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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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The world urgently needs an EU mercury export ban PDF Print
Wednesday, 11 May 2005 01:00
eeb_logoban_hg_logoeen_logoNRDC_logogreenpeace

(Brussels 11/5/2005) National government representatives from EU countries will be meeting on Friday (13/5) to prepare for Council conclusions on the Commission proposed Mercury Strategy, expected to be finalised during the 24 June 2005 meeting of the Environment Ministers. Leading up to this meeting, environmental and health groups have called upon governments1 to maintain their earlier commitment to ban EU mercury exports by 2011 at the latest, and store excess mercury safely within the EU.

The groups point out that the EU recently presented itself as a strong advocate of a globally binding instrument on mercury at the February UNEP Governing Council meeting in Nairobi, proposing that mercury exports from the EU be banned in the near future. Now it has come to light that some countries—such as United Kingdom, Germany and Poland—are seeking delays in fixing a date for the EU mercury export ban until international measures controlling trade are taken. Yet international measures may be far off, say advocates, given that the U.S. and other countries continue to block a global treaty on mercury.

“Over 12,000 tonnes of mercury from EU mercury-cell chlor-alkali plants are expected to be dumped on developing countries over the next 10-15 years, if an export ban is not put into place,” said Elena Lymberidi, Zero Mercury Campaign Project Coordinator, EEB. “EU leadership in this area is needed to boost efforts to reduce global trade and the role of mercury in the global economy.”

The EU exports more mercury generally, and more to the developing world, than any other region of the world – as clearly shown in government trade documents. From 2001 to 2003, EU countries exported more than 3,000 tonnes of mercury to non-OECD countries. In 2003 alone, Spain exported 92 tonnes of mercury to Columbia, 53 tonnes to Peru, and 171 tonnes to Iran. Between 2001 and 2003, Spain and Germany exported 464 tonnes to Singapore, from where it was likely traded throughout Asia. From 2001-2003, Spain and the UK exported 470 tonnes of mercury to India, accounting for most of that country’s imports2.

As the world’s biggest mercury exporter, EU leadership in this area is an economic and moral imperative. The EU needs to keep the promise made to the international community for an export ban in the near future,” said Michael Bender of the Ban Mercury Working Group. “2011 is already three years later than what was originally proposed by the Luxembourg Presidency as a starting date for the ban.3 NGOs too have been calling for this earlier date of 2008.

It is well known that mercury has no respect for national or regional boundaries, traveling long distances through the atmosphere, and contaminating both the European and global food supplies at levels posing a significant risk to human health. Genon Jensen, Director of European Public Health Alliance Environment Network underlines “The EU has no grounds to stand on for delaying action considering its own admission that between 3-15 million Europeans are near to the international limit for mercury exposure4, and many are already exposed to unacceptable levels of methylmercury in the Arctic and Mediterranean fishing communities.”

1 See also letter sent to the Environment Delegates, 11 May 2005, http://www.eeb.org/activities/mercury/

2 See UN statistics at http://unstats.un.org/unsd/comtrade/ and Eurostat statistics at http://europa.eu.int/comm/eurostat/ “external trade.”

3 http://register.consilium.eu.int/pdf/en/05/st07/st07986.en05.pdf

4 COM(2005)20final - Extended Impact Assessment, Annex to the Commission communication on the Community Strategy concerning Mercury, http://europa.eu.int/comm/environment/chemicals/mercury/pdf/extended _impact _assessment.pdf, p.12


This mercury exported to non-OECD countries is largely consumed in poorly controlled and outmoded or illegal activities, resulting in substantial exposure to workers and their families, and pollution of the local and global environments. According to the best information available, most of this mercury is destined for either battery production, use at chlor-alkali plants, or small-scale gold mining.

At a recent international conference in Madrid5 the concerns from the developing world were strongly voiced. “The biggest part of mercury imports in India and Brazil are from the EU, and this has to stop as soon as possible, said Ravi Agarwal, Toxics Link –India.

Small scale gold mining is the area of highest global mercury consumption (estimated at 800 tonnes in 2004)6. As much as 95% of all the mercury used in small scale gold mining is released into the environment. “It is important that the EU mercury ban is put in place as soon as possible”. said Karen Suassuna, ACPO, Brazil “The GEF/UNDP/UNIDO Global Mercury Project has strongly advocated an EU export ban as an effective way to reducing mercury demand in artisanal gold mining7

There have been arguments that new production might be triggered to fill in the market gap, thus the ban would accomplish nothing but substituting other mercury for EU mercury in the global marketplace. This argument lacks merit however, since it ignores the limited ability in mercury producing countries to expand their output for both technical and political reasons8.

Temporary storage of decommissioned mercury from the chlor-alkali industry should also be investigated immediately and implemented in the near future. “Storage areas must be secure sites, continuously monitored and where intervention can take place if necessary” said Kevin Brigden, a Greenpeace scientist. “Furthermore, the pursuit of temporary storage must incorporate the ultimate intention of permanent retirement. Otherwise this measure will only delay the use, releases and impacts of the surplus mercury, not prevent them”

For more information

Elena Lymberidi, EEB, www.eeb.org, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it '; document.write( '' ); document.write( addy_text5223 ); document.write( '<\/a>' ); //--> This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , T: +32 496 532818

Kevin Brigden, Greenpeace www.greenpeace.org, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it '; document.write( '' ); document.write( addy_text10749 ); document.write( '<\/a>' ); //--> This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , T: +44 1392 263782

Genon K. Jensen, EPHA Environment Network (EEN), www.env-health.org, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it '; document.write( '' ); document.write( addy_text69755 ); document.write( '<\/a>' ); //--> This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , T: +32 2 2333875;

Michael Bender, Ban Mercury Working Group, www.ban.org/Ban-Hg-Wg/ This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it '; document.write( '' ); document.write( addy_text81332 ); document.write( '<\/a>' ); //--> This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , T: +1 802 2239000

Linda Greer, Natural Resources Defense Council, www.nrdc.org, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it '; document.write( '' ); document.write( addy_text76923 ); document.write( '<\/a>' ); //--> This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , T: +1 202-289-6868

i Environmental NGOS include

The European Environmental Bureau, (EEB), www.eeb.org, is a federation of more then 140 environmental citizens’ organisations based in all EU Member States and most Accession Countries, as well as in a few neighbouring countries. These organisations range from local and national, to European and international. The aim of the EEB is to protect and improve the environment of Europe and to enable the citizens of Europe to play their part in achieving that goal.

Greenpeace, www.greenpeace.org , is an international independent, campaigning organisation that uses non-violent, creative confrontation to expose global environmental problems, and force solutions for a green and peaceful future. Greenpeace's goal is to ensure the ability of the Earth to nurture life in all its diversity

5 “Towards a Mercury Free World”, 22 April 2005, Madrid, for more info see http://www.eeb.org/activities/mercury/Madrid%20conference.htm

6 P. Maxson, presentation on 22 April 2005, “Towards a mercury free world” conference, Madrid, http://www.eeb.org/activities/mercury/Maxson-Madrid_HgProdUse&Trade_rev3May2005.pdf.

7 COM(2005)20final - Extended Impact Assessment, Annex to the Commission communication on the Community Strategy concerning Mercury, http://europa.eu.int/comm/environment/chemicals/mercury/pdf/extended _impact _assessment.pdf,, pg. 26

8 COM(2005)20final - Extended Impact Assessment, Annex to the Commission communication on the Community Strategy concerning Mercury, http://europa.eu.int/comm/environment/chemicals/mercury/pdf/extended _impact _assessment.pdf, pg. 25-26


The Ban Mercury Working Group, www.ban.org/Ban-Hg-Wg/, is an international coalition of 27 public interest non-governmental organisations from around the world formed initially in 2002 by 2 US based NGOs, the Basel Action Network (www.ban.org) and the Mercury Policy Project (www.Mercurypolicy.org). working to end pollution from the toxic metal -- Mercury.

European Public Health Alliance Environment Network (EEN), http://www.env-health.org/ is an international non-governmental organisation advocating environmental protection as a means to improving health and well-being. Member groups and organisations represent health, environment, women, health professionals and others. The group has a diverse membership, 29 members with 5 international organisations, 10 European networks and 14 national/local organisations, including non-governmental organisations, professional bodies representative of doctors and nurses, academic institutions and other not-for-profit organisations.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), www.nrdc.org, is a private, U.S. not-for-profit environmental organization that uses science, law, and the support of more 500,000 members nationwide to protect the planet’s wildlife and wild places, and to ensure a safe and healthy environment for all living things.,

And with the support of NGOs from India (Toxics Link), China (Global Village of Beijing), Brazil (Association for Combats against the POPS).