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Minamata Convention – the negotiations continue

This week in Bangkok, UNEP (the United Nations Environment Programme) is holding the 6th round of negotiations on the Minamata Global legally binding instrument on mercury. The main text of the convention was finalised in February 2013 and it was signed by the plenipotentiaries of participant nations in Minamata, Kumamoto, Japan, in September 2013. Since then, the convention has been signed by 128 nations but ratified by only eight. Once 50 countries have ratified it, the convention will move forward to COPs (Conference of the Parties) including the defining of legally binding commitments in the form of reduction targets and action plans in the ratifying countries. Until then, INCs (Intergovernmental Negotiating Committees) will continue to meet to flesh out the terms of the convention which, it is hoped, will lead to further ratifications. Interim work continues with several main objectives:

– improved understanding of the convention;

– familiarisation with the signature/ratification and implementation process;

– information on the available sources of support;

– opportunities for exchange and action at the sub-regional level;

– development of draft regional road-maps for the ratification and early implementation of the Convention.

The INC6 this week will work on the production and finalisation of documents which may be adopted at COP1, once the convention is ratified. This includes documents of guidance (such as BAT/BEP methodologies), format and periodicity for reporting, monitoring data and rules of procedure, including financing. With respect to emissions from the coal combustion sector, this week’s negotiations are unlikely to see any major decisions made. Rather the convention will move towards promoting acceptance (at the COPs) of the BAT/BEP guidance document being produced separately, but in parallel, by the UNEP International Experts Group. Other technical support documents are being prepared to ensure that monitoring and reporting methods are appropriate and fair when countries include the coal combustion sector as a national source of mercury emissions. As mentioned in previous blogs, IEA CCC is a major contributor to the writing and editing of the BAT/BEP document and is providing expert advice to all areas of the Convention which relate to emissions from the coal combustion sector.

Funding is emerging

As part of the financial mechanism of the Minamata Convention the Global Environment Facility (GEF) will provide resources to Governments to implement the convention including creating the enabling environments in which Governments and Industry can cooperate on achieving the goals of the Convention. The majority of investments will be made by the private sector. The GEF’s role would be to facilitate these investments and help Governments to create the enabling environment in which to do so. To kick off the discussion on how best to direct these resources, the GEF held a panel discussion for INC6 delegates which included representatives from the major emitting industries. I sat on the panel, representing IEA CCC and acting as lead on the Coal Partnership, and gave a summary of how GEF funding would need to look at both existing and new plans in different ways – priority funding should be given to ensure that new coal plants in emerging regions are both energy efficient and low emitters. For older plants, country-specific plans would help determine the most appropriate mode of action for reducing mercury emissions according to the specifics of the coals fired and the technologies currently in place.

The evolution of the Coal Partnership

Even before the negotiations on the convention were launched back in 2007/8, UNEP had initiated the Partnership Areas on mercury. IEA CCC took lead on the Coal Partnership from the beginning and has been representing the sector throughout all the negotiations. In addition to this advisory work, IEA CCC and the Coal Partnership have been working behind the scenes on various projects in support of the convention. These include projects funded by the EU, the US Department of State, and Environment Canada on mercury inventories and reduction demonstration projects in the coal sector in China, India, South Africa and Russia. Several more projects are planned for emerging regions in Africa and Asia. The Process Optimisation Guidance document (POG) produced by the Coal Partnership is now forming the basis of the text for the BAT/BEP guidance on coal.

Ahead of INC6, UNEP held a Partnership Advisory Group meeting to update the work of the partnerships, to report on success and status. Perhaps the main theme of the meeting was recognition of the efforts of the partnerships and to acknowledge that the majority of the work has been done for free in an in-kind manner. As we move forward and the work of the partnerships is recognised as being pivotal to the effectiveness of the convention, financial support is needed. However, there is a balance to be maintained in terms of the nature of partnerships (voluntary contributions, free exchange of information and so on), which allows flexibility – too much “institutionalisation” could change the nature of the partnerships in a negative way. It is unclear how the partnerships will move forward with financing at this stage but it is clear that they shall and they will have much needed financial support to allow a greater involvement in the implementation of the Minamata Convention.

For more details on the Minamata Convention visit:

www.mercuryconvention.org

For more information on the Coal Partnership work, visit:

http://www.unep.org/chemicalsandwaste/Mercury/PrioritiesforAction/Coalcombustion/tabid/3530/Default.aspx

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