Mercurial Politics: Global and Regional Interplay in Mercury Policymaking Noelle Eckley Selin Harvard University Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences.
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Mercurial Politics: Global and Regional Interplay in Mercury Policymaking Noelle Eckley Selin Harvard University Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences Cambridge, MA USA 2005 Berlin Conference 1 December 2005
Outline Overview of mercury (Hg) in the environment and international cooperation under UNEP Issue history and comparison with persistent organic pollutants (POPs). Why a Convention on POPs but not mercury? Three potential factors… Ways forward and a comparison of prospects for different approaches
INTRODUCTION TO THE MERCURY PROBLEM ATMOSPHERIC CONCENTRATIONS: 3X pre-industrial levels Deposition Burial Re-emissions from both natural and anthropogenic sources Anthropogenic Emissions Natural Sources Deposition Conversion to Methyl Mercury Potential human exposure LAND OCEAN U.S. EPA recommended limit for mercury in hair: 1 ug/g Noelle’s hair: 1.1 ug/g EPA benchmark dose (10% of births show neurological defects: 11 ug/g
Issue History: Mercury and POPs Early concerns in 1970s: domestic actions POPsMercury Late 1980s/early 1990s: renewed concern, long-range transport Arctic Assessments (1998) Silent Spring Minamata, Japan Regional actions: North America and Europe Heavy metals: Lead, cadmium, mercury DDT, PCBs 1998 Århus Protocol on POPs 1998 Århus Protocol on Heavy Metals Global Assessments 1995-1996 IFCS assessments2002 Global Mercury Assessment UNEP Governing Council Mandate 2001 Stockholm Convention No agreement at UNEP GC Voluntary Mercury Programme
Status of International Cooperation on Mercury 2002: Global Mercury Assessment: sufficient evidence to warrant international action 2003: UNEP Governing Council EU, Norway advocate global agreement US, Canada, Mexico, others oppose Mercury Programme created 2005: UNEP Governing Council Some government submissions (Sweden, Switzerland, Philippines, etc.) support legally-binding agreement US, Australia, Japan, Canada propose partnerships Parties and stakeholders urged to develop partnerships – meet again in 2007 Why a treaty on POPs, and not on mercury?? What effect did Global Mercury Assessment have?
Why a global treaty on POPs but not Hg? Factors explaining international mercury policy 1.Political/Institutional Factors at National Level 2.Changing Landscape of Environmental Agreements 3.Nature of the Mercury Problem: scientific considerations and uncertainty
1. Political and Institutional Factors at National Level U.S., Canada, Australia as blocking coalition –Bush vs. Clinton administration: market-based approaches to environmental problems –National controversies on Hg in U.S. context –But, it’s easy to say U.S. is the problem – but can’t explain everything –Canada: proactive on POPs, but major metal industries
2. Changing Landscape of International Environmental Agreements Increasing emphasis on voluntary, rather than legally-binding action Is “convention fatigue” setting in? –Concerns about too much bureaucracy, too little coordination (ongoing Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management process)
3. Nature of the Problem: Mercurial Science? Mercury is both a regional AND a global problem Different forms of mercury have different long-range transport properties “Framing” of the international problem: local, regional or global? Preliminary results from GEOS-CHEM Mercury simulation (Harvard University Atmospheric Chemistry Modeling Group, https://www-as.harvard.edu/chem/trophttps://www-as.harvard.edu/chem/trop)
Ways forward Advantages of Convention: institutional coordination, monitoring, enforcement, legally-binding Advantages of partnerships: more funding to action-oriented projects, less overhead Include mercury in the Stockholm Convention? Prospects for 2007….