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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)

 
Home Press Releases Governments miss chance to develop an International Strategy to address Global Mercury Crisis
Governments miss chance to develop an International Strategy to address Global Mercury Crisis PDF Print
Friday, 25 February 2005 01:00
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At the UNEP Governing Council meeting today, Environmental Ministers from around the world agreed upon several important steps to reduce global mercury pollution. They recommended actions that individual countries could take to reduce mercury use, trade and release and more research on supply, demand and trade. Yet non-governmental organizations and indigenous peoples expressed concerns that the UNEP mercury agreement fell short of what was needed.

“Basically, the USA hijacked the process despite the overwhelming evidence from the U.N. about the global mercury crisis and the need for immediate and long-term international action.” stated Michael Bender of Ban Mercury Working Group, an international NGO coalition. “All the USA proposed were voluntary partnerships to address mercury, which based on past experience in other areas do not produce meaningful results.”

Developing countries expressed concern about likely effectiveness of such partnerships. “Although there was a strong recognition by developing countries at the meeting of the seriousness of the issue of mercury and the disproportionate impacts it has on them, the international community still is not addressing the crisis in a meaningful and accountable manner.” stated Ravi Agarwal, Director of Toxics Link, an environmental NGO in India.

The European Union, Norway, and Switzerland had recommended complementary immediate concrete actions and a treaty proposal following adoption of a mercury strategy by the European Commission.

“The EU played a strong role in highlighting the need for a legally binding instrument and other important policy measures. We are disappointed that other countries did not allow the proposal to move forward,” said Elena Lymberidi, of the European Environmental Bureau.

“Strong coordinated international action, in combination with a legally binding measures, are essential to address mercury”, stated Kevin Brigden of Greenpeace. “We hope that governments will act upon this urgent need in the future.”

The NGO community considered the following accomplishments to be the most important:

  • A recognition of the value of both curbing primary mercury mining and the introduction into commerce of excess mercury supplies;
  • A decision to undertake an analysis of the global mercury trade, supply and demand in order to better understand the extent and patterns of use;
  • A request that governments consider banning or restricting the use of mercury in products like batteries and processes such as chlor-alkali facilities;

• A request that governments consider controlling mercury emissions using best available techniques;

  • A request that industrialized countries provide developing countries with access to financial resources in order to reduce mercury pollution; and
  • A decision to assess at the 24th Governing Council session in two years the need for further action on mercury, including the possibility of a legally binding instrument.

“Unfortunately, the agreements are weak. They do not ensure that mercury will stop being dumped on developing nations as happened when mercury waste was imported into South Africa by Thor Chemicals, resulting in contamination and numerous deaths,” said Llewellyn Leonard of groundWork.

For more information:

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_text13474 ); document.write( '<\/a>' ); //--> This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , +44 7739 216042 or +1 802-223-9000.

Linda Greer, NRDC, www.nrdc.org, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it '; document.write( '' ); document.write( addy_text4053 ); document.write( '<\/a>' ); //--> This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , tel: +33 6 7352 9328

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_text94679 ); document.write( '<\/a>' ); //--> This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , tel: +32 2 2891301; +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_text44123 ); document.write( '<\/a>' ); //--> This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , tel :+ :+44 7968 844906;

NOTE FOR THE EDITORS

Environmental NGOS include:

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.,

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.

The Ban Mercury Working Group, www.ban.org/Ban-Hg-Wg/, is an international coalition of 27 public interest non­governmental 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.

Greenpeace, www.greenpeace.org

And with the support of NGOs from India (Toxics Link), China (Global Village of Beijing), Brazil (Association for Combats against the POPS), South Africa (groundWork-Friends of the Earth South Aftrica) and traditional indigenous nations in the U.S. and Alaska (International Indian Treaty Council)

1 See environmental NGO comments to UNEP at: http://www.mercurypolicy.org/new/documents/UNEP_Comments_070104.pdf