Negotiators meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, this week reached agreement today on a Mercury Convention that protects human health and the environment from mercury, a toxic heavy metal. The treaty names the GEF as the lead organization charged with raising and disbursing grants for projects and programs to reduce and eliminate mercury pollution.
“The Global Environment Facility is ready, willing, and able to help carry forward the international agreement to meet this dangerous environmental threat,” said Dr. Naoko Ishii, CEO and Chairperson of the GEF. “We are proud to have worked with UNEP and international negotiators throughout the historic process of developing this mercury convention. We look forward to continuing our partnership.”
The Mercury Convention was agreed to at the fifth meeting of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee. The Committee, chaired by Fernando Lugris of Uruguay, will present the Convention text to the UNEP Governing Council for adoption next month.
“There was strong support among negotiators for the GEF to finance the new Convention,” Chairman Lugris said. “We look forward to cooperating with the GEF.”
The toxic effects of mercury on the nervous systems of humans were first identified in the 1950s in the fishing village of Minamata, Japan. Mercury compounds dumped into Minamata Bay by a petrochemical company worked their way into shellfish and from there into seafood consumed by humans and animals. The resulting illnesses, called Minamata disease, sickened adults and led to severe deformities in newborns. Some 3,000 people contracted Minamata disease and more than 1,700 died, according to the Japanese Government.
GEF grants will support a wide range of activities under the Convention. These activities include inventories, implementation plans and investments in technology for reduction and elimination of mercury.