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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 EU set to lock down mercury (PR)
EU set to lock down mercury (PR) PDF Print
Wednesday, 21 May 2008 01:00
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(Brussels/Strasbourg, 21 May 2008) - Environmental and health NGOsi were very pleased that decision makers have found an agreement to implement an EU-wide ban on exports of mercury and to safely store the surplus.

In a 2nd reading plenary vote, the European Parliament approved the compromise amendments previously agreed with the Council. “Reason reigned at the end, narrowly overturning the threat of a deal-breaker, said Elena Lymberidi-Settimo, EEB’s Project Coordinator of the Zero Mercury Campaign. Although we would have liked to see a more robust regulation, this agreement between the two institutions is a very good step towards locking down mercury in the EU.”

Already supported by the Parliament, the compounds now included in the export ban are cinnabar ore, calomel and mercury oxide, with some medical and research exceptions. Export of mixtures of mercury with other substances having a mercury concentration of at least 95% has also been banned.

The NGOs are pleased that after all their efforts, the ban now includes those compounds which would otherwise pose a serious loophole in the regulation. Closing this loophole means that another 50-1 00 tonnes of mercury per year1, which could have been recovered from calomel will not be exported from the EU onto the world market.

Storage of metallic mercury which is considered waste will now take place either temporarily or permanently in underground salt mines and hard deep bedrock. In addition, temporary storage is still possible above-ground. Although the door to permanent underground disposal of liquid mercury is open, any technological advances in transforming liquid mercury into a solid compound must now be considered before mercury can be accepted for disposal into adapted underground facilities. The NGOs hope that, provided that an environmentally safe solidification process is available soon, it will become mandatory requirement before such a highly toxic substance is disposed of out of sight, ensuring a long term safety for people and the environment. .

Several features of the new ban did not come into the compromise agreement, including extending the scope to mercury-containing products which are banned from sale in the EU and an import ban. These features are to be reviewed in the coming years, and the European Commission will present a proposal for a revision of the regulation by March 2013.

“We do regret that mercury-containing products which are forbidden in Europe were not included in the export ban, because we believe it constitutes a double standard that hurts public health,” said Lisette van Vliet of Health Care Without Harm Europe “However, we hope that the momentum started by the ban will tackle more uses as countries increasingly recognise the need to stop using this toxic liquid”.

Parliament and Council met half way on the implementation date of the export ban, now by 15 March 2011.

“Better sooner than later,” said Zuleica Nycz, Association for the combat against POPs (ACPO), Brazil. “ The EU has finally closed the door on easily available mercury reaching developing countries, like Brazil, where it has been carelessly used in artisanal and small scale gold mining, almost all of it ending up in the environment contaminating fish and people. It is now time that other countries follow this example, to better protect our global health and environment, and move towards a global legally binding instrument on mercury.”

NGOs call on the Environment Council to endorse the Parliament text as agreed, and on the European Commission to proceed swiftly with official publication and implementation arrangements.

1 Mercury flows and safe storage of surplus mercury, August 2006, Concorde East/West for EC DG ENV, p.8


Editor’s notes:-

See full position paper as sent to the Environment committee of the European Parliament, 17 March 2008,

http://www.eeb.org/publication/documents/080317NGOsLettertoENVI-2ndRead-Hg-export-ban.pdf

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. For more information, see Zero Mercury Campaign, www.zeromercury.org and “Stay Healthy, Stop Mercury” http://www.env-health.org/r/145

For further information:-

Elena      Lymberidi-Settimo,     EEB Zero         Mercury      Project     Coordinator,    This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ,

T: +32 2 289 13 01 GSM: +32 496 532818

Lisette van Vliet, Health Care Without Harm Europe, Toxic Policy Adviser, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it '; document.write( '' ); document.write( addy_text98540 ); document.write( '<\/a>' ); //--> This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , T: +32 2 234 3645; GSM: +32 484 614 528

Vanessa Bulkacz, EEB Press & Publications Officer: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ; Tel: +32 (0)2 289 1309

i Environmental NGOS include

The European Environmental Bureau, (EEB), www.eeb.org, is a federation of more then 140 environmental citizens’ organisations based in EU Member States and most Accession Countries, as well as in a few neighbouring countries. The aim of the EEB is to protect and improve the environment of Europe and to enable the citizens of Europe to play their part in achieving that goal.

The Zero Mercury Working group, www.zeromercury.org, is an international coalition of more than 40 public interest non-governmental organizations from around the world formed in 2005 by the EEB and the Mercury Policy Project/Ban Mercury Working Group. The aim of the group is to reach “‘Zero’ emissions, demand and supply of mercury, from all sources we can control, towards eliminating mercury in the environment at EU level and globally.”

Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL), http://www.env-health.org is an international non-governmental organisation advocating environmental protection as a means to improving health and well-being. Member groups and organisations represent health, environment, women, health professionals and others. The group has a diverse membership of 41 member groups (6 international organisations, 11 European networks and 24 national/local organizations) including non-governmental organisations, professional bodies representative of doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers, academic institutions and other not-for-profit organisations.

Health Care Without Harm Europe (HCWH), www.noharm.org, is an international coalition of hospitals and health care systems, medical and nursing professionals, community groups, health-affected constituencies, labour unions, environmental and religious organisations. HCWH is dedicated to transforming the health care industry worldwide, without compromising patient safety or care, so that it is ecologically sustainable and no longer a source of harm to public health and the environment.