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

24th-29th September, Geneva, Switzerland.

The Zero Mercury Working Group (ZMWG) closely followed the First Conference of the Parties for the Minamata Convention on Mercury (COP1) in Geneva, Switzerland, 24th-29th of September 2017 and intervened as appropriate[1]. We were pleased to see the COP1 reached consensus on pending matters from prior meetings of the Intergovernmental Negotiation Committee (INC) which resulted in establishing an effective Convention operational framework for achieving significant mercury reductions.

Our main priorities for COP1 included adoption of forms and guidance that was approved at INC 7, and addressing the issues of reporting, waste thresholds, interim storage guidelines, effectiveness evaluation, and matters for future action, which included the following decisions.

  • Article 3 guidance on identifying mercury stocks, and the forms/instructions for complying with mercury trade consent and related certification requirements;
  • The product and process exemption forms and associated register of exemptions under Article 6 of the Convention; a registrar will be kept by the Secretariat and these will also be available to the public
  • Article 8 (air emissions) guidance on BAT/ BEP, options for existing facility control requirements, preparing emissions inventories, and selection of “relevant sources” within the specified source categories; and
  • The Guidance for preparing the ASGM National Action Plan (NAP) under article 7.

COP1 also saw significant progress concerning various other ZMWG priorities, including :

Reporting:          Forms were adopted for use by Parties to report back on the measures undertaken to meet Convention obligations and on the effectiveness of those measures.  In particular, ZMWG most welcomed the decision for a shorter reporting cycle for supply and trade, reporting per year data on a biennial basis. For other obligations, Parties will report every four years. It was also agreed that each Party will submit its first biennial report by 31 December 2019 and its first full report by December 2021. Parties are also encouraged to submit an electronic form,  and the Secretariat is requested to make the Parties electronic reports available.

Furthermore, it was agreed that Parties would provide access to their data related to mercury emissions, under Article 8. Parties would also provide the rational on how they plan to ensure that facilities responsible for at least 75% of the emissions from a source category are subject to controls.

Waste Thresholds:          COP1 established an intercessional work group to further elaborate on waste thresholds, building on a document introduced by Japan. As recommended by NRDC/ZMWG, the terms of reference for the working group were focused more on determining which mercury wastes warrant thresholds rather than assuming thresholds are appropriate for all wastes. The expert group will identify the types of waste that fall within the categories specified in paragraph 2 of Article 11, provide related information; prioritising the types of waste identified that are most relevant for the establishment of waste thresholds, and identify possible approaches to establishing any needed thresholds for those prioritised waste for consideration at COP2. We were also pleased to see COP1 approving the participation of civil society within the working group, another ZMWG priority.

Interim Storage:                             COP1 requested the Secretariat to undertake further revision of the draft guidelines through input from relevant experts, including technical experts from the Basel Convention and present a revised draft for consideration at COP2. Provisional use of the current draft guidelines is encouraged.

Effectiveness Evaluation:             COP1 adopted a draft road map for establishing arrangements both for providing comparable monitoring data and elements of an effectiveness evaluation framework, as ZMWG had sought.  To that end an ad hoc group of experts was established including 25 experts nominated by the Parties – 5 per region, as well as 10 civil society experts, including NGOs, as observers.

Matters for Future Action (Article 3) - (Article 14):              Several matters were brought up for consideration. Under Article 3, trade in mercury compounds was one of several issued identified for future consideration by the COP. In regards to Article 14 – Capacity building, technical assistance and technology transfer, Parties and other stakeholder were invited to submit relevant information on capacity building, technical assistance and technology transfer for the Secretariat to compile and present at COP2.

Despite progress made, challenges remain, both related to the location and structure of the Minamata Convention Secretariat and the Memorandum of Understanding regarding the financial mechanism of the Convention with the Global Environmental Facility (GEF). The Secretariat will be temporarily located in Geneva, with further review of arrangements at COP2.

In summary, the final road map is now in place to ‘zero down’ global mercury pollution, but critical work remains.   ZMWG looks forward to a productive second meeting of the Conference of the Parties, which will be held in Geneva 19-23 November 2018.   



[1] All ZMWG interventions are available on our website http://www.zeromercury.org/index.php?option=com_content&;;view=article&id=309:unenvironment-minamata-mercury-cop1-24-29-september-2017-geneva-switzerland&catid=54:developments-main-category&Itemid=104

Vinyl Chloride Monomer (VCM) PDF Print
Friday, 23 September 2011 15:50

Vinyl Chloride Monomer (VCM) Production

Poly vinyl chloride, or PVC is a type of plastic that is used for everything from water and sewer pipes to plastic toys and clothing. Vinyl chloride monomer, or VCM, is the building block of PVC.

Most manufacturing of PVC around the world uses natural gas or petroleum as the “feedstock” or raw material from which the plastic is manufactured. However, most PVC manufacturing in China uses a different process that starts with coal as the feedstock.
In that coal-based process, mercury is a catalyst to spark the chemical reaction among ingredients. In 2009, the coal-based process was used at 94 of 104 China’s VCM plants, although these plants accounted for only about 63% of China’s PVC production, according to the latest data provided by their trade association.
Some of the mercury catalyst is lost during this industrial process and must be continually replenished. It is poorly understood exactly where the lost mercury ends up and how it gets there, but we do know that PVC manufacturing consumes over 800 metric tons of mercury each year, based on how much mercury is  purchased by the industry to replenish the catalyst. China’s PVC manufacturing industry represents one of the most significant uses of mercury in the world today.
Nearly all coal-based PVC manufacturing occurs in China, because the petroleum based alternative process uses less energy, is cheaper in most countries, and superior environmentally. For China, the coal-mercury process is considered preferable domestically because it relies upon China’s own natural coal resource, rather than petrochemical imports. There are also practical barriers against using the petroleum-based process in the interior (non-coastal) regions of China, where much of the PVC production capacity exists or is planned.

In China, coal will likely remain the principal PVC feedstock material. Thus, a key to reducing mercury use in this sector is to find a less toxic but effective replacement catalyst. Significantly, several companies have plans for early 2011 to pilot test a mercury free catalyst in China, and commercial demonstration testing could soon follow.

Relevant legislation and NGO policy work

In the EU

No relevant legislation exists at EU level since the mercury process is not used for the VCM production in Europe.

Globally 

The ZMWG has been following this issue closely and has been giving respective feedback at the global mercury negotiations. See also the ZMWG fact sheet on VCM (Jan 2011)