Ministers welcome new UN Treaty on Mercury
Ireland signs new international agreement on Mercury
Minister of State, Sean Sherlock T.D, Minister for Research and Innovation, today (10 October 2013) signed the Minamata Convention on Mercury on behalf of Ireland in Kumamoto, Japan. This new multilateral environmental agreement was adopted at a two-day diplomatic conference, attended by over 130 countries, following the successful conclusion of international negotiations earlier this year to agree a new legally binding global treaty for the protection of human health and the environment from exposure to mercury.
‘This UN Convention provides the stimulus for the research and development of new technologies to phase out the use of mercury in products, processes and pollution abatement technologies. One of the key objectives of this Convention is to protect the environment, marine life and birds from exposure to mercury poisoning. The ultimate aim is to prevent the ingestion of mercury into the human food chain.’ Minister Sherlock said.
Minister Hogan welcomed the signing of the new Convention
“Mercury has long been recognised as a dangerous substance. The Minamata Convention on Mercury will improve the lives of many across the world, especially vulnerable populations like pregnant women, children and indigenous communities that depend on local fish sources as well as protecting our precious environment. Our global drive to move towards a more resource-efficient, green economy is enhanced by the adoption of this new agreement.”
Note to Editors
The negotiations marked the culmination of over four years of work by the UN, national Governments and key stakeholders. The treaty takes a comprehensive approach to the hazards posed by mercury by seeking to reduce and control its use throughout its supply, trade, use and disposal across the globe. The treaty, which is a dynamic instrument that provides for further elaboration of measures to reduce and control mercury use into the future, includes a number of significant provisions. Specifically, it provides for the introduction, in due course, of a ban on new primary mercury mining, coupled with the phasing out of existing mercury mining activities over time. It also provides a phased approach to reduce the use of mercury in certain products and processes. These two measures, taken together, are expected to significantly reduce both the supply and demand for mercury into the future. The new treaty will also control mercury emissions and releases from various large industrial facilities.
Minister Sherlock was elected to the Bureau of the diplomatic conference as one of nine Vice-Presidents serving as officers for the meeting. The diplomatic conference adopted the Convention text which had been agreed in January this year and also adopted Resolutions on the arrangements to implement international action in the interim period prior to entry into force of the Convention, which requires the ratification of the Convention by fifty countries. In his statement following the signing of the Convention text, the Minister noted the costs to human health and the environment associated with exposure to mercury and mercury pollution and that the sound management of chemicals and wastes can deliver significant societal and economic benefits.
The diplomatic ceremony for the official signature of the Mercury Convention took place in Japan on 10 – 11 October 2013, near Minamata, the town that experienced one of the world’s worst cases of mercury pollution in the late 1950’s. Minamata city today has become an official Japanese ‘Eco-Town’ focusing on energy efficiency, reducing waste, revitalising the economy through environmental technologies, addressing social issues and passing on the lessons learnt from Minamata disease to the next generations.
In January 2013 during the Irish Presidency of the Council of the European Union, Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Mr. Phil Hogan T.D., welcomed the successful conclusion, at UN negotiations in Geneva, of the text of the new mercury Convention.