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New treaty’s entry into force set to curtail global mercury crisis, say NGOs

BRUSSELS - 16 AUGUST 2017
TODAY’S ENTRY INTO FORCE OF THE MINAMATA CONVENTION ESTABLISHES THE FIRST NEW MULTILATERAL ENVIRONMENTAL AGREEMENT IN OVER A DECADE.  THE ZERO MERCURY WORKING GROUP* HAS BEEN CALLING FOR A LEGALLY BINDING TREATY FOR OVER A DECADE AND WELCOMES THE NEW PROTOCOL.

“While there are alternatives to mercury, there are no alternatives to global cooperation,” said Michael Bender, coordinator of the Zero Mercury Working Group. “Mercury respects no boundaries and exposes people everywhere”
“Only a global pact can curtail this dangerous neurotoxin.”

In October 2013 the convention text was adopted and signed by 128 countries, but would not take legal effect until at least 50 countries had ratified it formally.  This milestone was reached in May of this year, and the convention enters into force today 16 August. 

“We are now on the right track,” said Elena Lymberidi-Settimo, Project Manager, European Environmental Bureau and ZMWG co- coordinator. 

“Over time, the Convention is expected to provide the necessary technical and financial resources to reduce the risk of exposure to mercury worldwide. Governments must therefore move swiftly towards efficient implementation of the Treaty’s provisions”.

The aim of the Convention is "to protect the human health and the environment” from mercury releases.

The treaty holds critical obligations for Parties to ban new primary mercury mines while phasing out existing ones and also includes a ban on many common products and processes using mercury, measures to control releases, and a requirement for national plans to reduce mercury in artisanal and small-scale gold mining.  In addition, it seeks to reduce trade, promote sound storage of mercury and its disposal, address contaminated sites and reduce exposure from this dangerous neurotoxin.

The First Conference of the Parties will take place from 24 to 29 September 2017 in Geneva, Switzerland.  Over 1,000 delegates and around 50 ministers are expected to assemble in Geneva to celebrate and lay the groundwork for the treaty’s overall effectiveness.

The Minamata Convention joins 3 other UN conventions seeking to reduce impacts from chemicals and waste – the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions.

ENDS 

For more information, see:

http://www.mercuryconvention.org/Negotiations/COP1/tabid/5544/language/en-US/Default.aspx

www.zeromercury.org

Contacts 

Elena Lymberidi-Settimo, Project Coordinator ‘Zero Mercury Campaign’, European Environmental Bureau, ZMWG International Coordinator
T: +32 2 2891301,  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it "> This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it " data-mce-href="mailto: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it "> This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Michael Bender, ZMWG International Coordinator, T: +1 802 917 8222,   This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it "> This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it " data-mce-href="mailto: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it "> This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Notes to the editors:

Mercury is a global pollutant that travels long distances. Its most toxic form – methylmercury - accumulates in large predatory fish and is taken up in our bodies through eating fish, with the worst impacts on babies in utero and small children. 

*The Zero Mercury Working Group (ZMWG) is an international coalition of over 95 public interest environmental and health non-governmental organizations from more than 50 countries from around the world formed in 2005 by the European Environmental Bureau and the Mercury Policy Project.  ZMWG strives for zero supply, demand, and emissions of mercury from all anthropogenic sources, with the goal of reducing mercury in the global environment to a minimum.  Our mission is to advocate and support the adoption and implementation of a legally binding instrument which contains mandatory obligations to eliminate where feasible, and otherwise minimize, the global supply and trade of mercury, the global demand for mercury, anthropogenic releases of mercury to the environment, and human and wildlife exposure to mercury.

The European Environmental Bureau (EEB) is Europe's largest network of environmental citizens’ organisations, standing for environmental justice, sustainable development and participatory democracy. Our experts work on climate change, biodiversity, circular economy, air, water, soil, chemical pollution, as well as policies on industry, energy, agriculture, product design and waste prevention. We are also active on overarching issues as sustainable development, good governance, participatory democracy and the rule of law in Europe and beyond.

We have over 140 members in over 30 countries.

EC register for interest representatives: Identification number 06798511314-27
International non-profit association - Association internationale sans but lucratif (AISBL)

 
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Sunday, 18 September 2011 21:54

European EEB/ZMWG supported projects - Chlor-alkali campaign

In Europe, during the period 2006-2010, five NGOS have been supported respectively from Spain (Ecologistas en Accion), Italy (Legambiente), Czech Republic (Arnika), Germany (DNR)  and France (FNE) -  mainly focusing on mercury use in the chlor-alkali sector.

All projects were funded as part of the ZMWG/EEB Chlor-alkali campaign focusing, on eliminating mercury use from the chlor-alkali sector. These projects involved measuring mercury in the air outside chlor-alkali plants, by using a portable measuring instrument - Lumex - in each of the respective countries and to pressure government and industry to close down polluting plants.

The monitoring was part of a broader effort by ZMWG/ EEB and cooperating organisations to:-

  • create momentum in each country towards obtaining a national commitment for the early conversion of existing mercury-cell chlor-alkali plants, while ensuring that decommissioned mercury from these plants will be safely stored and not re-enter the market; and to
  • raise awareness on mercury issues in general.

Thus far through our EU Lumex campaigns, success has been achieved in, France, Spain and the Czech Republic. Results obtained were significant in many cases and helped NGOs raise awareness in their region and country, as discussed further below.

In France, the mercury levels recorded outside a mercury chlor-alkali plant Arkema in Jarrie were presented in a press conference by our NGO partner, France Nature Environment (FNE), and EEB in 2009. As a result, the French Ministry of Environment announced plans for further monitoring and revision of a national law, with the intended consequence being an earlier phase out date than the previously agreed 2020 closure date. Subsequently, the Ministry announced that the chlor-alkali plant (mentioned above) will convert to a mercury free process by 2013.

In Spain, our NGO colleagues Ecologistas en Accion (EeA) carried out a third round of measurements in 2010 and released their report. In response, the Spanish Ministry of Environment contacted EeA, stating that the findings appeared serious enough to request  a Public Prosecutor to open a legal file against the companies for not complying with their voluntary agreement. Also, legal actions are to be taken against Elnosa in Lourizan, by the association “Asociación pola Defensa da Ría” and the EeA is also trying to convince the Environment Ministry to sue these and other companies for non-compliance as well.

In the Czech Republic after Arnika's pressure, phase out dates for the two chlor-alkali plants in the country were set for 2012 and 2014 instead of the initial industry request for 2020.

In parallel, and to further support the Chlor-alkali campaign, the EEB/ZMWG commissioned a study to Concorde East/West SA on the Status of the Mercury cell chlor-alkali plants in Europe (October 2006). The study highlighted the impact of Europe’s chlor-alkali plants. It reveals growing evidence that mercury air emissions from the EU’s chlorine plants may be significantly under-reported, by as much as five times, and might even equal emission levels from the EU’s large coal-fired power stations. EEB/ZMWG has also issued its own report in October 2006  - Risky Business! No need for mercury in the chlorine industry - including independent air quality sampling results from around mercury-cell chlor-alkali factories in Italy, Spain and the Czech Republic, which found disturbingly high mercury levels around ten of the eleven plants monitored. 

A press release on the same issue has been sent out on 10 November 2006, revealing the publication of the two reports.

Eurochlor responded with a statement - on the 14 November 2006.

As  an answer to that, on the 23 November 2006 the EEB sent a letter to EuroChlor copied to EU Member State representatives and journalists

Furthermore, a survey was carried out in 2008, assessing the implementation of the Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC) Directive in the chlor-alkali sector - EEB snapshot report: The European Chlor-alkali industry: Is national implementation of the IPPC Directive contributing to mercury-free industry?[ December 2008]

Because of these successes - and as part of the ZMWG global strategy, a Lumex machine has been purchased and is currently used by NGOs in developing countries.

See more details under the respective country's page: Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, Spain