2020: Time to phase out mercury-added products has arrived

29 Nov 2019

Parties to the Minamata Convention are to phase out the use of products which contain mercury and to promote alternatives.

  • By 2020 the manufacture, import and export of mercury-added products is no longer allowed.
  • Parties agreed to advance the a framework to monitor the effectiveness of the Convention in order to strengthen its implementation
  • The Third meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Minamata Convention on Mercury took place from 25 to 29 November in Geneva, Switzerland.

Geneva, 29 November 2019 - Parties to the Minamata Convention renewed their commitment to phasing out the use of products which contain mercury and to promote alternatives at the Third Conference of the Parties, that closed today in Geneva after a one-week meeting from 26 to 29 November 2019. Delegates representing 113 parties decided to undertake the review regarding the reduction on the use of mercury in manufactured products. Parties also agreed on how to use custom codes for mercury-added products that would permit to gather reliable information and therefore facilitate the control of trade in products containing mercury.

Mercury-added products have their days numbered. By 2020 the manufacture, import and export of batteries, switches, fluorescent lamps, cosmetics, pesticides, barometers and thermometers that do not meet agreed criteria is no longer allowed. The good news is that a wide range of safe and high-functioning alternatives to mercury-containing products have been developed. Thus, it’s just a matter of time before mercury-free alternatives fully replace their more toxic counterparts.

As it was emphasized during the opening session on Monday, the road map for effectiveness evaluation agreed at the second meeting of the Parties resulted now in a framework, which will help in defining how effective the Convention is by 2023.

“This COP has a key role to play in establishing the framework for the first evaluation of the effectiveness of the Convention, set for 2023. Strengthening legal frameworks and institutional capacity is also a basic requirement for the implementation of the Convention”, said Inger Andersen, the UN Environment Executive Director.

In the same line, the Executive Secretary of the Minamata Convention, Rossana Silva Repetto, admitted that “it is our common wish that the results of such evaluation reflect that our convention is proving to be effective. For this to happen, we need to work on the implementation of the convention at all levels in order to yield the fruits that indicate, in the data that will be collected, that we are on the right path towards attaining the objective that you, yourselves established for the Minamata Convention”.

Meanwhile, Parties have an obligation to submit their first national reports by December 2019 on the measures they have taken to implement a number of provisions of the Convention, on the effectiveness of such measures and on possible challenges in meeting the objectives of the Convention, as was agreed at the first meeting.

Other key decisions adopted at the Minamata COP3 include the programme of work and budget for the biennium 2020-2021, terms of reference for the Implementation and Compliance Committee, guidance on the management of contaminated sites, releases and waste thresholds. Parties reiterated their wish to continue to enhance cooperation with international organizations in areas of relevance to the Convention, towards the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals.

Donors announced voluntary contributions to the Specific International Programme to support capacity building and technical assistance, which is one of the components of the financial mechanism of the convention, the other one being the Global Environmental Facility (GEF).

COP3 has also been the opportunity for consolidating the substantial progress made so far at the previous COPs. At the first and second meetings, the COP took decisions that were key for the ongoing implementation of the Convention. Several guidance documents were adopted in relation to trade, best available techniques and best environmental practices in relation to emissions, and artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) National Action Plans (NAPs).

The events at the COP included a special session on mercury science highlighting the linkage between policy and science. Among the other 26 side events broader issues were discussed such as the linkages between chemicals management and biodiversity, artisanal and small-scale gold mining, trade, contaminated sites, chemicals and waste management beyond 2020, and global community’s efforts to protect human health and the environment from the negative effects of mercury.

Since the convention entered into force in 2017, meetings of the conferences of the Parties to the Minamata Convention on Mercury have been held during a one-week period every year in late September (COP1) or November (COP2 and COP3) at the seat of the Secretariat in Geneva, Switzerland. From now, next COPs will be convened every two years. 2021 will be the turn of Indonesia to host the fourth Conference of the Parties to the Minamata Convention in Bali, to keep making mercury history.


About the Minamata Convention

The Minamata Convention on Mercury is the most recent global agreement on environment and health, adopted in 2013. It is named after the bay in Japan where, in the mid-20th century, mercury-tainted industrial wastewater poisoned thousands of people, leading to severe health damage that became known as the “Minamata disease”. Since it entered into force on 16 August 2017, 113 Parties have been working together to control the mercury supply and trade, reduce the use, emission and release of mercury, raise public awareness, and build the necessary institutional capacity.

While mercury is naturally occurring, it is also a by-product of a number of industrial processes and can be found in many everyday objects, including batteries, dental amalgam, thermometers and fluorescent lamps. Once released to the atmosphere, soil and water - often through coal burning, and artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) - mercury bioaccumulates in fish, animals and humans, posing a serious threat to human health and the environment. Through the Minamata Convention the international community can tackle the entire life cycle of mercury.


About the UN Environment Programme

UNEP is the leading global voice on the environment. It provides leadership and encourages partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations.


Online resources

For more information contact: Anna García, Communications Officer of the Minamata Convention
Email: anna.garcia [at] un.org; Telephone: +41 22 917 31 11; Cel: +41 79 39 11 736

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