Following a meeting with Commissioner Stavros Dimas and Vice President Günter Verheugen, Ireland’s environment minister John Gormley said he had their support to introduce minimum energy efficiency standards for light bulbs.

The move pre-empts the Commission’s intention to propose an EU-wide approach on minimum light bulb standards, and Mr Gormley said Ireland would work closely with EU chiefs to ensure Ireland’s approach would fit in with their plans.

Mr Gormley said: “I welcome the full engagement and support of the European Commission on Ireland’s plans to set minimum energy efficiency standards for light bulbs.

“I particularly welcome the Commission’s commitment to accelerate its own planned regulations in light of Ireland’s intervention on the issue.”

A public consultation on the proposals will now be held in Ireland before regulations come into force early next year.

Mr Gormley said there had recently been a lot of “misinformation and scaremongering” about low-energy lightbulbs and he hoped the consultation would address public concerns and reveal whether there should be any exemptions.

Last week, health groups in the UK warned that the bulbs could exacerbate skin conditions and trigger migraines.

Mr Gormley denied that the small amounts of mercury used in energy efficient bulbs are dangerous, but said the Irish Environmental Protection Agency will be asked to draw up guidelines for people if the bulbs are broken.

Environmental groups have backed Ireland’s plans. Greenpeace campaigner Eoin Dubsky said: “We hope that Ireland’s decision will light the way for the EU and the rest of the world.”

Ministers hope the ban will lead to savings of more than Euro 180m a year for consumers and reduce emissions by 800,000 tonnes or 1% of its total.

Kate Martin

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