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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

Home Press Releases Breakthrough reached on 'Phasing Down' dental mercury use, at W.H.O. meeting
Breakthrough reached on 'Phasing Down' dental mercury use, at W.H.O. meeting PDF Print
Wednesday, 18 November 2009 01:00
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[Geneva, Switzerland, 18th November, 2009] Hailed as “a breakthrough” by Green Groups, an agreement in concept was reached yesterday by a World Health Organization (W.H.O)-convened international expert group, supporting the “phase down” of dental mercury use worldwide [1]. However, the groups note that there is still much work to be done on deciding how and when a global amalgam phase down will occur.

“As a first step, I’m pleased to positively support a global ‘phase down’ on dental mercury use to reduce environmental releases,” said Michael Bender, meeting participant representing the Zero Mercury Working Group and director of the U.S.-based Mercury Policy Project. “We also recognised that fostering the increased use of mercury-free alternatives must tie in with W.H. O. ’s commendable goal of bringing affordable dental healthcare to the global population.”

W.H.O. recognises that world governments reached a consensus on the need for a legally binding treaty to reduce global mercury exposure [2]. They said that the “Meeting on the Future Use of Materials for Dental Restoration WHO/HQ” in Geneva was intended “to provide global guidelines and strategies for future biomaterials use,” and address the different challenges for richer and poorer countries [3].

“It was evident from the presentations at the meeting that mercury-free dental fillings are already widely used in some developing countries, so reality may be overtaking policy decisions,” said Elena Lymberidi-Settimo, observer at the meeting and coordinator of the European Environmental Bureau’s Zero Mercury Campaign. “Medical insurance covering alternative materials could be crucial for a swifter transition allowing tooth-coloured fillings to become the rule and not the exception to dental treatment”.

Last week, a letter signed by over 70 non-governmental organisations from around the world called on the W.H.O to establish a schedule to phase out the use of dental mercury fillings as soon as possible [4].

A 2005 W.H.O. Policy Paper on “Mercury in Health Care” states that: “Mercury is highly toxic, especially when metabolized into methyl mercury... Recent studies suggest that mercury may have no threshold below which some adverse effects do not occur.”

For further information please contact:

Michael Bender, Director, Mercury Policy Project, Co-founder of Zero Mercury Working Group: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ,
Mob: +1 802.917.4579,
T: +1 802 223 9000, www.mercurypolicy.org

Elena Lymberidi-Settimo, EEB Zero Mercury Project Coordinator, Co-founder of Zero Mercury Working Group, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ;
T: +32 (0)2 289 1301,
Mob: +32 496 532818, www.zeromercury.org

Editors Notes:

About mercury: Mercury is persistent and can be transformed in the environment into methylmercury, its most toxic form, which readily passes through both the placenta and blood-brain barriers. It accumulates in the bodies of humans and wildlife and can become more concentrated as it moves up the food chain, and poses a particular risk to pregnant women and young children who eat contaminated fish.

Previous relevant PR: Time to pull mercury out of fillings, say Health and Green groups to W.H.O. (also in FR, DE, ES), 16 November 2009

[1] The W.H.O. provisional meeting agenda: http://www.zeromercury.org/UNEPdevelopments/Agenda-22oct09.pdf

Besides W.H.O. and UNEP officials, those attending the meeting were from: FDI World Dental Federation; the American and Canadian Dental Associations, the Nordic Institute of Dental Materials, the Centre for Side-effects of Dental Materials in Norway, the Ministry of Social Protection from Colombia and expert scientists from University Dental Schools’ from the US, China, Kuwait, Sweden, Ireland, S. Africa, Japan, Thailand, UK, as well as environmental NGOs - European Environmental Bureau and the Mercury Policy Project founding members of the Zero Mercury Working Group. Presentations covered and reported on situation concerning dental treatment in almost all of the world regions.

[2] U.N. Environment Council Decision 25 on mercury (starting on p.20): http://www.chem.unep.ch/MERCURY/GC25/GC25ReportEnglish255.pdf

[3] The WHO’s 22nd October 2009 correspondence recognised that world governments reached a consensus in February 2009 on the need for a global legally binding treaty to significantly reduce global mercury exposure:


“...awareness of the environmental implications of mercury has increased markedly over recent years, and mercury is a matter of concern to several countries and international organizations.... Furthermore, the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) has launched an initiative on avoiding the contamination of the environment from mercury which has implications to the use of dental amalgam in countries... The advantages and disadvantages of these alternatives need to be analyzed in order for WHO to update the knowledge base and give advice to countries in this matter. The intention of the meeting is to provide global guidelines and strategies for the future use of biomaterials and the challenges are different for high-, middle-, and low-income countries.”



[4] NGO 13 November letter to W.H.O.: http://mercurypolicy.org/wp­content/uploads/2009/11/091113 ngos sign on letter to who dental.pdf

[5] 2005 WHO paper: http://www.who. int/water_san itation_health/med icalwaste/mercurypolpaper. pdf