine calls his proposed law the "How Many Legislators Does It Take to Change a Light Bulb Act." On the East Coast, the New Jersey legislature is on the verge of requiring state government buildings to replace all incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescents by 2010 as part of a broader statewide effort to promote the shift to more-efficient lighting. (See additional initiatives.)
The European Union, now numbering 27 countries, announced in March 2007 that it plans to cut carbon emissions by 20 percent by 2020. Part of this cut will be achieved by replacing incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescents. In the United Kingdom, a nongovernmental group called Ban the Bulb has been vigorously pushing for a ban on incandescents since early 2006. Further east, Moscow is urging residents to switch to compact fluorescents. In New Zealand, Climate Change Minister, David Parker, has announced that his country may take similar measures to those adopted by Australia.
In April, Greenpeace urged the government of India to ban incandescents in order to cut carbon emissions. Since roughly 640 million of the 650 million bulbs sold each year in this fast-growing economy are incandescents, the potential for cutting carbon emissions, reducing air pollution, and saving consumers money is huge.