COP-4.2 ends with global commitment to evaluate, expand and strengthen efforts against toxic mercury


Delegates and representatives of hundreds of parties and organizations participated in a week of intense negotiations in the second segment of the fourth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Minamata Convention on Mercury, which took place in Bali, Indonesia under strict health measures from 21 to 25 March 2022.

Resuming after the first online segment in November 2021, the week’s busy agenda covered many crucial topics, such as the framework to evaluate the effectiveness of the Convention, as well as the review of annexes A and B on mercury-added products and manufacturing processes in which mercury or mercury compounds are used.

With twelve decisions adopted, the parties to the Minamata Convention are also on schedule for its implementation on national reporting, artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM), international cooperation, capacity building and technical assistance, releases of mercury, and mercury waste thresholds.

The five-day meeting in Bali agreed on making the evaluation of effectiveness an integral part of the Minamata Convention, extended the phase-out list of mercury-added products, and highlighted the importance of mainstreaming gender within the activities of the Convention.

“The last five days will be remembered as a pivotal moment for the Convention when we have shifted gears from focusing more on procedural matters to moving towards full implementation”, stated Monika Stankiewicz, Executive Secretary of the Minamata Convention, at the closing of the meeting. “You have today achieved truly remarkable outcomes to bring us a step closer to achieving the objective of the Convention and begin breaking the cycle of misery that mercury brings”.

The Minamata Convention aims at protecting human health and the environment from anthropogenic emissions and releases of mercury. To evaluate its effectiveness in fulfilling this objective, the COP agreed to begin the first evaluation with a framework based on an inclusive and transparent process, together with a scientific group.

Another time-sensitive issue is the review of annexes A and B of the convention, where the COP added the phase-out of eight mercury-added products such as compact fluorescent lamps, cold cathode fluorescent lamps, photograph film and paper, and propellant for satellites.

The phase-down of dental amalgam made substantial progress as well, with two additional measures to protect the most vulnerable populations against the use of mercury in bulk form by dental practitioners, as well as against dental amalgam for teeth treatment on patients under 15 years old, pregnant and breastfeeding women.

Parties supported the Secretariat in its efforts to mainstream gender into all activities, projects and programmes undertaken under the Convention, including the development of a gender action plan based on an already presented roadmap.

International cooperation and multilateralism were reinforced during the meeting recognizing that the Minamata Convention is part of this collective effort to tackle the triple planetary crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution and waste.

As UNEP’s Executive Director Inger Andersen said during the opening ceremony on Monday, “it is our duty to face this crisis with all the tools at our disposal and tackle mercury, throughout its lifecycle, through innovative actions. Parties to this Convention have shown real commitment to fulfilling this duty with strong ownership and flexibility to negotiate”.

After the last gavel, COP-4 President Rosa Vivien Ratnawati stated that, “mercury emissions know no national or continental boundaries. Therefore, addressing mercury problems absolutely require strong cooperation among us. I believe that what we have done and achieved in this COP will strategically strengthen our collective commitment to ensuring the health and wellbeing of our future generations”.

The host government presented the Bali Declaration on Combatting Global Illegal Trade of Mercury during a ceremonial launch on the first day. This non-binding political declaration aims to enhance international cooperation, develop practical tools to monitor and share information, and exchange experiences and practices to combat the illegal trade of mercury.

Many voices from the civil society, partner organizations and indigenous peoples were heard at the plenary session. They have “enriched the discussions by bringing their expertise and knowledge of needs and realities on the ground” stated Stankiewicz.

Five days of intense work condensed the result of months of preparation during the intersessional period. At the Nusa Dua Convention Center, every detail was ready to welcome around 400 participants that gathered in-person under strict safety measures, while several others connected online to participate and share their views. Delegates were openly grateful for the warm hospitality they received in Bali. With this good spirit and the work achieved, parties are ready to cruise to a new working period to keep making mercury history.

The fifth meeting of the Conference of the Parties will reconvene in Geneva, Switzerland, from 30 October to 3 November 2023 under the Romanian presidency.