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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 African Regional Conferences, Nairobi, 22-26 May 2017
African Regional Conferences, Nairobi, 22-26 May 2017 PDF Print
Tuesday, 13 June 2017 11:08

African Regional Conferences, Nairobi, 22-26 May 2017 - Blog 

EEB/ZMWG (“Zero Mercury”) recently hosted a series of mercury reduction conferences from the 23rd to 25th of May 2017 in Nairobi, Kenya, in collaboration with UN Environment. The purpose of the conferences was to share information about, and experiences with, reducing mercury use in artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) and phasing out mercury-added products.

A total of 71 representatives from different Environment and Mining ministries, UN Environment, UNIDO, UNITAR, UNDP and special agencies, intergovernmental organisations, NGOs, as well as academics, private sector representatives and consultants from 30 African countries, Jamaica and China, took part in the workshops.

The workshop focused on the need for governments to plan for implementation of the Minamata Convention (“the Convention”), which will enter into force in mid-August 2017.  The Convention contains mandatory obligations to eliminate where feasible, and otherwise minimize, the global supply, use and trade of mercury, as well as to reduce its emissions and releases to the environment. 

The first day and a half workshop focused on ASGM, and specifically on the development of National Action Plans for reducing mercury use in ASGM, a mandatory requirement of the Convention.  The discussions emphasized the challenges of formalization and technical approaches to reducing mercury use in ASGM. The experiences from our work in Tanzania and Ghana were also presented.  Because ASGM accounts for the biggest source release of mercury to the African environment, the workshop focused on the need for regional cooperation to simultaneously reduce supply of available mercury and demand for its use in the ASGM sector, while promoting cleaner production. This workshop was preceded by a UN Environment – Global Mercury Partnership training session on developing baseline estimates for the ASGM sector through a National Action Plan (NAP).

The next day and a half focused on the phase out of mercury-added products and outlined the need for country-specific laws and strategies to complete these phase outs by 2020, as required by the Convention. Case studies from Nigeria and Mauritius were presented, focusing on steps for phasing out products that can be taken not only by governments but also NGOs, UN agencies and other stakeholders. Phasing out mercury-added products is also a priority area for the region, since Africa is a net importer of mercury-added products that become environmental pollutant at the end of their life. 

These two EEB/ZMWG workshops were followed, on May 26th, by an awareness raising and knowledge sharing meeting of the UN Environment Global Mercury Product Partnership for the African region.  This one-day forum assisted government officials to develop their own draft country road maps for phasing out mercury in products, by using the checklist developed by the Zero Mercury. It further provided country case study examples towards successfully phasing out mercury added products.  In a key development, during this meeting, representatives of the Chinese manufacturing sector presented their plans for shifting to mercury-free products in the health care sector.

The active and enthusiastic participation of representatives of the African Region in these workshops demonstrated that the region has clearly committed to reducing mercury as a priority issue, with a focus on reducing mercury use in products and ASGM, its two largest uses. That enthusiasm is consistent with their efforts taken during the treaty negotiations, when the African Region took the lead in offering the strongest text to phase out mercury-added products, including dental amalgam, and raising concerns about exposure risks from ASGM.  It is notable that, of the 55 countries having ratified the Minamata Convention to date, Africa is ahead of every other continent with 20 country ratifications including Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Chad, Djibouti, Gabon, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Lesotho, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Swaziland, Togo and Zambia. Thus, Africa continues to demonstrate its leadership in addressing the global mercury crisis.

This series of workshops was the culmination of a 3 year (July 2014-December 2017) Zero Mercury Working Group project, funded by the European Commission via the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) under the programme on Capacity Building Related to Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs) in Africa, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries, phase 2 (ACP/MEAs2). Complementary funds were provided by UN Environment Global Mercury Partnership and the US EPA.