Protecting the Planet: A Report from the International Conference on Mercury in Edinburgh

(EDF’s Mandy Warner co-wrote this post)

This week, experts in science, policy, and industry are meeting in Edinburgh, Scotland at the International Conference on Mercury as a Global Pollutant (ICMGP).

We are honored to join them to discuss international mercury science and policy, and to share EDF’s work on mercury.

The ICMGP has been held periodically for more than 18 years. It has become the pre-eminent international forum for formal presentation and discussion of scientific advances concerning mercury, and gathers between 700 and 1200 experts for the five-day conference and exhibition.

This year’s conference will be of particular importance, because this year will launch the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Global Legally Binding Treaty on Mercury — which can provide much-needed global action on mercury.

This year, UNEP has also released its new report, Global Mercury Assessment 2013 – Sources, Emissions, Releases and Environmental Transport.

So this year’s meeting is perfectly timed to celebrate the release of the report AND the launch of the international treaty — and most important, to discuss how to put the treaty into practice. It will be a great opportunity for policymakers and scientists to collaborate on solutions that address worldwide mercury emissions.

It is well-known that mercury is an extremely toxic metal.

Mercury primarily exists in three chemical forms in nature: elemental mercury, oxidized mercury and methylmercury.

Methylmercury is the most neurotoxic substance that builds up collects in our aquatic foodchains.

About 400,000 children are born in the U.S. each year with so much mercury in their blood that healthy brain development is threatened.

As they grow, these children’s capacity to see, hear, move, feel, learn and respond is compromised.

While some forms of mercury are deposited near the emissions source, other forms — such as gaseous mercury — are stable in the atmosphere for approximately a year. Gaseous mercury can be deposited far from its source, even thousands of miles away – which is why it has global impacts.

The U.S. is leading the way to reduce mercury emissions from a variety of sources, including coal-fired power plants — the largest remaining source of mercury in America.

The Mercury and Air Toxics Standards for power plants are in place thanks in part to strong support from EDF members, and from our partners in the environmental, health, faith, environmental justice, and business communities.

Power companies are working now to meet emission standards by spring 2015, by installing American-made technology.

EDF has helped advance mercury policy at the state and national level in the U.S. over the past several decades.

During the development of the recently finalized Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, we provided technical comments and testimony; worked with EPA, states, companies; collaborated with both Republicans and Democrats in Congress to defend protective standards; and worked through the courts to advance strong mercury standards.

Our partner organizations like Moms Clean Air Force have helped engage diverse voices from across America, and bring new constituencies to the forefront of the national policy discussion on air pollution and toxics.

We now have the privilege of highlighting the U.S. experience reducing mercury and advancing technology solutions in the power sector to this important international scientific and policy forum.

We hope to forge new partnerships to advance an international solution to mercury pollution that can protect the health not only of Americans, but people across the globe.

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