Minamata Convention COP3, Geneva 2019 – and we’re outta here!

It was a long week in Geneva. Work started on the Saturday with the annual meeting of the Partnership Advisory Group (PAG) and ended on the Friday, with a tired but resolute delegation still committed to reducing mercury globally.

The PAG meeting heard reports from all partnership areas, including the Coal Partnership, co-led by the IEACCC. The PAG discussions highlighted intended future actions, including further refinement of mercury emission factors, development of a centralized database on mercury, and guidance on waste management technologies. The partnership areas currently run on a voluntary basis, but funding is slowly becoming available for both intersessional activities and project work. A significant GEF project will be initiated over the next 18 months which could lead to several coal projects in emerging regions.

Again, the focus of debate in plenary jumped from subject to subject, moving from inventories to finance and from products to releases. There was a proposal that the convention and similar international implementing agreements on the sound management of chemicals and waste need to align with the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Contact groups focussed on several issues and, again, ran through to the early hours of the morning. The technical matters contact group concentrated on customs codes, which would make it easier to control the movement and trade of mercury. Large commercial companies such as Amazon are already working to remove mercury-containing items from their inventories.

Several parties, lead by Canada, proposed that the convention work to produce a complete and consistent guideline or potentially a template for national reporting, which would feed into effectiveness evaluation and would ensure a minimum standard of future data feeding into the convention. This work would start immediately and report to COP4.

And there was plenty happening in the “breezeways”, the UN-name for the, often vital, conversations and networking that happen in the corridors and cafes around the venue. Deals are struck and new collaborations are initiated. But on the last day it was mainly coffee and tired smiles, as many had been up until 6am in the contact groups.

COP4 will not take place until late 2021, but the secretariat has already accepted the offer from the Government of Indonesia to host the convention in Nusa Dua, Bali, much to the delight of all delegations, more than aware of the dark rain-filled skies outside the conference centre in Geneva.
For those who wish to know more about the Minamata Convention, its history and its aims, there are plenty of materials available on the Minamata Convention website.