Lithuania signed the Global agreement on mercury on behalf of the EU

11 October 2013, Last updated at, 17:56 EEST
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Lithuania signed the Global agreement on mercury on behalf of the EU

Today, during the global Diplomatic Conference in Kumamoto, Japan, Minister of Environment, Valentinas Mazuronis, together with the EU Commissioner for the Environment, Janez Potočnik, signed the new multilateral environmental agreement - Minamata Convention on mercury on behalf of the EU. The Minister also signed the Convention on behalf of Lithuania. More than a hundred global high-ranking officials are participating at this important international event. The Convention’s goal is to decrease mercury emissions and the impact thereof on human health and the environment.  

“It is very significant that the signing of the Mercury Convention during the Lithuanian Presidency of the Council of the European Union marks the end of a four-year international negotiation regarding a new legally binding instrument, which ended in the first quarter of 2013,” said Minister of the Environment, Valentinas Mazuronis. According to him, another important stage will now begin – the implementation of the Convention, which will be useful to citizens of the EU and the rest of the world. The new Convention, the goal of which is to ensure the right of future generations to live in a sustainable environment without mercury, sets requirements containing the provisions on reducing the supply of mercury as well as demand for it, regulates the life-cycle of mercury from mining, processing, usage, and emission into the atmosphere, to the management of waste and mercury-contaminated areas.

The United Nations Environment Programme recognised pollution caused by mercury needs to be addressed at the global level and corresponding legal instrument shall be developed as early as 2003. Mercury is persistent in the environment and mercury emissions to air are subject to long-range atmospheric transport, subsequent deposition globally and bioaccumulation in the food chain, particularly in fishFour years ago, the International Negotiating Committee was established to draft the international legally binding agreement. The EU was one of the leaders in active negotiations and preparations of the Convention's text, which was mainly inspired by the EU's legal acts, and will contribute greatly to the application of the EU’s environmental standards globally. The Mercury Convention is the first multilateral environmental agreement signed over the last decade.

With the Conference approaching, the Lithuanian Minister, acting as a President of the EU Environment Council, urged all Ministers of Environment of the EU to sign the Convention on behalf of their countries. Besides Lithuania, 20 EU Member States have signed it so far. Lithuania seeks that all Member States of the EU not only sign, but also ratify this international agreement as soon as possible.

Lithuania, as Presidency of the EU Council, coordinated the preparation of the EU’s common position during a preliminary meeting, which took place this Monday and Tuesday. During the meeting, an agreement was reached regarding the resolutions needed to ensure the effective implementation of the Convention. The Presidency and EU  Member States seek a more efficient use of existing administrative structures, development of relevant measures (e.g. guidances) cooperation and coordination of activities with other conventions regulating chemical substances and waste management; development of relevant measures during the interim period and for the start of the effective implementation of the Convention.

The Convention's title and Diplomatic Conference's location weren't chosen at random. During the 1930–60s, the town of Minamata intensively produced chemicals, and large amounts of mercury and its compounds were released into the environment. This resulted in severe illnesses and deaths, with the consequences being felt to this day. The disease caused by mercury is globally known as the Minamata disease. The suffering of thousands of people due to irresponsible mercury management in the past was honoured yesterday, on the eve of the Conference, during a commemoration day in Minamata.

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