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Summary of the Second Conference of the Parties for the Minamata Convention on Mercury

19-23 November, 2018, Geneva, Switzerland.

The Zero Mercury Working Group (ZMWG) closely followed the Second Conference of the Parties for the Minamata Convention on Mercury (COP2) in Geneva, Switzerland, 19-23 November 2018, and intervened as appropriate Our main priorities for COP2 were waste thresholds, interim storage guidelines, and effectiveness evaluation. We also closely followed matters for future action, including the review process of annexes A and B; and harmonized custom codes to distinguish mercury-added products.

Waste Thresholds

Decision MC2/2 established a process to develop mercury waste thresholds. As advocated by ZMWG, an expert group will focus its efforts on establishing mercury content thresholds for “waste contaminated with mercury”.  The group will also develop lists of wastes falling under three definitional categories: “consisting of mercury,” “containing mercury” and “contaminated with mercury.”

Effectiveness Evaluation

Decision MC 2/10 amended the effectiveness evaluation roadmap set forth in COP 1, modifying the experts mandate and composition of its membership while agreeing on an outline of work.  The group will review the outcome indicators developed previously as part of the EE framework, and further elaborate on sources of information and baselines for those indicators. It will consider how to integrate monitoring data into the framework. In addition, the group will identify those categories of monitoring data most effective in providing information on global trends, what data could be used to assess the impact on levels and trends of mercury, and data limitations. Importantly, as advocated by ZMWG, the group will also assess the information, identify gaps and outline options to enhance the quality of the information.

Interim storage 

Decision MC 2/6 adopted the interim mercury storage guidelines which included a number of key elements to facilitate environmentally sound management.  We were pleased to see many of the important elements that ZMWG had proposed during the intersessional period are included in the guidelines, including provisions on financial assurances related to closure of the sites.

Releases

Decision MC 2/3 established an intersessional process to identify relevant point source categories of releases of mercury and mercury compound to land and water, including the establishment of a group of technical experts.

Contaminated sites

Decision MC 2/8 invites parties and other stakeholders to submit additional comments and information to complement and further improve the draft guidance, calling in particular for information and comments to make the guidance more practicable.

Review of Annex A and B

No specific decision was taken by the COP to start reviewing annexes A and B. However, a call for relevant information was launched by the Secretariat to prepare for COP3.

This is an important area for ZMWG; given the technological and political developments around the world since Annex A and B were adopted in 2013, we will be seeking to further strengthen the Convention.

HS Codes for mercury-added products

The Decision requests the Secretariat to suggest approaches for modifying customs codes to allow countries to distinguish mercury-added products from those products that do not contain mercury, including approaches for possible harmonization among countries. This is an important success for ZMWG, in support of the Global Mercury Partnership, recognizing the critical need for Parties to identify the production, import and export of mercury-added products to comply with Article 4.

Other issues

Other issues included a request for further information on capacity building, technical assistance and technology transfer; as well as on the SIP; a small modification to the rules of procedure of the Implementation and Compliance Committee; and a decision that the secretariat of the MC will be autonomous and based in Geneva, with special arrangements with the BRS Secretariat. Finally, a new president, David Kapindula (Zambia), was elected for COP 3, along with new Bureau members.

ZMWG looks forward to a productive third meeting of the Conference of the Parties in Geneva 25-29 November 2019.   

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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