One hundred and forty nations made a pact to reduce emissions of mercury from mining, utility plants and other industrial processes. New stricter regulations were adopted, together with enforceable limits and proposing alternatives that do not use mercury.
Mercury is a harmful and toxic natural element, which is usually found in the environment as a result of gold mining, coal-powered plants or from disposing of electronic devices. It travels up the food chain, because it accumulates in fish, which poses a risk to human health, even in very small quantities.
The initiation of the treaty began nearly a decade ago, with Switzerland and Norway being the first to push. In the next three years, the countries that have artisanal and gold-mining activities, should enforce reducing of emissions. There are exceptions for cases when there is no mercury-free alternative.
The biggest contributors to the treaty are Switzerland, Norway and Japan, giving $1 million, however as the U.N. Officials stated, a lot more would be needed to help developing countries comply. The pact will be signed in Japan later this year.
The biggest success of the conference that took place in Geneva, according to Achim Steiner, is the agreement of all delegations to set the treaty in motion. The U.S were initially against the signing of the agreement, however president Obama helped reversing the opinion. China and India were important in ensuring the adoption of the decision.
According to Fernando Lugris, the Uruguayan diplomat who chaired the negotiations, although it took around four years to reach an agreement, now society can safely look towards sustainable future.
Of course, there are some who are not entirely satisfied with the conclusions of the conference. Joe DiGangi, a science adviser with advocacy group IPEN, for example, does not believe that such treaty will contribute towards the overall reduction of emissions.
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A forgone waste of energy and resources in my view. With the introduction of CFLs and the push to outlaw regular light bulbs mercury contamination has to be on the rise. There is nothing in place to my knowledge to deal with the discard of the old or broken bulbs. Our land fills will soon be leaking mercury back into the ground and into our water supply. The level of danger will not rise quickly but it will rise.