03 Nov 2020
14:00–15:30

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.

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 this date, 124 parties. 

COP-4, scheduled to take place from 1 to 5 November 2021, in Bali, Indonesia, will be the Convention first biennial COP and another milestone to continue its efforts to address the global issues of mercury and promote the implementation of the Convention.

Agenda

  • Welcome and introduction 
  • Panel discussion to mark the third anniversary of the Minamata Convention on Mercury
  • Briefing on Minamata Convention COP-4
  • Closing remarks

Speakers

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

Monika STANKIEWICZ

Executive Secretary, Minamata Convention Secretariat

Claudia TEN HAVE

Senior Policy Coordination Officer, Minamata Convention Secretariat

Eisaku TODA

Senior Programme Management Officer, Minamata Convention Secretariat

Video

The event was live on our website and Facebook.

Summary

Welcome and introduction

Monika STANKIEWICZ

The Minamata Convention on Mercury is the youngest global environment treaty, that turned three years this year, and has now 124 parties. The Convention is quite a commitment for governments. The provisions of the Convention 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. This year the use of mercury in many products such as certain types of batteries, lamps, cosmetics, thermometers and pesticides, is to be phased-down.

The Convention can be seen as a solution to build back better, especially for the most vulnerable communities such as millions working in small-scale artisanal gold mining (ASGM) and still using mercury in their practices, indigenous people and communities relying on marine food, pregnant women and children who are at particular risk to be exposed to toxic mercury.

Mercury circulates globally in the atmosphere and is often deposited to land and water far from where it was emitted. It is a truly global problem that can’t be solved by countries acting alone and this recognition based on scientific evidence is the historical underpinning of the Minamata Convention. Mercury pollutant is not an isolated health, human well-being, economic and environmental problem, but it is interlinked with a range of other chemicals, with biodiversity, with climate change, with trade and so on.

Countries are implementing the Convention, taking into account other requirements and policies for a 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 and hope to see more countries joining. This is the best moment to reaffirming our commitment to protect human being 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 COP of the Minamata Convention in 2021 to make mercury history, for the sustainability of life on Earth in the present and in the future.

Panel discussion to mark the third anniversary of the Minamata Convention on Mercury

Rosa Vivien RATNAWATI

Three years ago 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 and mercury compounds. How far have we achieved in implementing our convention? Our commitments of three years ago should remain strong, even in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, changing the way we operate. The Covid-19 has led to a decrease in mobility which influence the implementation of the Convention, particularly, in the fields such as enforcement and monitoring. The challenges that we have right now have doubled with the current pandemic. 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 that we have is the evaluation of the Convention. We need to conclude on the modalities of the effective evaluation before for during COP-4. A the table we have among others policy questions, proposed indicators and information sources, requiring our active participation. The evaluation will be based on the data that member Parties should provide. We need to agree on the modalities and arrangements. We have over 79% submission rate on the first biennial short reports of the Article 21 reporting. This result shows our strong support to the Convention. The parties that haven’t yet submitted their reports are encouraged to submit. Indonesia presidency of COP-4 will primarily focus on resolving those details and to do so, coordination and communication become key elements to address those details in the current pandemic. The success or failure of the Convention lays in our efforts.  

The preparation of the COP-4 is currently taking place in Indonesia. The 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.   

H.E. Amb. Franz PERREZ

This is a good moment to look at the impact-fullness of the Conventions eneral and the Minamata convention specifically. MEAs have an impact. Some argue that MEAs are too weak, that they don’t have robust enforcement mechanisms, and that the environment continues to deteriorate despite all those MEAs that have been negotiated, and therefore that they don’t have an impact. Franz Perrez strongly disagrees with that. The global environment would be in worse shape without MEAs.

The Minamata Convention is now beginning to phase-out mining and to phase-out products and processes. 2020 is the year where first products and processes will be phased-out. Policies to address ASGM are being developed and trade is 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 in regard to regulation and efficient implementation. Therefore, effectiveness evaluations as the ones that are going to be started are critical. In a nutshell the international community was successful in developing through MEAs concrete and specific solutions to urgent problems.

However, this success has become also a challenge and a problem due to the number of MEAs that have been developed. The number of MEAs is so high that it is a struggle to keep up with their work and implementation. To illustrate that point, if the Minister for the environment was to participate in all high-level events, she or he would have to be out of office 450 days a year. 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 is crucial. Synergies are crucial. 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. Synergies between the three conventions have insured that one plus one plus one is more than three. It is mostly beneficial for all that Minamata also started to work closely with BRS. Together through this cooperation, these 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 synergies between BRS, SAICM and the Convention of Minamata in terms of expertise are particularly important to have more impact on the ground. The post-2020 framework for chemicals and waste developed just now and to be hopefully adopted next year in Bonn, will hopefully provide a robust framework to ensure that not only each of these specific instruments will work efficiently and effectively, but that they do  together deliver even more than what they will be able to deliver if they were working in isolation. We must also consider how the chemicals and waste cluster relates to other clusters.

The Minamata Convention was the first MEAs to be developed in the 21st century. One of the most difficult issues during the negotiations of the Convention was not a technical aspect but how can we relate to the concept of common but differentiate responsibilities. This concept has evolved overtime in the context of climate change into a fixed and narrow concept that consists in dividing the world into two categories of countries. During the same time, when we were finalizing the Minamata negotiations, the negotiations of the Paris Agreement had started. In these negotiations of the Paris Agreement, the differentiation and how to address differentiate responsibilities was one of the biggest difficulties to be solved politically. The Minamata Convention text now refers to the principle of common responsibilities while acknowledging state suspective circumstances and capabilities and the need for global action. Within Minamata we have been able to find a solution to a very political problem that another process, the climate change process, was struggling to find a way out. Perhaps that was possible because in the Minamata Convention, we have been working in a political environment but not in an over politicized environment. That is perhaps one of the benefits of the chemicals and waste cluster. This can stimulate other processes such as biodiversity and climate change.

The COP-4 of the Minamata Convention will take place at the same moment of the Climate change Convention. Some says that this is really bad for the visibility of Minamata. Franz Perrez doesn’t agree with that. The Minamata Convention is important because it is important not because it is linked to climate change. In the past, the Minamata Convention has been able to make progress because we are taking not an over politicized approach at it is sometimes taken in climate change but really technical solutions and a policy approach.

Chemicals and waste challenges need more attention, the issues are enormous. More attention, raising awareness, raising financial resources and raising political pressure are needed but that doesn’t mean that we should become over politicized.

Example where chemicals and waste can benefit from other processes. According to different reports, there is a need to look closer at the science policy interactions in the area of chemicals specifically. There are rich experiences in 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.

Vision for impactful MEAs:

  • Chemicals and waste are not isolated. There is a need to work together within the thematic clusters through collaboration, through synergies, but there is also a need to work together with the other MEAs to the broader objectives, as for example formulated in the SDGs.
  • Chemicals and waste areas are relevant by themselves. They need more attention, but they don’t have to be always linked to the other issues.
  • Chemicals and waste MEAs should be open also to new challenges in the same field. Basel was originally focusing only on cross border transportation of hazardous waste, now it is relevant in supporting the waste management in general.
  • New issues should be taken up by the MEAs on an ongoing basis. A new issue report of UNEP, for example, identifies substances such as lead and cadmium that may need legally binding rules.
  • A strong policy interface will further strengthen and stimulate the work of the chemicals and waste MEAs.

Concluding Franz Perrez summarized: 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 WHO ten chemicals of major public health concern. It is a pollutant of global concern as it travels such long distances in the atmosphere. The global trade in and use of mercury disproportionally affects developing countries and that’s why the UK is part of the Convention, in order to help control the impact of mercury, restrict new uses of mercury, address mercury use in artisanal and small scale gold mining, and limit the distribution of new products containing mercury. The UK being part of the Convention, build on their work to reduce the use of mercury both at home and in the developing world. 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. Delivering success at COP26, in November 2021, is a top international priority for the UK. The UK wants to meet shared goals for avoiding dangerous climate change. This will require a dramatic acceleration of progress towards clean growth and resilience.

Nature-based solutions will be a key pillar for the COP, they are essential for climate mitigation and adaptation and have the potential to cost effectively deliver up to a third of global climate mitigation required by 2030, while also providing adaptation benefits and delivering wins for biodiversity and development. Nature has a key role to play in helping ecosystems and society to adapt to the impacts of climate change.

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. Climate change brings with it a hole range of devastating impacts. One of these is the acceleration and the release of mercury into the atmosphere through the melting of the permafrost and Artic sea ice. That is why it is really important that the two COPs take place at the same time just to demonstrate to the world and to those who are watching the very close linkage between the Minamata Convention and COP26 and the fact that both are attempting to deliver exactly the same outcome, which is making the world and the planet a better place for us all to live. To help to 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. As part of this, the UK has committed to publish a chemical strategy which will set out the ambitious approach of the UK to the management of chemicals throughout their lifecycle. 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 all countries work together towards a reduction of mercury in our environment, and to work to 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 describes UNEP trajectory for the period 2022-2025. In this regard, UNEP will ensure that science remains at the center of all decisions and 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 and also the synergies among the chemicals and waste community and beyond, 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 brings a unique experience, expertise and value. Initiated in 2005 by a decision of the UNEP governing council, the Global Mercury Partnership 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, dedicated to reducing mercury pollution and protecting human health and the environment. The Partnership current priorities are to:

  • Support timely and effective implementation of the Convention
  • Provide knowledge and science on mercury
  • Deliver outreach and awareness raising towards global action.

The Partnership works in close cooperation with Minamata Secretariat on COP4 intersessional work, in particular on customs codes and ASGM NAP guidance in relation to tailings. The Partnership is structured in eight areas of work: Partnership areas:

  • Artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM)
  • Mercury releases from coal combustion
  • Mercury cell chlor-alkali production
  • Mercury in products
  • Mercury air transport and fate research
  • Mercury waste management
  • Mercury supply and storage
  • Mercury releases from the cement industry

The Partnership also work on cross-cutting topics: mercury from oil and gas and from non-ferrous metals mining and smelting.

In addition to scientific assessment and hosting the UNEP Global Mercury Partnership, UNEP houses scientific technical expertise on mercury and carries out technical assistance and capacity building to facilitate the implementation of the Minamata Convention. This includes 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 does present a very powerful platform for concerted efforts among the chemicals related MEAs and SAICM to foster our efforts in a mutually reinforcing manner to deliver on our mandates toward common goals on the environment.

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

It is just under 365 days until the Minamata COP-4 in Bali. The preparation of the COP has already started. The preparations for COP-4 are all conducted under the leadership and guidance of the President Rosa Vivien Ratnawati of the Minamata COP-4 Bureau.

Important dates towards Minamata COP-4:

  • 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, Deadline for application for side events and exhibitions
  • 1-5 November: COP-4

Preparatory meetings specific to COP-4: the Minamata and BRS secretariat are working together and they will hold information sessions in their respective regional preparatory meetings for their respective COPs in 2021.

Eisaku TODA

Intersessional Work for COP-4: there are various levels of intersessional work, some involving expert groups, others mentioning the COP-3 report.

  • Ad hoc expert group on the review of Annexes A and B is collecting information and working to develop a draft report by January 2021 for comments and a final report by April 2021.
  • Group of technical experts on mercury releases develops a list of relevant point sources of mercury releases to water and land.
  • Group of technical experts on mercury waste thresholds develops thresholds for waste contaminated with mercury and mining waste.
  • Decision MC-3/10 addresses the effectiveness evaluation

Claudia TEN HAVE

The parties of the Convention made great progress on effectiveness evaluation but didn’t conclude at COP-3. The article MC-3/10 of the Convention is a special article because effectiveness evaluation is an important way of knowing that the Convention is indeed able to support the realization of the objectives fixed.

There are various areas of work. Until COP-4 they have to work on the proposed indicators for evaluating the effectiveness of the Convention, to work on developing monitoring guidance, and to work on other reports for effectiveness evaluation.

On 17 September the Minamata Convention convened an information session on how really needs to be done on indicators. They are looking forwards to hear by 30 November the initial views on these indicators from the Parties.

Eisaku TODA

The COP requested the Secretariat to work on Monitoring guidance to maintain comparable information on mercury levels in the environment. The Secretariat developed a roadmap on Monitoring guidance which consists of three work-streams:

  • Developing annotated outline of the Monitoring guidance
  • Developing contents of the guidance
  • Consultation potentially involving face-to-face meetings will be done next year.

Claudia TEN HAVE

In response to the fact that the Secretariat hasn’t been able to go to regions and to Parties because of Covid-19, and decided to go online with Minamata Online focusing on three main streams: implementation review and support, mercury science and COP-4 preparation.

The Minamata Convention has an Implementation and Compliance Committee which is set to meet early next year for the preparation of COP-4 and an important part of its work will be to look at the reports that have been handed. The other body under the Minamata Convention is the Governing Board of the Specific International Programme. The new board is about to meet virtually at the end of this month to review the implementation of the 15 projects that are already supported and to consider the launch of the Third Round of applications for support to eligible countries.

The Minamata Convention has a very high reporting rate and national focal points.

Q&A

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. They are planning to have a Minamata Online session on emissions this Thursday.

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 an increase in persons needing to go to more informal ways of earning a living. This is a sustainable development matter, how to help the sector in a way that it sustainable and good for the environment but also that earn a living from this. It is not possible to only work with our Convention on paper but it is also possible with the partners 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. 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 it could open that door to address also these substances. This proposal was then not supported, there was no consensus on that, and therefore neither of the focal points as such an open door to address fully these new substances. 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 BRSM but then making sure that there is a close cooperation between this framework and existing framework. There are benefits from both approach 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 look 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 a smaller instrument specific international program which will be opening soon the third call for project proposals.

Conclusion | Monika STANKIEWICZ

The Minamata Convention secretariat will be holding another event on the COP-4 next year, which will be organized by the Permanent Mission of Indonesia in Geneva with the Secretariat of the Minamata Convention. The Secretariat will also be holding Minamata Online sessions and relevant information on the 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. 

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