Day 6 of negotiations on the legally binding instrument on mercury were by far the most intense and stressful. With many of the contact groups having met until 6am and plenary restarting at 10am, delegates were tired and frustrated. Unfortunately, ongoing work throughout the day did not clear up all of the remaining outstanding issues and contact groups continued, again, into the night and the following morning. Ideally the contact groups were to finalise the text before midnight in order for the text to be reviewed by lawyers and prepared for discussion at plenary. This target was not achieved by several groups.
With respect to the text on emissions, in my opinion, the text being produced is much “weaker” or at least “less challenging” than was hoped by regions such as North America and Europe. However, China, India and many of the South American countries were not prepared to agree on anything which they felt committed them to obligations that they could not meet due to population and economic challenges.
And so by the end of the day, much of the text still had the alternatives of “should” or “may” in square brackets which indicates that consensus had not been reached on whether the requirements were mandatory or simply desired. It is still unclear whether BAT/BEP is required on all new sources. Action on existing sources will be determined by the COP and may or may not include requirements for ELVs, targets or BAT/BEP. There wasn’t even agreement on when or how countries would report their activities under the convention. And so the meeting went on late into the night and following morning.
Despite the apparent stalemate on many issues, there is valuable work being done by many countries in advance of the treaty. The attached picture shows the leads of several of the UNEP partnership areas, including myself (centre) as lead on the coal partnership. We have been working to provide information on mercury emissions from coal combustion and to establish inventory and reduction projects in countries such as Russia, China, South Africa and India. More information is available here: