Our work at UNEP level Print
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Friday, 03 September 2010 17:14

Mercury has been on the UNEP GC’s agenda since 2001. The Global Mercury Assessment of December 2002 accepted that mercury is present throughout the world environment, is persistent and is constantly being recycled. It showed that mercury exposure causes major harm to human health, and is highly toxic especially to developing nervous and cardiovascular systems.  In the form of methylmercury it readily crosses the placental and blood-brain barrier making foetuses, children and women of child-bearing age more susceptible to mercury exposure. The assessment underlined the need for global solutions since with long-distance transport, even countries which release little or no mercury and other areas far away from industrial activity, may be contaminated. For example, the Arctic has high mercury levels, although it is far from major release sites.

After eight years of studies and deliberations, at the 25th session of the UNEP Governing Council (February 2009), the world governments finally decided to start a process towards the adoption of a legally binding instrument on mercury.  An Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) had to be formed, under UNEP, to start formal deliberations in June 2010, leading to a legally binding treaty on mercury on or before February 2013. The treaty will include actions to reduce mercury supply, its use in products and processes, and atmospheric mercury emissions, which will ultimately reduce human exposure to mercury globally.

 See International reactions on mercury decision  - http://www.unep.org/newscentre/videos/Interviews/2009-4-8_Mercury_Video.flv 

Concurrently with developing a mercury treaty, governments agreed that there is a need to continue and enhance, as part of the international action on mercury, the existing work, in the following areas:

(a) Enhancing capacity for mercury storage;

(b) Reducing the supply of mercury from, for example, primary mercury mining;

(c) Conducting awareness-raising and pilot projects in key countries to reduce mercury use in artisanal and small-scale gold mining;

(d) Reducing mercury use in products and processes and raising awareness of mercury-free alternatives;

(e) Providing information on best available techniques and best environmental practices and on the conversion of mercury-based processes to non-mercury based processes;

(f) Enhancing development of national inventories on mercury;

(g) Raising public awareness and supporting risk communication;

(h) Providing information on the sound management of mercury;


This parallel decision continues earlier on the ground work at UNEP level that started in 2005, namely –the UNEP Mercury Partnerships.


The Zero Mercury Working Group has been following developments at both the Treaty and Partnership levels since the very beginning.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 14 March 2012 18:28