2007 UNEP Governing Council Decision


Anti-mercury advocates conditionally welcomed the decision of the 24th United Nations Environment Programme Governing Council meeting on 5-9 February as a small step forward, but overall viewed it as a missed opportunity. Noting that the U.S. blocked consensus, MPP Director Michael Bender said, “Most governments now recognize the need for global mercury regulations. Therefore, if the U.S. can’t lead, they should follow, or at least get out of the way.” (see press release)

Once again, a few countries led by US and India delayed real progress, whereas the EU, the African Region, Japan, Brazil, the Philippines, Norway and Switzerland were ready to make a political decision on a legally binding instrument as the way forward,” said Elena Lymberidi from the European Environmental Bureau. “Instead, we have a process to consider options during the next Governing Council in 2009. We must finally move beyond promising words into real action.”

There were some small positive developments that were adopted:

  • Priorities were identified to reduce risks from emissions, demand, and supply of mercury, as well as from contaminated sites.
  • There was a call to fill data gaps on supply and demand
  • An air emissions report will be developed
  • An ad hoc open ended working group will be formed to further discuss priorities and options and report back to the 25th Governing Council.

These are baby steps, while giant steps are needed!” said Zuleica Nycz , ACPO, Brazil, “Not having a legally binding instrument means that developing countries will not have the necessary incentive to develop national programmes or policies to protect their people from toxic mercury.”

For a report from the Nairobi meeting, see: GC-24/GMEF HIGHLIGHTS (Earth Negotiations Bulletin).

UNEP now has an outline for moving forward on this over the next 2 years.

Zero Mercury Working Group Calls For Binding International Treaty

The Zero Mercury Working Group is calling on the world’s governments to adopt a binding international treaty at the UNEP Governing Council meeting in Nairobi, 5-9 February for many of the same reasons recently presented by the Nordic Ministers. Following up on that, a proposed draft decision on a global framework for international action on mercury, lead and cadmium was recently submitted by Gambia, Iceland, Norway, Senegal and Switzerland to the twenty-fourth session of the Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment Forum. Unfortunately, the U.S. Government does not appear particularly receptive to such an approach even though an association of state governments has been calling for a stronger stance. While the European Commission has proposed a ban on the export of mercury to address the Global Toxic Trade in mercury that threatens artisanal & small scale miners globally, some maintain that restricting exports will result in more primary mercury mining, but research conducted for the European Commission indicates that this is highly unlikely.