The UN Minamata Convention on Mercury. A compromise with potential

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Series Details Number 10
Publication Date March 2013
ISSN 1861-1761
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In January 2013, United Nations (UN) delegates from over 140 countries meeting in Geneva came to an agreement on the substance of a mercury convention. Although the hazards of this heavy metal have been recognized for decades, and the economic benefits of its effective regulation are undisputed, the path to the Minamata Convention was marked by lengthy and arduous negotiations.

A successful outcome was finally achieved as a result of intense pressures arising from the transboundary nature of the problem, but only after the inclusion of generous transitional arrangements and derogations in the final document. The result is a compromise that falls somewhat short of European expectations in terms of two of the most significant sources of emissions, but which establishes clear targets in other areas.

Further negotiations are planned to close the remaining gaps in the agreement. In the coming years, the agreement could be gradually expanded and its provisions tightened – objectives that Europeans should actively promote.

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