UNEP Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee Meeting 4 (INC4) on the Legally Binding Instrument (LBI) for Mercury

Punta del Este Uruguay, 27 June – 2 July 2012

Day 0 – Tuesday 26th June 2012

Although the INC4 negotiations do not start until today, regional working groups started their discussions early yesterday morning in preparation for a long hard week of deliberations.  In addition to these meetings, in which regions work to coordinate their position prior to the plenary negotiations, several information sessions were held. The Global Environment Facility (GEF) provided a lunchtime forum to introduce the delegates to some of the 15+ projects into which the GEF has placed significant funding (millions of dollars). These included information and technology transfer to developing regions to reduce mercury emissions from the gold mining sector (working in conjunction with UNIDO) and the health sector, succeeding in making several hospitals in Africa and Southeast Asia mercury-free. The European Commission (EC) hosted an evening session to provide the delegates with refreshments as well as an introduction to the text proposing the inclusion of BAT in the LBI. It is clear from the “breezeway” discussions outside the negotiations that many countries regard BAT, and especially BAT for mercury emissions from coal combustion, as a potentially expensive and challenging commitment. However, the EC event put across the message that there are low cost BAT options available. Presentations were given by representatives of the Brazilian cement industry and the Indonesian coal industry, both demonstrating economic control options. There was then a presentation of the results from the Coal Partnership Area project in Russia, where the use of a cheap chemical oxidant in the existing particulate scrubber system at a full-scale coal-fired plant achieved up to 60% mercury control at very low cost. Finally, Lesley Sloss from the IEA CCC gave a short summary of various low cost options for mercury control which could be appropriate for developing regions and economies in transition. These include coal washing, coal blending, plant efficiency improvement and the optimisation of existing pollutant control systems. Whether the EC event will result in the delegations agreeing to consider the option of BAT within the text of the LBI this week remains to be seen. There are certainly alternative approaches to BAT which can be considered. BAT, emission limits and emission reduction rate options have all been put forward by the EC as options to be included in the LBI text to allow some flexibility whilst still representing a commitment to some form of command and control for mercury-emitting sources.