Today, at the UNEP North American Civil Society meeting in Washington, DC, MPP, on behalf of the Zero Mercury Working Group, is advocating that the UNEP Governing Council consider and conclude that a free-standing legally binding instrument (LBI) is needed to address the global mercury challenges at its upcoming meeting in Nairobi in February. We strongly believe that the elements of a global mercury framework related to supply (including storage and trade), emission reductions (through the use of best available technology, BAT, or otherwise), and product/process phase-outs in particular will require a legal instrument to be effective for a number of reasons including the following:
- It is the only way to control supply and eliminate global mercury trade while minimizing possibility of conflicts with international trade law
- It will ensure the required substantial global coordination and a level playing field in effectively phasing out the use of mercury in products and processes, and otherwise reducing mercury emissions from industrial sources.
- The legal instrument is the most direct and effective vehicle for prohibiting new undesired activities
- It can elevate the importance of mercury as a priority issue in countries and regions, and facilitate implementation of relevant national legislation.
According to the ZMWG, the provisions of this LBI should include:
- A broad scope that includes those human activities which contribute to the global mercury pollution problem, and addresses the entire lifecycle of mercury.
- Tailored mercury control measures to particular sectors and sources of concern.
- Measures which incorporate the Precautionary Principle, the Polluter Pays Principle, and other relevant Rio Principles.
- Recognition of the role and importance of public interest, health and environmental stakeholders. Mercury has been on the agenda of UNEP GC since 2001. Some progress has taken place since then, both at the political level and on the ground with several projects addressing the mercury crisis. However, it is now high time that a global framework is adopted to coordinate actions to reduce mercury supply, use and emissions of mercury from all global sources of concern. At the latest meeting of the Ad Hoc Open Ended Working Group on Mercury in Nairobi (October 2008), a comprehensive set of elements to be part of a global framework was agreed to by a broad consensus, and this was an important step forward. In addition, an overwhelming majority of countries supported a free-standing legally binding instrument on mercury.