Negotiations have completed on a new comprehensive global treaty on mercury.
The fifth session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee to Prepare a Globally Legally Binding Instrument on Mercury (INC 5) completed its work on 19 January 2013, in Geneva, Switzerland.
19 January 2013: Negotiations have completed on a new comprehensive global treaty on mercury. The fifth session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee to Prepare a Globally Legally Binding Instrument on Mercury (INC 5) completed its work on 19 January 2013, in Geneva, Switzerland.
To be known as the Minamata Convention on Mercury, in honor of a Japanese fishing village where serious health damage (now known as “Minamata disease”) occurred in the 1950s as the result of mercury pollution, this is the first-ever treaty on a heavy metal and its uses. The treaty addresses complex policy and technical issues, including mercury air emissions and releases into water and land, health aspects, artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM), and phase-out and phase-down dates for many products and processes.
The Convention will, inter alia: ban new primary mercury mining and phase out existing mercury mining; place restrictions and a consent/notification system for mercury trade; phase out by 2020 mercury-added products such as certain batteries, switches and relays, lamps, cosmetics, biocides, barometers, manometers and thermometers; require phase-down measures for dental amalgam; phase out chlor-alkali and acetaldehyde production that uses mercury and mercury compounds; require Parties to take steps to reduce, and where feasible eliminate, the use of mercury in ASGM; control emissions of mercury and mercury compounds into the atmosphere from coal-fired power plants, coal-fired industrial boilers, smelting and roasting processes used in the production of non-ferrous metals (lead, zinc, copper and industrial gold), waste-incineration facilities and cement clinker production facilities; require Parties to identify and take measures to control releases from point sources; and set general requirements regarding interim storage, mercury wastes and contaminated sites, with the Convention’s Conference of Parties (COP) tasked with agreeing on an additional Convention annex setting out requirements for the environmentally sound management of mercury wastes.
INC 5 decided to define the Convention’s financial mechanism to include the Global Environment Facility (GEF) as well as a specific international program to support capacity building and technical assistance, which will be operated under the guidance of and be accountable to the COP. The first COP will select an existing entity to serve as the program’s host institution.
The Minamata Convention will be forwarded to the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Governing Council, which will meet from 18-22 February 2013, in Nairobi, Kenya. It will be adopted and opened for signature during a diplomatic conference on 9-11 October 2013, in Kumamoto/Minamata, Japan. [IISD RS Meeting Coverage] [UNEP Press Release] [GEF Press Release]