Australia may have been labelled worst performer in the art of climate change management in the industrial world, but it's not all bad news. Several figures - numerical and human - emphasise that Australia’s LED production and lamp regulation policies contribute positively to reducing CO2.
While the Abbott government is busy cutting the carbon tax and backtracking on its law-enshrined climate targets, the lighting industry has pioneered bans on inefficient lamps and cut electricity demand by almost 30 per cent in the process.
Lance Stewart, managing director of controls manufacturer Creative Lighting, insists that the lighting industry is a force of good in the fight against climate change: ‘Don't go blaming the lighting industry. Our energy consumption is ever-decreasing thanks to LEDs and ever-smarter lighting control systems – ironically, many of which are made in Australia. Reliance on fossil fuels and devices for heating and cooling remain the main culprits.’
Adele Locke, president of the Illuminating Engineering Society of Australia and New Zealand, says huge energy savings are being made across the lighting industry: ‘Through collaborative design, quality manufacturing and clients who focus on long term benefits over short term gains, the lighting industry can and does contribute greatly to the reduction of CO2 emissions in Australia.’
Role model for regulations
The Climate Change Performance Index, which ranked Australia at the very bottom of all industrialised countries for its efforts to manage climate change, says Australia's poor ranking is mainly due to the government scrapping a number of energy policies, as it promised in its election campaign.
Tony Abbott’s government has removed a tax on carbon and is trying to halve its renewable energy target, which is already enshrined in law.
But although it is energy policy that sent Australia 21 positions down the ranks compared to last year, our policy on lighting has been a source of admiration in many other countries for some time.
Having phased out incandescent lamps in 2007, successive Australian governments have since embraced the minimum energy performance standards (MEPS), which set energy-efficiency standards for linear fluorescent lamps, compact fluorescent lamps, transformers and converters of halogen lighting systems.
These regulations have reduced electricity demand by 10.5TWh between 2006 and 2013 – or 28 per cent of the total 37TWh reduction in that period.
Funding for lighting upgrades is also currently available in Australia, although that might change. Steve Cahill, CEO of Enlighten Australia, said: ‘The news is not all bad. There has been solid growth in the availability of energy efficiency equipment upgrade funding.
‘With seed funding from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, a group the Abbott government is trying to dismantle, funding from other lenders is leveraged to offer longer and more favourable terms with energy savings contributing to loan repayments.’
International name, or international shame?
With a growing LED production and ditto export, the energy savings produced by Australia’s lighting industry affect CO2 reduction both here and abroad. Earlier this year, Bryan Douglas, chief executive of Lighting Council Australia, told Lux Review: ‘Australia ranked seventh in the world as an export destination for LEDs last year, which is extraordinary considering our population is so small.’
He added: ‘What’s called LEDification is an incredibly important mega-trend. There’s a lot of interest in LEDs, they are starting to become mainstream, where you are seeing them stocked by major hardware stores and supermarkets.’
Since the Climate Change Performance Index was published, Australia has committed $200 million from its foreign aid budget to the international Green Climate Fund.
But not everyone is impressed with the scale of this effort. Lance Stewart said: ‘To put Australia's commitment to the Green Climate Fund into perspective, recently we had a severe weather event in Brisbane that caused over 500 million dollars damage and that was just one storm. Australia's giving a tenth of that amount over 4 years.’
Australia joins countries such as Saudi Arabia, Thailand and Iran in the ‘very poor’ end of the Climate Change Performance Index, while New Zealand managed to stay in the slightly better ‘poor’ grouping with a rank of 43, two positions lower than last year.
Denmark ranked highest this year, followed by Sweden and the UK.