The UNEP Governing Council requested, as part of the global assessment on mercury, an outline of options for consideration by the Governing Council, addressing any significant global adverse impacts of mercury, inter alia, by reducing and or eliminating the use, emissions, discharges and losses of mercury and its compounds; improving international cooperation; and ways to enhance risk communication.
As part of the implementation of Governing Council decision 21/5, UNEP established a Working Group to assist it in preparing for the Governing Council’s discussions on the issue at its session in February 2003. The Global Mercury Assessment Working Group, at its first meeting held from 9 to 13 September 2002, finalized this assessment report for presentation to the Governing Council at its 22nd session. At this meeting, the Working Group arrived at a number of conclusions of relevance to the Governing Council’s considerations:
- Based on the key finding of this report, the Working Group concluded that, in its view, there was sufficient evidence of significant global adverse impacts to warrant international action to reduce the risks to human health and/or the environment arising from the release of mercury into the environment. While it was important to have a better understanding of the issue, the Working Group emphasized that it was not necessary to have full consensus or complete evidence in order to take action and therefore potentially significant global adverse impacts should also be addressed.
- The Working Group also agreed on an outline of options for recommendation on measures to address global adverse impacts of mercury at the global, regional, national and local levels. The options include measures such as reducing or eliminating the production, consumption and releases of mercury, substituting other products and processes, launching negotiations for a legally-binding treaty, establishing a non-binding global programme of action, and strengthening cooperation amongst governments on information-sharing, risk communication, assessment and related activities.
Finally, the Working Group agreed to the need to submit to the Governing Council a range of possible immediate actions in light of their findings on the impacts of mercury, such as increasing protection of sensitive populations (through enhanced outreach to pregnant women and women planning to become pregnant), providing technical and financial support to developing countries and to countries with economies in transition, and supporting increased research, monitoring and data-collection on the health and environmental aspects of mercury and on environmentally friendly alternatives to mercury.