Mercury Treaty Negotiation In Stockholm

Today, a Japanese official proposed that the treaty be signed in Minamata, as their Prime Minister proposed earlier.   Takeshi Yasuma, of Citizens Against Chemicals Pollution,  responded, outlining steps and then concluding that the best way to show respect for Minimata is “…by substantial actions for a strong global treaty that eliminates all human sources of mercury.”

June 10 Update- As the INC proceeds, NGOs provided statements on several more topics, including:  awareness raising; coal fired power plants and mercury supply issues.

June 9 Update- NGOs made a number of interventions, including ZMWG opening statementZMWG-IPEN statement on the treaty framework and waste issues (in response to a Basel Convention document);  compliance; monitoring; storage; and mercury reduction in products, processes and ASGM.

June 7 Update- As negotiations start, a global NGO coalition today called on governments to curb mercury pollution worldwide.  A ZMWG Exhibition provided information on mercury and our position papers.

June 6 Update- UNEP held a briefing on mercury issues and a WHO-HCWH  report was presented on reducing mercury in health care.  In the afternoon, the ZMWG organised an NGO training on how to use a LUMEX.

June 3 – The first Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) begins negotiating a mercury treaty next week, funded by the Nordic Council and discussed on YouTube.  ZMWG  prepared partial concept treaty text, a treaty frameworkan ASGM thought starter, and observations on UNEP documents.

World Governments Move Towards Global Treaty on Mercury

Today, world governments took the first significant steps towards a Legally Binding Treaty to control mercury pollution at a United Nations Environmental Program meeting in Bangkok, Thailand. Their recommendations (summarized in ZMWG Quick Views) now provide countries with a basis to head into the International Negotiating Committee (INC) meetings starting in Stockholm, June 2010. “We look forward to engaging in focused discussions in areas such as supply, trade and storage of surplus mercury where substantial progress can be made,” said Michael Bender, Director of MPP.  For more information, see ZMWG’s press release and briefing notes by IISD.

UNEP’s Ad Hoc Open-ended Working Group (OEWG)

October 19-23, 2009, Bangkok, Thailand

In preparation of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee’s (INC’s) discussion of a global mercury treaty in 2010, the OEWG is holding information sessions on mercury supply, storage, artisanal and small-scale gold mining, products, and wastes. The OEWG will establish timetables and organization of the INC as well as discuss priorities.  MPP’s director, on behalf of Zero Mercury Working Group, presented Mercury Storage-Supply Partnership and Related Initiatives at the OEWG.

MPP’s Director is Appointed Interim Chair of New Mercury Storage-Supply Partnership

The first meeting of the UNEP Global Mercury Partnership Advisory Group (PAG) was held March 31-April 2nd in Geneva, Switzerland. At this meeting Michael Bender, director of MPP and representing ZMWG, was appointed interim chair of a new proposed Partnership related to surplus mercury and supply issues.  The PAG recognizes that mercury storage is closely linked to supply issues, and is therefore actively seeking a government representative to take the lead for the storage-supply partnership by October 2009.  In the interim, ZMWG will update the PAG business plan, encourage progress on projects, and expand membership, while  working collaboratively with UNEP to identify a government lead or co-lead for the Partnership.  ZMWG’s letter further outlines the next steps forward for the Storage-Supply Partnership, with which UNEP concurs.

Shift in U.S. Policy Opens Door to Global Mercury Agreement

A dramatic reversal of the U.S. position on worldwide mercury pollution cleared the way for the development of a globally binding treaty on mercury through the work of an Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) over the next four years.  (See press release.) At the UNEP Governing Council meeting in Nairobi, the U.S. delegation endorsed negotiations in 2009 for a new global treaty to control mercury contamination. “The Obama administration has clearly shown a new day has dawned for U.S. leadership and engagement with the rest of the world,” said Bender, MPP’s Director and co-coordinator of ZMWG. “And the momentum created by the U.S. galvanized other governments around the world to step up to address the global mercury crisis.”

During the February’s UNEP Governing Council (GC) meeting in Nairobi, Kenya, 120 countries expressed support for a legally binding agreement on mercury. The GC Decision charges UNEP with the responsibility to conduct, concurrent with the work of the INC, an inventory of the levels of existing emissions controls, and an analysis of the potential to achieve further mercury emission reductions.  The ZMWG plans to follow the issue closely and contribute to the INC process.
For additional information, see:  Obama Shifts U.S. Policy to Back Global Mercury Control Treaty

MPP Advocates to UNEP for Free-Standing Legally Binding Instrument

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.

Elements for a UN Global Framework on Mercury

Public interest advocates welcomed the results of a global meeting convened to take decisions on the threats posed by mercury to human health and environment. On 6-10 October 2008, the 2nd UNEP Open Ended Working Group (OEWG2) on Mercury agreed on the elements that would form part of a global framework on mercury, in preparation for the UNEP Governing Council (GC) in February 2009, where it will be decided whether a global legally binding instrument on mercury will be developed.  The UNEP GC had given the mandate to the OEWG to review and assess options for enhanced voluntary measures and new or existing international legal instruments. The OEWG2 completed its work, and will send a report to the GC including:

  • A comprehensive set of elements to be part of a global framework
  • Two options for global frameworks on mercury – a legal and a voluntary one.
  • If a legal framework is agreed, it will be a free-standing instrument rather than being part of an existing framework.

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.

EU Propose Export Ban

As the U.S. considers surplus mercury issues, NGOs welcomed an EU regulation to ban mercury exports and ensure safe storage of surplus mercury so that this dangerous neurotoxin will not re-enter the global market. The proposed EU export ban sends a clear message to world governments and the upcoming UNEP Governing Council meeting in February 2007 that mercury exports should be curtailed globally, say NGOs. Mercury trade to over 50 developing countries, according to EU reports exposes miners to severe health impacts when used in gold mining and also pollutes the global environment, according to the UNIDO Global Mercury Project . “We’ve got to stop the cycle of toxic trade and contamination which ends up polluting our lunch sandwiches and dinners in the US,” said Michael Bender of MPP and Zero Mercury Working Group (see coverage). “The Commission recognized that it is very important that mercury supply and demand are addressed simultaneously.” The U.S. EPA has stated that it will initiate discussions on the surplus mercury issue in its Roadmap on Mercury in 2006. “Ultimately, it will be important to look at ways to permanently “retire” non-federally owned or managed commodity-grade mercury that will eventually have little or even negative economic value,” states the Roadmap. The Department of Defense has decided to permanently store, rather than sell, over 4,000 tons of surplus mercury.