Sculpture "Pez-Peste" by Nicholas Garcia Uriburu, Argentina

4th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Minamata Convention on Mercury (COP-4)

1–5 November 2021 | Online

Minamata Convention on Mercury

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4th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Minamata Convention on Mercury (COP-4)
Sculpture "Pez-Peste" by Nicholas Garcia Uriburu, Argentina
Sculpture "Pez-Peste" by Nicholas Garcia Uriburu, Argentina, reminds the irreversible consequences of mercury contamination and pollution.

The fourth meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP-4) to the Minamata Convention on Mercury will convene online to address time-sensitive items to ensure that the Minimata Convention continues to protect human health and the environment from anthropogenic emissions and releases of mercury and mercury compounds.

The COP was scheduled to convene in person during the first week of November 2021 in Bali, Indonesia. In light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Bureau agreed instead to convene COP-4 in two parts: a virtual segment, which will convene between 1-5 November 2021 (COP-4.1), and an in-person segment in Bali during the first quarter of 2022 (COP-4.2). 

What is the Minimata Convention?

The Minamata Convention was adopted in 2013 to address mercury, a heavy metal that is persistent in the environment and is harmful to human health and sustainable development.

As a naturally occurring element, mercury can be released into the air and water through the weathering of rock containing mercury ore or through human activities such as industrial processes, mining, deforestation, waste incineration, and burning fossil fuels.

Mercury can also be released from mercury-containing products, including dental amalgam, electrical applications (e.g. switches and fluorescent lamps), laboratory and medical instruments (e.g. clinical thermometers and barometers), batteries, seed dressings, antiseptic and antibacterial creams, and skin lightening creams.

Mercury exposure can affect fetal neurological development and has been linked to lowered fertility, brain and nerve damage, and heart disease in adults who have high levels of mercury in their blood.

The Minamata Convention entered into force in 2017 and currently has 133 parties. It includes a ban on new mercury mines, the phase-out of existing ones, the phase-out and phase-down of mercury use in a number of products and processes, control measures on emissions to air and on releases to land and water, and the regulation of the informal sector of artisanal and small-scale gold mining. The Convention also addresses interim storage of mercury and its disposal once it becomes waste, sites contaminated by mercury as well as health issues.

What will happen at COP-4?

During the online segment of COP-4, parties will consider time-sensitive items, including the Convention’s Programme of Work (POW) and budget for 2022-2023. This will ensure that the work of the convention can continue until the COP resumes in person in 2022.

Parties are expected to adopt an interim budget for 2022 and agree on elements of the preliminary budget for 2023, pending its completion and approval at COP-4.2. Other items to be addressed at the online segment include:

  • the draft guidance for completing the first full national reports by parties, reports which are due by 31 December 2021;
  • inputs to the replenishment planning discussions for the Eighth Replenishment of the Global Environment Facility, one component of the financial mechanism of the Convention; and
  • an update on Parties-led consultations on effectiveness evaluation.

Finally, COP-4.1 is expected to formally agree on the exact dates of their in-person meeting for COP-4.2. During COP-4.2, parties will consider all agenda items not considered or concluded during COP-4.1.

The COP last convened in November 2019, when parties focused on achieving the smooth functioning of the Minamata Convention as well as substantive and technical issues aimed at fostering action to address mercury production and use around the world.

Over the past two years, experts have convened to review Annexes A and B to the Convention (mercury-added products and manufacturing processes in which mercury or mercury compounds are used, respectively). A group of technical experts on guidance on mercury releases into the environment have concluded their draft report. Another group of technical experts has been working on mercury waste thresholds. In advance of COP-4, the EU, Africa, and Canada with Switzerland have each submitted proposals to amend Annex A and/or B of the Convention. These issues will be considered by COP-4 when it reconvenes in 2022, along with dental amalgam, customs codes to identify mercury-added products, national action plans on artisanal and small-scale gold mining, and implementation of monitoring to support effectiveness evaluation.

Online sessions of the first segment of COP-4 are scheduled to take place daily between 1:00-3:00 pm and 3:30-5:30 pm (UTC+2).

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