Obama's Lead Results in Breakthrough Mercury Agreement, Say NGOs

NAIROBI , Kenya , Feb. 20 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- After years of inaction on the environment, global ministers today agreed to negotiate a treaty to control global mercury pollution. The agreement resulted from a dramatic shift in the U.S. position by the Obama administration, which now supports the creation of a mercury treaty, according to NGOs. The Bush administration had stubbornly opposed any legally binding measures.

Developing a treaty is a critical first step towards solving the global mercury crisis, said Michael Bender, director of the US Mercury Policy Project and the Zero Mercury Working Group. This was made possible by President Obama's global view and the inspiration and momentum generated by it.

The treaty will include actions to reduce mercury supply, its use in products and processes, and atmospheric mercury emissions, which will ultimately reduce human exposure to mercury globally. The preparations for negotiations on the global treaty will start later this year, with discussions beginning in earnest in 2010 with a view to wrapping up by 2013.

After the U.S. announcement, many other countries jumped on board, notably China and India, who had opposed a treaty up until this meeting, said Bender. The global good will generated by President Obama clearly inspired other delegations to work through difficult issues and build consensus for treaty.

This consensus is a huge breakthrough, said Elena Lymberidi - Settimo of the European Environmental Bureau and the Zero Mercury Working Group. The treaty will ensure that the EU and other countries of the world make a serious commitment to reduce global mercury emissions, supply and demand.

The treaty will include actions to reduce mercury supply, its use in products and processes, and atmospheric mercury emissions, which will ultimately reduce human exposure to mercury globally. The preparations for negotiations on the global treaty will start later this year, with discussions beginning in earnest in 2010 with a view to wrapping up by 2013.

Richard Gutierrez of the Philippine NGO, Ban Toxics noted, We are optimistic that the global community is now well on its way towards establishing a treaty to control mercury pollution and effectively safeguard the fish we eat from this poison.

Mercury is a global pollutant that travels long distances. Its most toxic form - methylmercury - accumulates in large predatory fish and is taken up in our bodies through eating fish, with the worst impacts on babies in utero and small children.

With the climate change negotiations coming up soon, this agreement on mercury sets the stage for other international environmental agreements to follow, notes Bender.

More information: The Zero Mercury Working Group, www.zeromercury.org, is a coalition of over 75 public-interest non-governmental organisations worldwide formed in 2005 by the European Environmental Bureau and the Mercury Policy Project. The groups aim is to reach Zero emissions, demand and supply of mercury, from all sources we can control, towards eliminating mercury in the environment globally.

www.mercurypolicy.org

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