INC5 – Final negotiations on the UN Global Legally Binding Treaty on Mercury, days 2 and 3

Day 2 of negotiations started with a general overarching plenary but delegates quickly split off into contact groups to deal with different target areas covered by the treaty. Discussion on the emissions and releases text, most relevant to our coal combustion sector, quickly resulted in some obvious disagreements. The draft text included two options for mercury control. Option 1 was more stringent, mentioning options such as emission limit values, reduction requirements and BAT (best environmental technique or technology) whereas Option 2 was more lenient, focussing on more flexible NAP (national action plans). Since no agreement could be reached on whether to proceed with Option 1 or 2, it was decided that a compromise could be created which would take elements from both Options 1 and 2 into a single proposal. Obviously the text on this will need to be worked on this week for reconsideration in both the contact group and plenary.

BAT and BEP (best environmental practice) have been defined within the current draft and most parties seem happy with these current definitions. It would seem that most countries were happy to accept a requirement for BAT/BEP on all new sources but need more consideration of potential requirements for existing sources. Bear in mind that the definition for BAT/BEP at this stage is relatively loose and already includes flexibility based on economic capabilities of each country individually.

The contact groups on emissions and releases had a relatively “easy” day with meetings ending at hours that allowed for eating and sleeping. It seems this was not the case for those groups meeting to discuss storage, waste ad contaminated sites, and financial resources and technical considerations, where arguments were heard into the wee small hours of the morning.

Day 3 of Negotiations on the new UNEP global legally binding treaty on mercury and delegations awoke to snow. Fortunately the Swiss Government were on hand to provide free hats and scarves to all delegates, which was very much appreciated. As was the free chocolate.

The day started with contact groups breaking off to work on specific areas of the text separately. With respect to the text on emissions and releases, there was significant disagreement as to whether the text should include a definition of threshold values which would define sources that would be targeted for monitoring and control. Countries such as Norway, the USA and Canada argued that threshold values were needed to identify the most significant sources in each country. However. India, Brazil, Argentina and Indonesia argued that this was overly stringent and that countries could identify target sources under a more general national implementation plan (NIP). A compromise was proposed whereby guidelines could be included in an annex to help countries define thresholds under an NIP.

A decisions which DID seem to be reached today was that “oil and gas production and processing facilities;
manganese production facilities; and facilities related to products and processes” would be excluded from the source categories listed under emissions and releases. Although some argue that there is insufficient data to guarantee that mercury releases from this sector are negligible, they certainly seem to be accepted by most delegations as insignificant.

The general feel in the corridors is that we will complete “a” treaty by Friday. Whether it is the “best” treaty remains to be seen. There is certainly much talk of the need for compromise and even bartering on some of the more contentious issues.