The Minamata Convention on Mercury aiming at the reduction of mercury use and emission was agreed at the 5th Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee in Switzerland from January 13 through January 18, 2013. The international community started the first negotiating conference in 2010 and drew a draft for convention by coordinating stands of different countries through four conferences over the years. The Mercury Convention was reported to the 27th United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) Executive Board in February of this year. The convention is going to be formally adopted through diplomatic conference in October.

While many countries have been conducting mercury management, the effort of each country was confronted with limitations in protecting health of the people and environment since mercury has properties of long range mobility through air and great bio-concentration. For this reason, the international community including United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and NGOs has been pushing ahead with International Convention for promoting the participation and effort of the whole world. Convention Draft agreed at the 5th Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee includes regulations concerning mercury supply and trade, products containing mercury, mercury emission into air, water and soil, storage and disposal, financial and technical support, etc. Products containing mercury are divided into the following product categories: phased prohibition category, reduction category and use permission category. With regard to mercury emitted into the air, the result and status of facility management performance for reduction must be reported to the Conference of the Parties.

This convention is expected to influence manufacturers of products containing mercury, facilities emitting pollutants into the air, etc, but its impact on Korea is expected to be relatively low.
As products containing mercury like fluorescent lamps or batteries are controlled by domestic content standard which is similar to the content standard stipulated in the Convention Draft, and facilities emitting pollutants into the air are controlled by criteria in domestic laws much more strict than those stipulated in the Convention Draft, the impact of the Convention on Korea is not expected to be large.

For the ratification of the Convention, relevant ministries need to strengthen the foundation for domestic implementation and draw up relevant laws through close cooperation as soon as possible. In the preparation of the ratification and effectivation of the Convention, the Ministry of Environment is planning to establish legal, institutional and technical performance basis including the enactment or revision of relevant laws in an proactive way on the basis of research of the actual condition and opinions from interested parties.

Last modified : 2013-10-24 19:56

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