BREAKING: Minamata Mercury – Finally, a UNEP success story?
January 19, 2013 15 Comments
The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) is the parent of a plethora of panels, platforms and … scary stories.
They haven’t been particularly successful in getting The Future [They] Want via the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and its “primary client” the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
I reported a few days ago on the deliberations that began in Geneva on Jan. 13. This evening, as I was driving home in my trusty ’92 Toyota Tercel (and doing my best to emit some good old CO2), I heard on the CBC news that the nations of the world (well, 140 of them, anyway) have reached an agreement on a ban (of sorts) on the use of mercury.
Because I don’t always trust the CBC as a news source, I did seek confirmation of this news. And here it is … straight from the keyboard of good old Nick Nutall, all-around contact guy at the conclusion of so many of these UNEP confabs. It even includes a quote from the always authoritative Achim Steiner, head honcho of the UNEP:
19/ 01/ 2013
Global Mercury Agreement to Lift Health Threats from Lives of Millions World-Wide
Geneva/Nairobi, 19 January 2013 – International effort to address mercury-a notorious heavy metal with significant health and environmental effects-was today delivered a significant boost with governments agreeing to a global, legally-binding treaty to prevent emissions and releases.
The Minamata Convention on Mercury-named after a city in Japan where serious health damage occurred as a result of mercury pollution in the mid-20th Century-provides controls and reductions across a range of products, processes and industries where mercury is used, released or emitted.
These range from medical equipment such as thermometers and energy-saving light bulbs to the mining, cement and coal-fired power sectors.
The treaty, which has been four years in negotiation and which will be open for signature at a special meeting in Japan in October, also addresses the direct mining of mercury, export and import of the metal and safe storage of waste mercury.
Pinpointing populations at risk, boosting medical care and better training of health care professionals in identifying and treating mercury-related effects will also form part of the new agreement.
Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) which convened the negotiations among over 140 member states in Geneva, said at the close:” After complex and often all night sessions here in Geneva, nations have today laid the foundations for a global response to a pollutant whose notoriety has been recognized for well over a century.”
“Everyone in the world stands to benefit from the decisions taken this week in Geneva- in particular the workers and families of small-scale gold miners, the peoples of the Arctic and this generation of mothers and babies and the generations to come. I look forward to swift ratification of the Minamata Convention so that it comes into force as soon as possible,” he said.
The negotiations were initially looking to set thresholds on the size of plants or level of emissions to be controlled. But it was decided this week to defer this until the first meeting of the treaty after it comes into force.
Notes to Editors
Background to the fifth session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee to prepare a global legally binding instrument on mercury (INC5) http://unep.org/hazardoussubstances/Mercury/Negotiations/INC5/tabid/3471/Default.aspx
Global Mercury Assessment 2013 http://www.unep.org/publications/contents/pub_details_search.asp?ID=6282
Time to Act http://www.unep.org/publications/contents/pub_details_search.asp?ID=6281
For More Information Please Contact Nick Nuttall, UNEP Spokesperson on Tel: +254 733632755 or when travelling +41 79 596 5737 [emphasis added -hro]
In my earlier post, I had noted that:
I’m not sure where in the UNEP pecking-order an “Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee” (INC) might stand vis a vis an IP (as in IPCC, “Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change”) or even a different IP (as in IPBES, “Intergovernmental Science Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services” )
There may (or may not) be some significance in the extent to which the subject matter is incorporated into the official acronym.
I fully recognize that a sample of one success is not exactly anything to write home about; but perhaps the powers that be at the UNEP might ask themselves: “Is it time to dial-down the high profile Intergovernmental Panels and Platforms?”
Why not settle for the (possibly) more productive – and far lower profile – Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee? And for the UNEP’s sake, let’s hope that Minimata does not meet the same ignoble fate as Kyoto.
In the meantime, it will be interesting to see what solutions are proposed to address the problems caused by the “energy saving lightbulbs” they’ve been flogging far and wide for some years, now.