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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 Last Chance for Governments to Develop Strong Global Mercury Treaty
Last Chance for Governments to Develop Strong Global Mercury Treaty PDF Print
Saturday, 12 January 2013 14:59

Last Chance for Governments to Develop Strong Global Mercury Treaty

Groups Fear Failed Treaty Outcome

 [embargoed until 12th January 2013, 14.30], Geneva – Non-governmental organizations from around the world renewed their call for “Zero Mercury Now!” to world governments as representatives converge in Geneva this coming week for the fifth and last UN intergovernmental meeting.[i] After 4 years of negotiations an agreement on a Mercury Treaty is just days away.

Concerned that special interests might affect the outcome of a strong international treaty, the Zero Mercury Working Group[ii] is hosting a pre-treaty event to highlight new key findings[iii] on mercury seafood contamination, with health effects occurring below the level considered “safe” just a few years ago.  They are urging governments to take immediate and substantial measures to reduce global mercury pollution.

The keynote speaker, Professor Philippe Grandjean, from the University of Southern Denmark and Harvard School of Public Health, will present new evidence on prenatal exposure to mercury in the womb.  Dr. Grandjean’s results indicate that mercury exposure before birth can result in $18,000 in lost lifetime earning potential for each IQ point lost, which adds up to many billions of dollars per year on a global scale. [iv] 

“How much is a developing child’s brain worth?” asks Dr. Grandjean.  “We are taking developing brains hostage and we are allowing this pollutant to interfere with a very precious organ.”

The treaty is expected to include actions to reduce intentional mercury use and emissions, which will ultimately reduce exposure.  Yet the negotiations have been slow going.

“We know how to control mercury emissions, and there are mercury-free alternatives for nearly all mercury-containing products and industrial processes,” said Michael Bender, Co-coordinator of ZMWG. “What is missing is the political will to do this.”

 

Artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) represents the largest intentional use of mercury globally, and is the reason for much of the mercury trade from north to south.  “Achieving reductions and a time-limited phase out in the use and trade of mercury in ASGM is a must for the treaty,” according to  Rico Euripidou of groundWork in South Africa.

“In the last round of negotiations countries were dragging their feet on taking tough action on mercury,” stated Richard Gutierrez, Ban Toxics!, Philippines. “If the global community won’t agree on mandatory emission cuts or have meaningful reductions in mercury use and trade by the end of the week, this treaty will be a failure.”

ZMWG has highlighted the following critical points that the treaty needs to address:

  • Restricting supply and trade, including a prohibition on primary mercury mining, and keeping mercury from closing chlorine plants off the market;
  • Phasing out the use of mercury in new and most existing products and processes;
  • Requiring substantial reductions of mercury releases to the environment, consistent with BAT capabilities;
  • Prohibiting the worst practices, and phasing out mercury use in artisanal small scale gold mining;

·         Adopting basic binding requirements to ensure  environmental sound management of commodity mercury storage and disposal of mercury waste, and

  • Providing adequate financial assistance to developing countries, including during the crucial interim period when governments are undertaking their necessary treaty implementation preparation activities.

 “The final treaty negotiation session in Geneva is the world’s last chance to create a strong program for international action and cooperation to finally reduce global mercury exposure,” said Elena Lymberidi-Settimo, Coordinator of the ZMWG “We urge world governments to make this a reality at the end of this meeting”.

- END -

Contacts:

Alison Abrahams;  EEB/ZMWG ;   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 +32 489 304 962

Elena Lymberidi-Settimo, EEB/ZM΅G; 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 ; +32 496 532818

Michael Bender , MPP/ZMWG, 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 ; +1 802 9174579



[ii] The Zero Mercury Working Group is an international coalition of over 100 public interest NGOs from more than 50 countries founded in 2005 to achieve ‘Zero’ emissions, demand and supply of mercury; www.zeromercury.org

[iv] ZMWG global webinar, 4 Dec 2012, see:  www.zeromercuryorg with link to slides; also see:  http://www.biomedcentral.com, http://www.ehjournal.net/content/12/1/3/abstract