Mercury: first Minamata Convention conference in Geneva

Bern, 06.09.2017 - The first Conference of the Parties to the Minamata Convention will take place from 24 to 29 September in Geneva. This convention aims to reduce the risks of mercury around the world. Switzerland is working to locate the convention’s secretariat in Geneva, which is already a centre of expertise in hazardous chemical products and wastes. The Swiss delegation will also approve the proposed technical provisions and the development of future activities, following the mandate adopted by the Federal Council on 6 September 2017.


The objective of the Minamata Convention is to protect humans and the environment around the world from mercury emissions caused by human activities. The agreement regulates the use of this heavy metal in manufacturing processes and products, the reduction of emissions and the management of mercury-containing wastes (see box).

Switzerland will host the first Conference of the Parties to the Minamata Convention on Mercury (COP1), which will take place from 24 to 29 September 2017 in Geneva. President of the Swiss Confederation, Doris Leuthard, will open the ministerial part on 28 September. Director of the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment, Marc Chardonnens, will preside over the conference in his capacity as Secretary of State.

Entitled "Make Mercury History", COP1 will be an opportunity to celebrate this major environmental advance. To ensure that the new convention functions smoothly, member States will need to decide where its secretariat is to be located. Switzerland is working to locate the secretariat of the Minamata Convention in Geneva, along with the secretariat of the three conventions on hazardous chemical products and wastes. Integrating this convention’s secretariat into the existing centre of expertise would make it possible to draw on synergies and reduce costs.

Preliminary guidelines to be adopted

The COP1 should adopt preliminary technical guidelines for such items as mercury export procedures, mercury emission standards, and the development of implementation plans for countries with artisanal gold mines. The Swiss delegation will approve the proposed documents and support the continuation of technical work that facilitates the implementation of the convention in the States.

Adaptation of Swiss law

Thanks to the strict legislation currently in force, Switzerland complies with most of the convention’s requirements for eliminating mercury-containing products and phasing out mercury in industrial processes. In order to achieve the convention’s overall aim, which is to reduce mercury use around the world, proposed amendments to four ordinances were submitted for consultation in November 2016. In doing so, Switzerland intends to help reduce the global supply of recycled mercury and encourage permanent, environmentally-friendly storage of this metal. The Federal Council should decide on this matter sometime this year.

Minamata Convention on Mercury
Mercury is a highly toxic heavy metal that is hazardous to health and the environment. The Minamata Convention, which was named after the Japanese city plagued by very serious mercury pollution starting in the 1940s, was adopted by the international community in 2013. Switzerland ratified it on 26 May 2016. The convention entered into force on 16 August 2017.

 
 
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