by IISD’s SDG Knowledge Hub,

The Secretariat of the Minamata Convention on Mercury issued a report outlining activities carried out from November 2019 to the end of 2020. The report provides updates on scientific and technical activities on mercury, effectiveness evaluation, national reporting, legal and policy activity from a gender perspective, and capacity-building and technical assistance activities relating to trade, emissions, and artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM).

Titled, ‘Progress Report 2020: Overview of the Minamata Convention on Mercury Activities,’ the report also reviews the financial mechanisms and communications and knowledge management from the past year.

Scientific and technical activities described in the report include a review of products and processes that use mercury, and the means by which parties to the Convention can distinguish mercury-added products via customs codes for internationally traded goods. On mercury releases, a group of technical experts established in 2018 continued to prepare guidance on best available techniques and best available environmental practices (BAT/BEP) to address mercury releases to land and water from relevant point sources, and on the methodology for preparing inventories of releases. The Secretariat’s waste group is working with the Global Mercury Partnership to update the guidelines for the environmentally sound management of mercury waste under the Basel Convention.

Additional scientific reports prepared by the Secretariat in 2020 – to be released in 2021 – explore linkages between mercury and climate, and mercury impacts on biodiversity, including through ASGM, both in partnership with the Secretariat of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm (BRS) Conventions.

On effectiveness evaluation, which aims to define the successes, strengths, and weaknesses of the Convention in achieving its objectives, the progress report notes that the Secretariat held dedicated online information sessions in September 2020, following which parties and others were invited to submit their initial views by 30 November 2020. Submissions received are available online.

On reporting, the publication notes that 91 biennial national reports were submitted by the Convention’s deadline at the end of 2019, representing 79.8% of parties. These reports are available on the Convention’s website. The second round of biennial national reports are due at the end of 2021.

With regard to legal and policy activity, with a focus on women and children, the Secretariat is carrying out a gender assessment to gather relevant scientific, technical, and policy information. The assessment aims to broaden understanding of the impacts of mercury on these vulnerable populations and identify opportunities and challenges in mainstreaming gender in the implementation of the Convention. Additional knowledge products on gender, such as a synthesis report on major problem areas covered by the Convention, are also under development, as is a proposal for a gender roadmap to mainstream gender within the Secretariat’s programme of work.

On trade, addressed by Article 3 of the Convention, the Secretariat organized a workshop to exchange information on mercury trade among countries in the Latin American region and support the implementation of their obligations under Article 3. A multi-donor project is also underway to strengthen institutional capacities for the management of seized mercury. The project aims to develop an integrated management system (including detection, seizure, and post-seizure processes) to promote traceability and reduce illegal trade of mercury.

Additional capacity-building and technical assistance activities are ongoing with respect to emissions, as 47% of global mercury emissions to air derive from point sources listed in Annex D of the Convention. The report describes an Asian sub-regional workshop convened with a focus on mercury emissions from coal combustion. Article 8 of the Convention sets out parties’ obligation to establish and maintain an inventory of emissions and to take measures to control emissions from point sources.

Relatedly, the report notes that ASGM accounts for a third of all anthropogenic mercury emissions to air, and affects over 15 million miners and their families. In the reporting period, the Secretariat strengthened coordination with parties that completed their ASGM National Action Plans (NAPs), as well as the Global Environment Facility (GEF), which is working on PlanetGOLD. As the financial mechanism of the Convention, the GEF has allotted USD 206 million to phase out, reduce, and eliminate mercury in priority sectors, under the seventh replenishment period spanning 2018-2022. The GEF Council meeting in June 2020 approved new mercury projects totaling USD 112 million.

Minamata Convention on Mercury Executive Secretary Monika Stankiewicz notes in the foreword that the Convention is “a promise of a world where people and the environment are protected from the risks posed by mercury pollution” and where “mercury is no longer used in most of our daily products and industrial processes.”

The fourth meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP-4) to the Minamata Convention, held once every two years, is scheduled to take place from 1-5 November 2021 in Bali, Indonesia. [Publication: Progress Report 2020: Overview of the Minamata Convention on Mercury Activities]

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