UNEP Coal Partnership Meeting and INC7 (International Negotiating Committee) of the Minamata Convention on Mercury, Dead Sea Jordan, 8-18 March 2015

As Lead on the UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme) Coal Partnership, I was required to give an update on our partnership activities over the last year. We have completed work in Vietnam, monitoring a coal-fired plant to produce a source-specific emission factor for mercury. It is hoped that the results from this mass balance study will form the basis for a proposal for a full-scale GEF (Global Environment Facility) mercury control project at a coal plant in Vietnam within the next year or so. Similar projects on mercury monitoring have been initiated in Indonesia and Thailand but, so far, have been held up by paperwork.

The Partnership meeting heard reports from the other partnership areas, including waste management, chlor-alkali and ASGM (artisanal small scale gold mining). It was the most well-attended meeting yet with over 60 people present, demonstrating growth in partnership work as we move towards ratification of the Minamata Convention. Ratification has not yet been reached, as only 25 governments have agreed to ratify. 50 ratifications are need to move the Convention forward and this may happen quite swiftly should the EU step up, bringing 28 ratifications with it. UNEP seem fairly confident of a relatively rapid ratification and they expect COP1 to happen in 2017, probably in Geneva.

Several side meetings and events were held prior to the 7th round of negotiations. The GEF held a lunch panel to discuss the challenges in moving forward with the convention and I provided the perspective of the coal using nations – some countries are ready to comply with Minamata whereas others face more of a challenge.

The main negotiation event started rather clumsily with technical sound issues and relatively excessive security measures required to clear the hall for the opening welcome speech from the Jordanian Minister for Energy. But the meeting got into a good flow by day two, with meetings of country and technical groups carrying on late into the evening on several occasions. One slight bone of contention appeared to be the adoption of the BAT/BEP (best available technology/best environmental practice) guidance document. This document has been prepared by an expert committee, including experts from the CCC and the Coal Partnership, which had met on several occasions over the last two years. One section of the guidance documents focusses on BAT/BEP for existing and new coal-fired power plants. Similar to the new proposed EU BREFs (BAT reference documents), the UNEP BAT/BEP is not prescriptive, but rather provides a list of options for mercury control which should be selected according to plant and coal characteristics. Despite the inherent flexibility of the document, the Indian delegation chose to express concern that the document did not adequately address the challenges of the high ash coals which are indigenous to India. Whilst the committee argued that the guidance did have adequate flexibility to cover the challenges of all coal types, it was agreed that the wording would be adjusted to ensure that there was an understanding that some technologies worked better than others for different coal types.

The current text of the BAT/BEP guidance document can be found here: