The Minamata Convention on Mercury, which was adopted in 2013, is the most current worldwide agreement on the environment and health. It’s named after a bay in Japan where mercury-tainted industrial wastewater poisoned thousands of people in the mid-20th century, causing serious health problems that became known as the “Minamata disease.” If parties succeed in implementing the Minamata Convention, mercury action will go a long way toward addressing the human and environmental consequences of mercury. Since its entry into force in 2017, Parties have been cooperating to manage mercury supply and trade, decrease mercury use, emission, and release, promote public awareness, and develop the institutional capacity needed to make mercury history. The Minamata Convention on Mercury entered into force five years ago and is still a relatively new idea in the world of multinational environmental agreements. Parties are at a point where extensive negotiations on a wide variety of commitments are required. The resumption of the Fourth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP 4.2) resulted in the adoption of 11 resolutions that would guide implementation in the coming years.
COP 4.2 marked the first appearance of artisanal and small-scale mining. The meeting also highlighted the wide range of products that account for mercury in the environment and the levels of human exposure. The Minamata Convention covers the entire life cycle of mercury, so the negotiations covered a wide range of topics, including reporting on sources, export, and intended uses, preparing point source inventories, and establishing thresholds for determining when mercury-contaminated wastes require special management. Parties took measures toward establishing the Convention’s first “effectiveness evaluation,” which will examine the true impact of parties’ actions. COP 4.2 also approved the budget and program of work. Indonesian Presidency of COP-4 and adopted by heads of delegation at COP-4.2 was the Bali Declaration on Illegal Trade in Mercury. Delegates also brought up the human rights aspect of pollution, citing the recent acknowledgment of the right to a healthy environment by the Human Rights Council.
In a series of opening statements, high-level officials and regional representatives highlighted the context in which COP-4.2 was taking place, identifying entry points in global sustainable development policy processes that can be used to leverage the success of the Minamata Convention, and encouraged delegates to strive to reach agreement on all agenda items in order to keep the Convention on track to meet its deadlines and to enable parties to fulfill the Convention’s obligations.