BRUSSELS European homes, offices and streets
will have to use energy-efficient lighting by the end of the
decade, EU leaders decided on Friday.
The decision to order a massive switchover that will affect
the lives of all the European Union's 490 million citizens came
at a summit of the 27-nation bloc as part of an ambitious green
energy policy to fight climate change.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who chaired the summit,
told a news conference: "We're not saying people should throw
out all the bulbs in their house today but people should start
looking at what's in the shops.
"Most of the light bulbs in my flat are energy-saving
bulbs. They're not yet quite bright enough. When I'm looking
for something I've dropped on the carpet, I have a bit of a
problem," she joked.
The leaders asked the executive European Commission to come
up with proposals for saving power in office and street
lighting by 2008 and in homes by 2009.
The decision, hailed by environmental campaigners, is a
potential business opportunity for manufacturers such as
and Siemens-owned Osram but risks stirring Eurosceptical
complaints about EU meddling in citizens' lives.
The summit set a target of increasing energy efficiency to
save 20 percent of the EU's energy consumption by 2020 compared
to projected use.
"The European Council ... invites the Commission to rapidly
submit proposals to enable increased energy efficiency
requirements for office and street lighting to be adopted by
2008 and on incandescent lamps and other forms of lighting in
private households by 2009," the final statement said.
Incandescent lamps are traditional lightbulbs which use a
filament. They are inefficient compared with new fluorescent
lights and other alternatives.
Australia last month said it will be the world's first
country to ban incandescent lightbulbs in a bid to curb
greenhouse gas emissions, announcing it would phase them out
within three years.
"We are very impressed by the Australians and before we
came to the summit, we had already been in touch with them and
looking at the issue. We support this scheme and hope to take
it on," Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern said.
The European decision prompted a flurry of jokes including
this from a British BBC radio reporter: "How many EU leaders
does it take to change a lightbulb. Answer: 27."
(Additional reporting by Darren Ennis)