The third meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP3) to the Minamata Convention on Mercury, which started on November 25, 2019, decided to push forward the agreement to phase out the manufacture, import, and export of mercury-added products by 2020 and to work on substitution of mercury-added products. In addition, progress was seen in the formulation of detailed administrative and technical rules for stricter implementation of the Convention, reaching a consensus mainly on (1) a framework for evaluating and monitoring the effectiveness of the Convention, (2) how to use the World Customs Organization’s product codes to be assigned to mercury-added products to simplify customs clearance procedures, (3) program of work and budget for the biennium 2020–2021, and (4) guidance on how to identify contaminated sites and conduct risk assessment and management of such sites. On the other hand, a decision on the thresholds for mercury-contaminated waste was put off, with an agreement that an expert meeting would continue further discussions on this issue.
The Minamata Convention on Mercury, which entered into force in 2017, is an international agreement to reduce risks of mercury to human health and the environment by comprehensively regulating the entire lifecycle of mercury, from mining, trade, manufacturing processes of mercury-containing products, emissions to the atmosphere, and waste disposal. Discussions at COP3 focused on review of Annex A (Mercury-added products) and Annex B (Manufacturing processes in which mercury or mercury compounds are used), guidance on release of mercury, guidance on the management of contaminated sites, thresholds for mercury waste, and methods for evaluating the effectiveness of the Convention, as summarized below:
- Prohibition of mercury-containing products: Mercury-containing products listed in the prohibited products list, including batteries, switches, fluorescent lamps, cosmetics, pesticides, barometers, thermometers, would be prohibited from manufacturing, importing, and exporting by 2020. As a wide range of safe and high-performance alternative products are already available, it should not take a long time for such transition.
- Effectiveness evaluation of the Convention: A discussion was held on the roadmap, which was agreed on at COP2 and is planned to be formulated by 2023 to outline a framework, performance indicators, and institutional arrangements for the effectiveness evaluation of the Convention. The discussion resulted in an agreed fundamental framework for defining the effectiveness of the Convention by 2023.
- Submission of national reports: It was confirmed that parties to the Convention are obliged to submit their first national reports by December 31, 2019, as determined at COP1, on measures they have taken to implement a number of provisions of the Convention, the effectiveness of such measures, and challenges in achieving them.
- Several sets of guidance discussed at COP1 and COP2: Reports were submitted and discussed regarding trade, best available techniques and best environmental practices in relation to emissions, and artisanal, small-scale gold mining, and reduction of use and releases to the environment of mercury in developing countries.
COP3 held a total of 27 side events, including a special session on mercury science. In such events, a wide range of topics were discussed such as chemicals management and biodiversity, artisanal and small-scale gold mining, trade, contaminated sites, chemicals and waste management beyond 2020, and global community’s efforts to protect human health and the environment from the negative effects of mercury. As a side note, COP meetings of Minamata Convention had been held annually since its enactment in 2017, but after COP3, meetings will be convened every two years. The next COP4 will be held in Bali, Indonesia in 2021.
The press release from UNEP can be found at the following URL: