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.