03 Nov 2020
Venue: Online | Webex
Organization: Minamata Convention on Mercury
This special online briefing on the fourth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Minamata Convention on Mercury (COP-4) was organized within the framework of the Geneva Environment Network and the Minamata Online series. The briefing included a panel discussion to mark the third anniversary of the Convention and information about COP-4 set for November 2021.
365 Days to Go
The Minamata Convention is the newest treaty among the global multilateral environmental agreements. It entered into force on 16 August 2017, and has to date, 124 parties.
COP-4, scheduled to take place from 1 to 5 November 2021, in Bali, Indonesia, will be another milestone for the Convention to continue its efforts to address the global issues of mercury and promote the implementation of the Convention.
Rosa Vivien RATNAWATI
Director General for Solid Waste, Hazardous Waste and Hazardous Substances Management, Ministry of Environment and Forestry of Indonesia, COP-4 President
H.E. Franz PERREZ
Ambassador for the Environment, Switzerland
H.E. Amb. Miriam SHEARMAN
Deputy Permanent Representative, Permanent Mission of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to the United Nations in Geneva
Monika GAIL MACDEVETTE
Head, Chemicals and Health Branch, UNEP
Executive Secretary, Minamata Convention Secretariat
Claudia TEN HAVE
Senior Policy Coordination Officer, Minamata Convention Secretariat
Senior Programme Management Officer, Minamata Convention Secretariat
The event was live on our website and Facebook.
Welcome and introduction
The Minamata Convention is quite a commitment for governments. The Convention provisions are concrete, cover the entire lifecycle of mercury, and include specific timelines. They have been designed to create a real change on the ground. When implemented, they will lead to measurable effects. For example, 2020 is the first substantial deadline to be met by Parties. By this year, Parties shall take measures to not allow the manufacture, import or export of mercury-added products such as certain types of batteries, lamps, cosmetics, thermometers and pesticides.
Mercury as a pollutant is not an isolated health, human well-being, economic and environmental problem. It is interlinked with a range of other chemicals, with biodiversity, climate change, trade and so on.
Countries are implementing the Convention, taking into account other requirements and policies for combined effects. International organizations, international funds, as well as stakeholders support national efforts.
Rosa Vivien RATNAWATI
The Minamata Convention entered into force three years ago, on 16 August 2017. We have today 124 Parties and hope to see more countries joining. This is the best moment to reaffirm our commitment to protecting human beings and the environment from anthropogenic emissions and releases of mercury and mercury compounds. It will be an opportunity for Parties to reduce and, where feasible, eliminate the use of mercury. Lastly, on behalf of the Indonesian government, Indonesia is ready to host the fourth Conference of the Parties to the Minamata Convention in 2021, to make mercury history, for the sustainability of life on Earth in the present and the future.
Panel discussion to mark the third anniversary of the Minamata Convention on Mercury
Rosa Vivien RATNAWATI
In 2017, we agreed that Mercury is a global concern, and that we will work collectively to protect the human health and the environment from the negative effects of mercury. The challenges that we have right now have doubled with the current pandemic, particularly in fields such as enforcement and monitoring. We need to come out with out-of-the-box strategies on how to carry out our commitments to the Convention.
One of the main challenges is setting up arrangements for the evaluation of the Convention: we need to agree on the modalities and arrangements, and the evaluation needs to be based on the data that Parties should provide. We have over 79% submission rate on the first biennial national reports of Parties, which shows our strong support to the Convention. The parties that have not yet submitted their reports are encouraged to do so. The Indonesia presidency of COP-4 will primarily focus on resolving those details, for which coordination and communication will become key elements.
The COP-4 venue will be in Bali, in Nusa Dua Convention Center, a complex with a capacity of over 3,000 participants, where international conferences are usually held. We look forward to welcome you in beautiful Bali.
H.E. Amb. Franz PERREZ
This is a good moment to look at the impactfulness of the Conventions in general and the Minamata Convention in particular. Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs) have an impact.
The Minamata Convention is beginning to phase-out mining and, now in 2020, mercury containing products and processes using mercury. Policies to address Artisanal and Small-scale Gold Mining (ASGM) are being developed and trade is being restricted. MEAs like Minamata make a difference: they are beneficial for the environment, for the health, for many people, and they contribute to stable economies. Gaps still exist with regard to regulation and efficient implementation, so effectiveness evaluations are going to be critical. In a nutshell, the international community was successful in developing through MEAs concrete and specific solutions to urgent problems. Now, cooperation is crucial.
We have developed strategies in many specific areas, we have developed mechanisms to look at specific aspects, but we are not always linking that expertise and these mechanisms sufficiently to address the broader picture. Therefore, cooperation and synergies are crucial as they amplify the impact of each MEAs. The example of the Basel, Rotterdam, Stockholm conventions shows this clearly, by working together, by integrating certain functions, while maintaining the legal status and the expertise and the focus of each convention. Together through cooperation, also involving the Minamata Convention, the four conventions are more than four, they start to form a comprehensive and strong approach to the challenges posed by chemicals and waste. Switzerland is therefore very proud to host the chemicals and waste cluster in Geneva. The post-2020 frameworks for chemicals and waste developed now and to be hopefully adopted next year in Bonn and Kunming respectively, will hopefully provide robust frameworks to together deliver even more than what they will be able to deliver if they were working in isolation.
Another example where chemicals and waste can benefit from other processes is to look closer at the science policy interactions in the area of chemicals. There are rich experiences with regard to climate change with the IPCC and in regard to biodiversity from IPBES. The chemicals and waste cluster, including the Minamata Convention, could benefit by looking at these examples in order to strengthen the science policy in the chemicals and waste area.
In short, MEAs have an impact, the Minamata Convention has an impact. Through cooperation in the chemicals and waste cluster and through stimulation and learning from other policies, this impact will be even become bigger.
H.E. Amb. Miriam SHEARMAN
Mercury is listed as one of the World Health Organization (WHO) ten chemicals of major public health concern, with the global trade in and use of mercury disproportionally affects developing countries. The UK is part of the Convention to help control the impact of mercury, restrict new uses of mercury, address mercury uses in artisanal and small scale gold mining, and limit the distribution of new products containing mercury. Ratifying the Minamata Convention allows the UK to work with other countries towards a global solution that address all stages of the mercury lifecycle, in order to be the first generation to leave the environment in a better state.
The UK and its partner Italy are honored to be the current COP26 presidency to help us work towards these environmental goals. COP26 will take place this time next year in Glasgow, in November 2021 where nature-based solutions will be a key pillar to cost-effectively deliver up to a third of global climate mitigation required by 2030.
Chemicals and climate change are linked and consequently policy action in one area has a potential to deliver co-benefits in the other to improve the environment within a generation. That is why it is important that the two COPs take place at the same time, to demonstrate to the world the very close linkage between the Minamata Convention and COP26 and the fact that both are attempting to deliver the same outcome, which is making the planet a better place for us all to live. To help address this, the UK government is committed in its domestic 25 years environment plan, to reduce remaining land-based emissions of mercury by 50% by 2030. The UK is developing indicators for tacking emissions of mercury to air, land and water, as well as new indicators to track changes in the exposure of wildlife to harmful chemicals, considering risk where possible.
The UK is proud of being a party to the Minamata Convention, which ensures that all countries work together towards a reduction of mercury in our environment, and of working for a cleaner, better and less polluted planet through its presidency of COP26. To keep up the momentum, the Prime Minister of UK has announced that they will host a virtual Climate Ambition Summit on 12 December 2020, which is a platform for leaders to come forward with announcements under the three pillars of the Paris Agreement: mitigation, adaptation, and support.
Monika GAIL MACDEVETTE
UNEP Medium Term Strategy (MTS) sets a vision for UNEP to meet current and future expectations while continuing to deliver on the promises made to member states in 2012 at the Rio+20 Conference. The Strategy, for the period 2022-2025, will ensure that science remains at the center of all decisions, and that the global environmental governance continues to inform legal frameworks and policy making under the directions set out by multilateral environmental agreements and the 2030 Agenda. UNEP’s Medium-Term Strategy recognizes the essential partnership among MEAs and in particular, those with mandates on chemicals and waste. The MTS articulates the strong role for UNEP in multilateralism and global leadership, building on existing expertise and partnerships, to help build back better, and “make mercury history”. Some of the ways for this to happen is working through UN reform and with partners:
- UNEP Implementation Plan “Towards a Pollution-Free Planet” with its coordination and convening power on environmental and pollution matters;
- Multilateral and regional environmental agreements on chemicals and waste provide a framework for international environmental governance and time-bound actions;
- Accelerate policy shifts towards the sound management of chemicals and waste.
Over the years, UNEP has played a very critical role in the provision of scientific knowledge both in the negotiations and the effective implementation of MEAs.
UNEP Global Mercury Partnership, initiated in 2005 by a decision of the UNEP governing council, has been instrumental to build momentum on a global legally binding instrument on mercury and to provide knowledge and science on mercury. This partnership consists today of over 200 partners form Governments, IGOs, NGOs, industry, academia, and works in close cooperation with Minamata Secretariat on COP4 intersessional work, in particular on customs codes and ASGM NAP guidance in relation to tailings. In addition, UNEP houses scientific technical expertise on mercury, including assistance and provision of technical inputs to 67 countries supported in their Minamata Initial Assessments, 30 countries developing ASGM in their national action plans, and 9 countries in the planetGOLD program on ASGM.
The total GEF investment in ASGM alone under the GEF 6 cycle amounted to 45.2 million dollars and 43.8 million dollars under the GEF 7 cycle. Total co-financing from refining and other sectors in these projects amounted to 338 million dollars.
UNEP is also developing a number of projects on mercury-added products, coal-fired power plants, chlor-alkali, mercury mining and trade.
In conclusion, UNEP presents a very powerful platform for concerted efforts among the chemicals related multilateral environmental agreements and the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) to foster our efforts in a mutually reinforcing manner to deliver on our mandates toward common goals on the environment. As always, UNEP stands ready to make COP-4 a resounding success.
Briefing on Minamata Convention COP-4
Claudia TEN HAVE
Claudia updated on important dates in the lead up to the Minamata COP-4 in November 2021, including:
- May: invitations to COP-4 will be sent out
- June: on-line pre-registration system opens
- 15 June: deadline for offers to host COP-5 to reach the Secretariat
- 3 August: deadline of deposit of instruments of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession to be a Party at COP-4
- September: COP-4 meeting documents will be posted online, Minamata regional preparatory meetings (joint efforts with BRS secretariat), and deadline for application for side events and exhibitions
- 1-5 November: COP-4 in Bali, Indonesia
The Parties of the Convention made great progress on effectiveness evaluation but did not conclude at COP-3. Until COP-4 work is to be done on the proposed indicators for evaluating the effectiveness of the Convention, on developing monitoring guidance to maintain comparable information on mercury levels in the environment, and on other reports to inform the effectiveness evaluation.
Given Covid-19, and in an effort to be of service and support to Parties and stakeholders in the absence of in-person meetings and workshops, the Minamata Secretariat developed a comprehensive digital information support and exchange programme, called Minamata Online, focusing on three streams: implementation review and support, mercury science, and COP-4 preparation. Details of all sessions, including recordings and presentation of past sessions are available on the Minamata website.
Luckily the Minamata Convention had few physical meetings planned in 2020. Expert groups and other interaction were switched to digital mode. Some in-person meetings are still currently planned for 2021, and their exact nature will be decided closer to the time depending on COVID-19 developments. One such meeting is that of the Implementation and Compliance Committee which is set to meet next year to consider the national reports submitted in December 2019. The Secretariat is very pleased to recognize a high reporting rate for the national reports (78% of Parties have submitted reports). The Secretariat is also pleased to report a high rate of notification for National Focal Points (80%), all contact details are available online.
An important upcoming meeting is that of the Governing Board of the Specific International Programme. The Board will meet virtually at the end of November to review the implementation of the 15 projects and to consider the launch of the Third Round of applications.
Eisaku updated on intersessional technical work in progress for COP-4, including:
- Ad hoc expert group on the review of Annexes A and B to collect information and develop a draft report by January 2021 for comments and a final report by April 2021.
- Group of technical experts on mercury releases to develop a list of relevant point sources of mercury releases to water and land.
- Group of technical experts on mercury waste thresholds to develop thresholds for waste contaminated with mercury and mining waste.
Charitra Sah, Center for Public Health and Environmental Development (CEPHED), Nepal: Is there any specific scope for the country with high risk of Climate Change to address the nexus between Climate Change and Mercury?
Answer by Monika STANKIEWICZ: Within the Minamata Convention, emissions from coal fire power plants and industrial boiler is a major source of mercury and there is a scope for synergies when addressing CO2 emissions and mercury emissions at national levels. We have observed recent development where many countries are indeed really looking into these two pollutants at the same time. The issue of emissions under the Minamata Convention was covered in the Minamata Online session on emissions on 22 October.
Jorge Torres, Université de Montréal, Canada: Gold mining is using Mercury, this activity increase in countries all over the world, how Minamata convention can stop governments and companies to stop this practice that affect environment and human health?
Answer by Claudia TEN HAVE: On ASGM in times of economic uncertainty, there is anecdotal evidence of an increase in persons entering more informal ways of earning a living. This is a sustainable development challenge, how to help the sector and the people earning a livelihood in it, in a way that it sustainable and does not harm the environment. Addressing this complex challenge is only possible with the partners that help to minimize mercury use and to use it more efficiently. There are many steps on this journey, it is not something that can be done overnight but we have seen very innovative projects in all continents to assist ASGM communities. Work has been ongoing to go all the way up in the value chain of gold, so it is not only a matter of intervening at the level of small scale gold mining but also all the way up in the value stream to the consumer knowledge.
Georg Karlaganis, UNITAR: Thank you for this very informative session. I would like to ask you the following question: Could you imagine to extend the scope of the Minamata Convention to cover more heavy metals such as lead and cadmium?
Answer by Monika GAIL MACDEVETTE: UNEP’s role is really strong on highlighting the science and the evidence behind issues of concern. UNEP can’t take a position on whether or not to expend the scope of any particular Convention, that is very much in the member states hands in terms of what they want to see and UNEP stands ready to support anything that member states ask it to do. UNEP role is to highlight this kind of issues through scientific evidence on issues of concern.
Answer by H.E. Franz PERREZ: Switzerland has always been a very strong supporter of science-based policy. Challenges that are host by the three substances are similar to those addressed by the existing four conventions, Basel, Rotterdam Stockholm and Minamata, it’s linked to trade, it’s linked to products and to processes and to waste. We already have the tools that will be probably needed to address the challenges posed by lead, cadmium and arsenic. This is also the reason why Switzerland and many other countries were suggesting when discussing the mandate for the Convention on mercury, that this Convention, could have an open door so that the Convention at the latter stage could open that door to address also these substances. This proposal was then not supported, there was no consensus on that. One approach will be the decision of the states and the members of UNEP for the preferences to work with existing instruments and to build-in knowledge for that substances to be added. Another approach will be to develop a new instrument using the similar tools as already developed by the existing Conventions but then making sure that there is a close cooperation between this framework and existing frameworks. There are benefits from both approaches but also challenges. It will be important that states make rationalization from the perspective for this more effective binding international cooperation.
Intervention by Rolph PAYET: The Minamata Secretariat and the BRS Secretariat are working on operationalizing the requests they received at the last COP to enhance the cooperation between the two secretariats. This is going very well. On the issue of sharing relevant secretariat services the BRS Secretariat will be very happy to provide services to the Minamata Secretariat, ahead of the organizing of the COP-4 in Indonesia. Recently, the two Secretariats have also joint forces to highlight the contributions of the four conventions to global environmental issues beyond the pollution agenda, that is mainly the fight against biodiversity loss and climate change.
Ram Charitra Sah, Center for Public Health and Environmental Development (CEPHED), Nepal: I think Gold Metal Plating like Nepal has been definitely happening in Indonesia. As metal plating has been found one of the top most source of mercury release to the environment (air, water) in Nepal. How we can include this process into the Convention? Is gold metal plating happening in Indonesia using mercury ?
Answer by Eisaku TODA: We look forward to looking at the Minamata Initial Assessment that may include information on these resources particularly in regard to metal plating. We are working with the ad hoc expert group on the review of annexes A and B and some stakeholders submitted information on metal plating as part of the review of annexes B.
Terrence Thompson, World Health Organization: Developing countries, especially LDC’s, may face difficulties to comply with the Convention’s requirements for final disposal of mercury waste. Is financial assistance available from any source to assist developing countries in this regard?
Answer by Monika GAIL MACDEVETTE: Under the GEF instrument a lot of the work that UNEP has been doing has been to help countries to phase out the use of mercury in their productions and there are toolkits and finances available to develop national action plans.
Answer by Monika STANKIEWICZ: Within the Minamata Convention financial mechanisms there are two possibilities for funding through the GEF which provides a substantial funding to Parties to the Convention and through the Specific International Program which will be opening soon the third call for project proposals. Overall, final disposal of mercury is to be done according to the set Basel guidelines.
Conclusion | Monika STANKIEWICZ
The Minamata Convention will be holding another event on the COP-4 next year, organized by the Permanent Mission of Indonesia in Geneva with the Secretariat of the Minamata Convention. The Secretariat will also organize further Minamata Online sessions in 2021. Relevant information will be uploaded on the Convention’s website.
About Minamata Online
This weekly digital series, aimed at building better understanding of the Convention’s provisions, as well as policy and scientific aspects, will be held weekly until December. Attendance is free for each session and registrations for the November events are open. More information about Minamata Online, the season’s calendar and registration details can be found here.
- Minamata Convention
- Fourth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Minamata Convention on Mercury (COP4)
- Minamata Online | Mercury emissions: estimation and projection (5 November)
- Minamata Online | Effectiveness evaluation indicators (10 September)
- UNEP Global mercury assessment
- UNEP Mercury Inventory Toolkit
- UNEP Global Mercury Partnership
- planetGOLD programme