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Press Release

For immediate release, February 8th ,2016

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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.

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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

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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 Press Releases ‘Zero Mercury’ Group: Governments Must Do More to Curb Supply and Trade; Gives governments ‘C...
‘Zero Mercury’ Group: Governments Must Do More to Curb Supply and Trade; Gives governments ‘C-’ grade since mercury treaty approved PDF Print
Tuesday, 28 October 2014 13:01

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‘Zero Mercury’ Group:  Governments Must Do More to Curb Supply and Trade; Gives governments ‘C-’ grade since mercury treaty approved

 

[Brussels, 29 October 2014] —Governments around the world are not doing enough to reduce the global supply and trade of mercury, according to a new report released today by the Zero Mercury Working Group (‘Zero Mercury.’).  But they are showing progress in other areas such as developing plans to reduce mercury use in small scale gold mining and phasing out mercury-based chlorine plants.

The 95-member international coalition of public interest, environmental and health groups graded governments based on an initial assessment of global mercury reduction activities to promote rapid implementation of the Minamata Convention on Mercury adopted a year ago.

There are worrying trends in mercury trade and production,” said Margherita Tolotto of the European Environmental Bureau. “We call on governments to do a better job of curtailing mercury flows to promote global mercury use and release reductions, and better protect public health.” added Michael Bender, Zero Mercury Co-Coordinator.

Mercury, a neurotoxin, can cause brain and nervous system damage, and is a particular hazard for the developing fetus and small children.

The countries were graded based on an “Action Challenge” issued by Zero Mercury when the treaty was adopted in October 2013. Grades were based on both government actions and any significant global trends or global activities. 

The report graded progress in reducing mercury in the following areas:

  • Mercury Supply and Trade:  Global Grade C-. 

  • Mercury Products Phase Out: Global Grade C. 

  • Mercury Cell Chlor Alkali Phase Out: Global Grade B-.

  • Artisanal and Small Scale Gold Mining National Action Plans: Global Grade B

  • Mercury Emissions Standards and Controls: Global Grade C+. 

While the report praised the good progress made in the development and implementation of Nation Action Plans to address small-scale gold mining, achieving mercury use and emissions reductions for this sector will require better performance on supply and trade.

Recently, there have been disturbing international developments pointing to increased mercury production at a time when production should start declining,” said David Lennett, Senior Attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council.  “Also, much of the mercury trade is for small-scale gold mining, a highly polluting activity.  This reinforces the critical importance for more nations to take decisive actions to reduce production and/or ban mercury exports.

 

The report notes that developments on supply and trade also have important implications for the Mercury Intergovernmental Negotiation Committee (INC) meeting in Bangkok (3-7 November). 

These developments highlight the need for the INC to provide for timely information on mercury production and trade,” said Richard Gutierrez, Executive Director of Ban Toxics.  “At the upcoming Convention meeting, governments should develop reporting requirements for mercury production and trade so the Convention can quickly address issues as they arise.”  

Zero Mercury also urges governments to request that the Minamata Convention Interim Secretariat provide an update on global mercury supply, demand and trade report in advance of the next Convention meeting, INC 7, to be held in late 2015 or early 2016. 

ENDS

For more information:

The ZMWG Action Challenge, September 2013

ZMWG Action Challenge Interim Report

www.eeb.org

www.zeromercury.org

Contact: Margherita Tolotto, Project Support Officer, Zero Mercury Campaign, 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 Co-Coordinator, +802-917-4579; 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

Press release URL: http://bit.ly/1wFvkVg