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Summary of the First Conference of the Parties for the Minamata Convention on Mercury

24th-29th September, Geneva, Switzerland.

The Zero Mercury Working Group (ZMWG) closely followed the First Conference of the Parties for the Minamata Convention on Mercury (COP1) in Geneva, Switzerland, 24th-29th of September 2017 and intervened as appropriate[1]. We were pleased to see the COP1 reached consensus on pending matters from prior meetings of the Intergovernmental Negotiation Committee (INC) which resulted in establishing an effective Convention operational framework for achieving significant mercury reductions.

Our main priorities for COP1 included adoption of forms and guidance that was approved at INC 7, and addressing the issues of reporting, waste thresholds, interim storage guidelines, effectiveness evaluation, and matters for future action, which included the following decisions.

  • Article 3 guidance on identifying mercury stocks, and the forms/instructions for complying with mercury trade consent and related certification requirements;
  • The product and process exemption forms and associated register of exemptions under Article 6 of the Convention; a registrar will be kept by the Secretariat and these will also be available to the public
  • Article 8 (air emissions) guidance on BAT/ BEP, options for existing facility control requirements, preparing emissions inventories, and selection of “relevant sources” within the specified source categories; and
  • The Guidance for preparing the ASGM National Action Plan (NAP) under article 7.

COP1 also saw significant progress concerning various other ZMWG priorities, including :

Reporting:          Forms were adopted for use by Parties to report back on the measures undertaken to meet Convention obligations and on the effectiveness of those measures.  In particular, ZMWG most welcomed the decision for a shorter reporting cycle for supply and trade, reporting per year data on a biennial basis. For other obligations, Parties will report every four years. It was also agreed that each Party will submit its first biennial report by 31 December 2019 and its first full report by December 2021. Parties are also encouraged to submit an electronic form,  and the Secretariat is requested to make the Parties electronic reports available.

Furthermore, it was agreed that Parties would provide access to their data related to mercury emissions, under Article 8. Parties would also provide the rational on how they plan to ensure that facilities responsible for at least 75% of the emissions from a source category are subject to controls.

Waste Thresholds:          COP1 established an intercessional work group to further elaborate on waste thresholds, building on a document introduced by Japan. As recommended by NRDC/ZMWG, the terms of reference for the working group were focused more on determining which mercury wastes warrant thresholds rather than assuming thresholds are appropriate for all wastes. The expert group will identify the types of waste that fall within the categories specified in paragraph 2 of Article 11, provide related information; prioritising the types of waste identified that are most relevant for the establishment of waste thresholds, and identify possible approaches to establishing any needed thresholds for those prioritised waste for consideration at COP2. We were also pleased to see COP1 approving the participation of civil society within the working group, another ZMWG priority.

Interim Storage:                             COP1 requested the Secretariat to undertake further revision of the draft guidelines through input from relevant experts, including technical experts from the Basel Convention and present a revised draft for consideration at COP2. Provisional use of the current draft guidelines is encouraged.

Effectiveness Evaluation:             COP1 adopted a draft road map for establishing arrangements both for providing comparable monitoring data and elements of an effectiveness evaluation framework, as ZMWG had sought.  To that end an ad hoc group of experts was established including 25 experts nominated by the Parties – 5 per region, as well as 10 civil society experts, including NGOs, as observers.

Matters for Future Action (Article 3) - (Article 14):              Several matters were brought up for consideration. Under Article 3, trade in mercury compounds was one of several issued identified for future consideration by the COP. In regards to Article 14 – Capacity building, technical assistance and technology transfer, Parties and other stakeholder were invited to submit relevant information on capacity building, technical assistance and technology transfer for the Secretariat to compile and present at COP2.

Despite progress made, challenges remain, both related to the location and structure of the Minamata Convention Secretariat and the Memorandum of Understanding regarding the financial mechanism of the Convention with the Global Environmental Facility (GEF). The Secretariat will be temporarily located in Geneva, with further review of arrangements at COP2.

In summary, the final road map is now in place to ‘zero down’ global mercury pollution, but critical work remains.   ZMWG looks forward to a productive second meeting of the Conference of the Parties, which will be held in Geneva 19-23 November 2018.   

[1] All ZMWG interventions are available on our website http://www.zeromercury.org/index.php?option=com_content&;;view=article&id=309:unenvironment-minamata-mercury-cop1-24-29-september-2017-geneva-switzerland&catid=54:developments-main-category&Itemid=104

Our work at UNEP level PDF Print
Friday, 03 September 2010 17:14

Mercury has been on the UNEP GC’s agenda since 2001. The Global Mercury Assessment of December 2002 accepted that mercury is present throughout the world environment, is persistent and is constantly being recycled. It showed that mercury exposure causes major harm to human health, and is highly toxic especially to developing nervous and cardiovascular systems.  In the form of methylmercury it readily crosses the placental and blood-brain barrier making foetuses, children and women of child-bearing age more susceptible to mercury exposure. The assessment underlined the need for global solutions since with long-distance transport, even countries which release little or no mercury and other areas far away from industrial activity, may be contaminated. For example, the Arctic has high mercury levels, although it is far from major release sites.

After eight years of studies and deliberations, at the 25th session of the UNEP Governing Council (February 2009), the world governments finally decided to start a process towards the adoption of a legally binding instrument on mercury.  An Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) had to be formed, under UNEP, to start formal deliberations in June 2010, leading to a legally binding treaty on mercury on or before February 2013. The treaty will include actions to reduce mercury supply, its use in products and processes, and atmospheric mercury emissions, which will ultimately reduce human exposure to mercury globally.

 See International reactions on mercury decision  - http://www.unep.org/newscentre/videos/Interviews/2009-4-8_Mercury_Video.flv 

Concurrently with developing a mercury treaty, governments agreed that there is a need to continue and enhance, as part of the international action on mercury, the existing work, in the following areas:

(a) Enhancing capacity for mercury storage;

(b) Reducing the supply of mercury from, for example, primary mercury mining;

(c) Conducting awareness-raising and pilot projects in key countries to reduce mercury use in artisanal and small-scale gold mining;

(d) Reducing mercury use in products and processes and raising awareness of mercury-free alternatives;

(e) Providing information on best available techniques and best environmental practices and on the conversion of mercury-based processes to non-mercury based processes;

(f) Enhancing development of national inventories on mercury;

(g) Raising public awareness and supporting risk communication;

(h) Providing information on the sound management of mercury;


This parallel decision continues earlier on the ground work at UNEP level that started in 2005, namely –the UNEP Mercury Partnerships.


The Zero Mercury Working Group has been following developments at both the Treaty and Partnership levels since the very beginning.