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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 EU Commission - delays adoption of the Mercury Strategy
EU Commission - delays adoption of the Mercury Strategy PDF Print
Tuesday, 18 January 2005 01:00
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[Brussels 18/1/2005] Environment and health groups are concerned about the European Commission’s delay in adopting a Community Strategy on Mercury. The delay seems to be caused by lingering concerns within the Commission over the possible legal implications of trade restrictions, originally proposed by DG Environment in the draft Strategy which was supported by NGOs.

Any delay risks weakening the position of the EU and its Member States in the upcoming global debate on a phase-out Mercury policy, which will take place at the UNEP Governing Council at the end of February and which is aimed at limiting the impact of these toxic chemicals on human health and environment.

The EU, and in particular Spain, is the biggest mining and trading operation in the world for Mercury, a global pollutant. EU Mercury is exported towards developing countries such as India and Brazil, where it is used in a much less regulated way. This practice will continue unless decisions are taken soon. According to a coalition of environmental and health NGOs, formed by EEB, Ban Hg Working Group1, EPHA Environment Network, and Greenpeace, a responsible EU Mercury strategy cannot exist without a clear policy to prevent such exports. Although the EU is decreasing Mercury use and raising awareness in order to protect its own citizens, it still contributes heavily to environmental and health damage in developing countries. “This double standard approach should stop. Options that would allow continued export are not acceptable; the EU should finally address this global problem,” said John Hontelez, Secretary General of the EEB.

'”In India, exposure to Mercury is a serious problem and with assistance we could substantially reduce many current uses,” said Ravi Agarwal of Toxics Link India. “The EU should take the lead in helping India and others to reduce demand, instead of allowing as much as 15,000 tonnes of Mercury to be sent to developing countries, where it contaminates our people, local communities and the global food supply.”

In December 2002, the EU’s Environmental Ministers invited the Commission to present an EU strategy on Mercury in 2004. An earlier unpublished EU Commission draft of the strategy, welcomed by the NGOs, included not only an export ban, but also a proposed phase out of all Mercury mining and production in Spain, storage of excess Mercury from decommissioned chlor-alkali industries, further restrictions on the marketing and use of Mercury products that are not already regulated by the EU, fixing limit values for Mercury emissions from industries, and support for the UNEP Mercury Programme.

“How strong the Commission’s strategy will finally be remains to be seen. It is imperative that the EU accepts its responsibility fully and sets an example for the rest of the world, showing its respect for the protection of health and the environment world wide, and in developing countries in particular”, said Genon Jensen, Director of EPHA Environment Network.


”There is an immediate need for the total phase-out of Mercury mining and trading through a sustainable European Strategy. A strong EU position should be submitted to the UNEP meeting to kick off discussions towards the development of a new global and legally binding instrument with the ultimate goal of zero use and emissions”, said Michael Bender, Ban Hg Working Group.

Mercury and its compounds are highly toxic, causing damage to the central nervous system and are particularly harmful to foetal development. They are also thought to have adverse effects on the cardiovascular system, causing tremors, insomnia, memory loss, neuromuscular changes, and headaches. Mercury builds up in humans and animals and becomes concentrated through the food chain, especially in certain types of fish. It travels long distances through the atmosphere, and has contaminated global food supplies at levels which pose a significant risk to human health. This is clearly recognised in the conclusion of the UNEP Global Mercury Assessment (2002). The Commission’s Directorate General for Health and Consumer Protection has recommended that women who are breastfeeding, pregnant or of child bearing age should limit their consumption of large predatory fish, such as swordfish, shark, marlin, pike and tuna.2

In collaboration with the Ban Mercury Working group, the EEB has started the ‘Zero Mercury’ campaign.3 The EEB, Ban Hg WG, EPHA Environment Network and Greenpeace believe that the Community Strategy on Mercury should include as a minimum

  • Immediate action towards an early phase out of Mercury use and elimination of Mercury emissions in the EU, and the cessation of mercury export to developing countries.
  • Immediate action to temporarily store the Mercury from decommissioned chlor-alkali plants, with the ultimate intention of a permanent retirement.
  • Support for a decision at the upcoming UNEP Governing Council on immediate concrete measures to substantially reduce Mercury demand and releases over the next 5 years, as well as for the development of a new global and binding instrument to address Mercury.

For more information http://www.eeb.org/activities/Mercury/041130-Final-Letter-on-Mercury-to-EC.pdf.

Elena Lymberidi, EEB, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it '; document.write( '' ); document.write( addy_text56037 ); document.write( '<\/a>' ); //--> This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , tel: +32 2 2891301;

Kevin Brigden, Greenpeace, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it tel :+444 1392263782; Christian Farrar-Hockley, EEN, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it '; document.write( '' ); document.write( addy_text36224 ); document.write( '<\/a>' ); //--> This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , tel : +32.2333 875; Michael Bender, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it '; document.write( '' ); document.write( addy_text63920 ); document.write( '<\/a>' ); //--> This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .


EDITORS NOTES

1. 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). The Mission of the Ban Hg-Wg is to act collectively in international forums and discussions to ensure that:

  • Use of Mercury is phased out in both the South and the North and all mining must cease;
  • Human and wildlife exposure to Mercury is reduced by the greatest extent possible;
    • Mercury releases from all sources are subject to continuing minimisation, and ultimate elimination as feasible;
    • World-wide Mercury supply and demand must be reduced simultaneously, and commodity transactions and global trade in Mercury must be monitored, reduced and eliminated;
    • Long term storage facilities must be created and maintained to assure environmentally sound storage of existing quantities of Mercury; and
    • In the interim, low income, disadvantaged and indigenous populations must not become a dumping ground for surplus Mercury, Mercury-based technologies or Mercury products and/or wastes, or otherwise disproportionately affected by Mercury.
  1. http://www.efsa.eu.int/press_room/press_release/25 8_en.html

3. ‘ZERO MERCURY’ – A GLOBAL CAMPAIGN

In collaboration with the Ban Mercury Working group (see note 1 above), the EEB has started the ‘Zero Mercury’ campaign, which aims for ‘Zero’ emissions, in relation to Mercury demand and supply from controllable sources. The ultimate objective is to reduce to a minimum the levels of Mercury in the environment, not only in the EU, but world wide. The EEB is collaborating closely with the international coalition and the new ‘Zero Mercury’ Campaign will build on existing work to widen its scope and extend the network world wide.

In 2005, an EU network will be developed, bringing together and reinforcing the progress already made by individual environmental and health NGOs working on Mercury.

The ‘Zero Mercury’ campaign focuses on four main areas, with complementary activities towards the same goal:

  1. 1. Take part in the discussions at EU level - Community Strategy on Mercury; an EU Strategy on Mercury has been requested from the European Council and is to be presented by the Commission in February.
  2. 2. Activities in Spain - Stop Mercury mining and trade in Almaden: The largest Mercury mine in the world is situated in Almaden, Spain and is owned by MAYASA MAYASA collects Mercury from decommissioned chlor-alkali plants in western Europe (using the Mercury-cell process, which is not considered to be BAT4, under IPPC5 and will eventually have to be replaced). This Mercury is traded internationally,

4 Best Available Techniques, http://europa.eu.int/comm/environment/ippc/index.htm

5 Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control, http://europa.eu.int/comm/environment/ippc/index.htm


mainly to developing countries. The EEB is working closely with its Spanish member Ecologistas en Accion towards supporting an EU Mercury export ban, stopping MAYASA from becoming the world’s largest platform of Mercury pollution and proliferation, and raising awareness of the effects of Mercury export to developing countries.

  1. 3. Take part in the process at International and UNEP level. Push towards a legally binding global solution. Mercury is on the agenda of the UNEP Governing Council planned for the end of February 2005. Activities include cooperation with NGOs all over the world (EU, US and developing countries) and input into the UNEP process.
  2. 4. Support environmental organisations in affected developing countries. Four NGOs from developing countries will be given financial assistance to facilitate their active involvement. Support will be given for national activities as well as participation at international level, to assist in the global campaign.

The EEB receives a special grant from the Sigrid Rausing Trust for this activity.