Govts, others begin week long Minamata Convention on mercury COP-4


The second segment of the fourth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Minamata Convention on Mercury (COP-4) kicked off on Monday 21st March in Bali, Indonesia, with online participants.

The week long meeting being attended by representatives from governments, intergovernmental organisations, UN bodies, academia and civil society organisations that participate in the plenaries, working groups, and other events resumes as a call for “strength of multilateralism and dialogue” to make mercury history.

At the opening ceremony, the Governor of Bali Province (Indonesia), Wayan Koster, welcomed participants in Bali, a place “whose development policy is very much in line with international efforts to maintain a clean and low carbon natural environment.”

He added: “Hopefully, the Minamata Convention will run smoothly and successfully, and can produce decisions that are beneficial to shape the world for the better in the new era, especially by reducing mercury, so nature and its components will be healthier and of better quality for the benefit and welfare of the global citizens.”

The Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme, Inger Andersen, highlighted in a video message that “the Minamata Convention is a powerful tool in our collective effort to rid the planet of toxic substances. It is essential to tackle the triple planetary crisis of climate change, nature and biodiversity loss, and pollution and waste. It is our duty to face this crisis with all the tools at our disposal and tackle mercury, throughout its lifecycle, through innovative actions.”

She also underlined that “Parties to this Convention have shown real commitment to fulfilling this duty. The strong ownership of Parties can be seen in your flexibility to negotiate online last year, and now in large numbers in Bali.”

From the venue, Monika Stankiewicz, Executive Secretary of the Minamata Convention on Mercury, continued in the same line, grateful to Indonesia’s government and all the preparations for the meeting. “This effort also extends to ensuring meaningful participation to all parties, whether in person or online, participation that is essential to the negotiations that will be taking place this week. The threats to human health and the environment from mercury pollution are simply too urgent to let our deliberations wait.”

She stressed the importance of the work ahead during the week that resumes from the first segment in November with a tight agenda covering topics like the effectiveness of the Convention, the use of mercury in products and manufacturing processes, mercury releases, waste, national reporting, international cooperation, mainstreaming gender, and more.

Stankiewicz concluded with a hope that “through the example that we undertake this week, our young Minamata Convention family contribute to the strength of multilateralism and dialogue in overcoming differences and affirm our unity as a community of nations.”

At the end of the opening ceremony, the Minister of Environment and Forestry (Indonesia), Siti Nurbaya Bakar, proceeded with the Indonesian tradition to strike the ‘gong’ three times to open the meeting. She reiterated “our joint commitments, in recognizing mercury as a global concern, and in working collectively to make mercury history. What we decide in the coming days, and what we will do, when we return to our countries, after the meeting, is critical to the implementation of the Minamata Convention.”

The official meeting started with more than 400 representatives in the room and 200 online, conducted by the COP-4 President, Rosa Vivien Ratnawati, who urged all delegates “to make the best and most effective use of the time we have together here in Bali, and also the presence of those that join us online, to listen to each others’ views, seek to understand each others’ perspective, and endeavour to work constructively and with flexibility.”

“The pandemic should not stop or weaken our efforts to eliminate mercury. It is our collective obligation to contribute to ensuring health and wellbeing of our current and future generation by tapering down mercury”, she stated.

Bali Declaration

After the opening Ceremony, the Bali Declaration on Combatting Global Illegal Trade of Mercury was announced during a ceremonial launch.

Ambassador Muhsin Syihab, from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Indonesia), read a summary of this non-binding political declaration that calls “upon parties to enhance international cooperation and coordination to increase national capacity to combat illegal trade in mercury, to develop practical tools and notification and information-sharing systems for monitoring and managing trade in mercury, to exchange experiences and practices relating to combating illegal trade in mercury, including reducing the use of mercury in artisanal and small-scale gold mining, and to share examples of national legislation, and data and information related to such trade.

He was accompanied by Minister of Environment and Forestry of Indonesia, Siti Nurbaya, Executive Secretary of the Minamata Convention, Monika Stankiewicz, and CEO of Global Environment Facility (GEF) Carlos Manuel Rodríguez.

Development of the meeting

During the plenary sessions, the official meeting documents will be discussed in order for the COP to make decisions on matters such as an ambitious work programme for the next year, as well as to advance in Convention processes, including strong implementation support to parties in conjunction with the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) next replenishment cycle, the effectiveness evaluation of the Convention, and preparing for the first full national reporting on the implementation of the Convention.

There are two main substantive items to be spotlighted:

  • Review of Annexes A and B on mercury-added products and manufacturing processes in which mercury or mercury compounds are used. The Secretariat received three proposals for amendments to the Convention in time for COP-4 (by the European Union, by Africa, and by Canada and Switzerland). They might be adopted at the meeting.
  • Effectiveness evaluation: at COP-4.1 in November 2021, parties stressed the importance of the effectiveness evaluation to the Convention as a crucial element in meeting the main objective of protecting human health and the environment from toxic mercury. This urgent issue (the deadline to begin the first effectiveness evaluation is August 2023) requires a robust framework based on scientific evidence and data transparency. Discussions on this matter continued intensively during the intersessional period to be consolidated in this second segment of COP-4.