**** LATEST NEWS! ****

Press Release

For immediate release, February 8th ,2016

***

New Commission proposal puts EU on path from hero to zero to address global mercury crisis

Brussels, 8 February 2016 – The European Commission has quietly launched its new mercury package on 2nd February 2016 [1], moving the EU a step closer towards ratifying the Minamata Convention, a UN treaty to stamp out mercury [2]. While the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) welcomes the new package, its content fails to meet even the lowest of expectations.

We are deeply disappointed with this bare-bones proposal from the Commission,” said Elena Lymberidi-Settimo, Zero Mercury Campaign Project Manager.  “Under the guise of Better Regulation, it is putting the EU on an embarrassing path from hero to zero in addressing the global mercury crisis.  The proposal effectively ignores a public consultation, progressive industry voices, and even the scientific findings of its own impact assessment.”

The package sets out plans to update existing EU law in line with the internationally-agreed goals to limit mercury supply, use and emissions under the treaty. Despite the EU having played a leading role in the formation of the Convention, the new plan to put it into practice appears to have fallen victim to the EU’s Better Regulation agenda. The package was already delayed by over a year – pushing back the UN treaty ratification process [3] – and ambition is thin on the ground.

The new proposals follow the lowest-cost approach across the board rather than promoting higher environmental protection, according to the EEB. Elsewhere, other ‘new’ proposals are simply repackaged existing EU legislation, and some of the treaty requirements seem not to be covered by the proposal at all.

Mercury and its compounds are highly toxic to humans, especially to the developing nervous system. Mercury transforms to neurotoxic methylmercury, which has the capacity to collect in organisms (bioaccumulate) and to concentrate up food chains (biomagnify), especially in the aquatic food chain – fish, the basic food source for millions of people.

Recent studies indicate that mercury levels are increasing in tuna by 4% per year, correlating with the continuing rise in mercury in the global environment. If steps are not taken to reduce global mercury pollution, levels of mercury are expected to double by 2050 [4]. 

The EEB will now be calling on the European Parliament and Member States to recognise the gravity of the situation and adopt measures that will reduce and eliminate all unnecessary uses and releases of mercury.

***

For more information, please contact:

Elena Lymberidi-Settimo, Zero Mercury Campaign Project Manager, +32 (2) 289 13 01, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Paul Hallows, Communications Officer, +32 (2) 790 88 17, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

***

Notes to editors:

[1] Ratification of the Minamata Convention on Mercury by the EU

http://ec.europa.eu/environment/chemicals/mercury/ratification_en.htm

[2] The Minimata Convention on Mercury http://www.mercuryconvention.org

To meet the Convention requirements, six areas are identified which need additional legislation at the EU level:

  • The import of mercury

  • The export of certain mercury added products

  • The use of mercury in certain manufacturing processes

  • New mercury uses in product and manufacturing processes

  • Mercury use in artisanal and small scale gold mining (ASGM)

  • Mercury use in dental amalgams

[3] NGOs Letter to the European Commission - The EU and its Member States should rapidly ratify the Minamata Convention on mercury, 14 December 2015

http://www.zeromercury.org/index.php?option=com_phocadownload&;view=file&id=199:the-european-union-eu-and-its-member-states-ms-should-rapidly-ratify-the&Itemid=15

[4] Over the past year, it has become more apparent than ever that the global mercury crisis is affecting the food we eat.  Mercury concentrations in tuna are increasing at a rate of 3.8 percent or more per year, according to a new study that suggests rising atmospheric levels of the toxin are to blame. This correlates with recent studies showing that mercury levels in the global environment are set to double by 2050, if current pollution and deposition rates continue. More information: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/02/150202151217.htm

Home Our work at UNEP Level Towards a Mercury Treaty
Towards a Mercury Treaty PDF Print
Friday, 03 September 2010 17:15

Mercury has been at the UNEP Governing Council (GC) agenda since its 21st session, in February 2001. The following milestones have been reached since then.

December 2002 – The Global mercury assessment was finalized.
February 2003 (Nairobi) - GC 22 – acknowledges there is a global problem with mercury
February 2005 (Nairobi) - GC decision 23/9 - decided on initial action
February 2007(Nairobi) - GC decision 24/3 –-current efforts not sufficient, further long-term action required: identified priority areas, set up process towards a global framework
November 2007 (Bangkok) – First Open Ended Working Group (OEWG1): Reviewed and identified the options
February 2008 (Monaco) – 10th Special Session of the Governing Council – A progress report from the OEWG 1 was acknowledged and adopted by the governments.
October 2008 (Nairobi) - OEWG2:  Adopted report of findings and recommendations for GC-25 – on a global policy framework and options of measures in each thematic area.
February 2009 (Nairobi) – GC Decision 25/5 – Decision to develop a global treaty on mercury and to continue and enhance existing work on mercury storage, supply , artisanal small scale gold mining, products and processes, national inventories, awareness raising and information on the sound management of mercury.

Decision 25/5 of the Governing Council launched the discussions towards the developement of a mercury treaty. An Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) was formed, to meet 5 times before the treaty text would be agreed by 2013.

The Zero Mercury Working Group has been following developments and participated at all relevant meetings since 2004. The work, preparations and all documents ZMWG developed and contributed to the meetings can be found below:

UNEP GC 23, 18-15 February 2005, Nairobi, Kenya 

UNEP GC 24, 5-9 February 2007, Nairobi, Kenya

UNEP Hg OEWG 1, 12-16 November 2007, Bangkok, Thailand

UNEP SS GC 10, 20-22 February 2008, Monaco

UNEP Hg OEWG 2, 6-10 October 2008, Nairobi, Kenya

UNEP GC 25, 16-20 February 2009, Nairobi, Kenya

UNEP Hg OEWG 3, 19-23 October 2009, Bangkok, Thailand

UNEP Hg INC 1, 7-11 June 2010, Stockholm, Sweden

UNEP Hg INC 2, 24-28 January 2011, Chiba, Japan

UNEP Hg INC 3, 31 October - 4 November 2011, Nairobi, Kenya

UNEP Hg INC 4, 27 June - 2nd July, 2012, Punta de l'Este, Uruguay

 UNEP Hg INC 5, 13 - 18  January 2013, Geneva, Switzerland

UNEP Hg Diplomatic Conference, 7-11 October 2013, Kumamoto-Minamata, Japan

UNEP Hg INC 6, 3-7 November 2014, Bangkok, Thailand

UNEP Hg INC 7, 10-15 March 2016, Dead Sea, Jordan