Minister Tiilikainen to attend the first meeting of the parties to the Mercury Convention in Geneva on 29 September: “Important convention for the Arctic region”

Press release 2017-09-27 at 10:07

The Minamata Convention on Mercury is a recent global treaty to protect human health and the environment from the adverse effects of mercury. Minister for Housing, Energy and the Environment Kimmo Tiilikainen will attend the first meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Minamata Convention on Mercury in Geneva, Switzerland, on 29 September. Minister Tiilikainen will address a High-Level Segment on the subject of the Arctic region. The Minamata Convention is extremely important for the Arctic region since long-range mercury bioaccumulates in the polar regions.

The Conference of the Parties intends to adopt the rules ensuring the efficient implementation of the convention and agree how the convention’s progress will be assessed. The Parties will also finalise the draft guidelines on interim storage of mercury and its disposal once it becomes waste. The meeting will last from 24 September to 29 September.

Toxic mercury persists in the atmosphere a long time and can be transported far away from its original emission source. Mercury is released into the environmental from the burning of fossil fuels, coal especially. Global demand for energy is estimated to increase, and with it the atmospheric mercury burden.

“We need a global energy revolution and binding international obligations to manage the mercury fallout. The Minamata Convention is a significant achievement for international environmental law and cooperation. Compliance with its obligations requires that fossil fuels be replaced by renewable energy and clean technologies. Finland acts as an example in this work and makes its expertise available to other countries as well,” Minister Tiilikainen says.

The Minamata Convention covers the entire lifecycle of mercury from mining to waste disposal. It bans, by 2020, the manufacture, import and export of the most significant mercury-added products, such as batteries, switches and relays, lamps, cosmetics, pesticides, biocides, and measuring devices. The use of dental amalgam must be minimised in dental fillings. Use of mercury must end in acetaldehyde production by 2018 and in chlor-alkali production by 2025. The Convention also obliges the Parties to ensure environmentally sound storage of mercury and disposal of mercury waste.

Majority of the atmospheric mercury fallout in Finland originates outside our borders. In the long term, the Convention will reduce the methylmercury levels in predatory fish (such as pike, large perch, zander, burbot), which now are subject to consumption restrictions in Finland. The Minamata Convention entered into force in Finland at the start of September.

Very little mercury is used in Finland. Gold mining in Finland does not use mercury amalgamation to extract gold from ore, and the EU has already decided to phase out mercury technology in the chlor-alkali industry. Use of dental amalgam, too, has already decreased in Finland: amalgam was used in less than 3 per cent of dental fillings in 2012.

Inquiries:

Pirkko Kivelä, Ministerial Adviser, tel. +358 295 250 279, firstname.lastname@ym.fi (in Geneva until 29 September)

Ulla Ahonen, Communications Specialist, tel. +358 2952 50052 (in Geneva on 29 September)