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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

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Projects supported by EEB/ZMWG  

The Zero Mercury Working Group and the EEB through the Zero Mercury Campaign have been supporting financially (and technically) NGOs from developed and developing countries for national activities as well as participation at international level, to assist in the global campaign. The projects carried out have been designed in view of contributing to the ZMWG global objectives and strategy towards a robust mercury treaty.

Since the campaign started in November 2004 - five  NGOs from developing countries have been supported every year to carry out national activities, and many others have been supported to participate in European and global-UNEP meetings. The following NGOs/countries have been given small grants to develop projects in their countries in relation to mercury. Toxics Link, India, Associação de Combate aos POPs- ACPO, Brazil, Global Village of Beijing, China, and groundWork, South Africa have been supported since 2005. In 2009 one more NGO was given support - Ban Toxics! from Philippines. They have all been working on their proposed and approved projects in view of building capacity in their countries concerning mercury. In 2010 EcoAccord from the Russian Federation, Agenda from Tanzania, IndyACT from Lebanon and Citizens Against Chemical Pollution (CACP) from Japan, have been added in the supported NGOs. In Brazil, Apromac and Toxisphera have also been supported. iLima,Kenya was granted a project in 2011.

In Europe, during the period 2006-2010, five NGOS have been supported respectively from Spain (Ecologistas en Accion), Italy (Legambiente), Czech Republic (Arnika), Germany (DNR)  and France (FNE) -  mainly focusing on mercury use in the chlor-alkali sector. See more details under the Project's page and/or under the respective country's page.

See highlights/deliverables from these international  and European projects

For more information please visit the country pages:

Armenia

Brazil

China

India

South Africa

Philipinnes

Russia

Tanzania

Japan

Lebanon

Kenya

Italy

France

Germany

Spain

Czech Republic