The first technical report entitled Global Mercury Assessment (GMA), concerning the effects of mercury pollution on ecosystems and human health, is presented in the 22nd session of the Governing Council of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP GC – Governing Council).
During the same session, UNEP establishes the Mercury Programme, to stimulate the scientific community to undertake research activities in this field, highlighting the need to improve the knowledge about this pollutant, that is released by a large number of industrial plants, as well as from extractive mining and energy production activities. UNEP then stresses the importance of providing support to all countries in taking action to control mercury emissions and the exposure of the population to the various forms of pollution.
During the 23rd session of the UNEP Board of Directors (Decision 23/9 IV), five Partnership areas are established that correspond to the sectors in which to act as a priority to tackle mercury pollution:
- Control of mercury released by coal combustion
- Reduction of mercury released by artisanal and small-scale gold mining
- Reduction of mercury in the chlor-alkali industry
- Reduction of mercury in products
- Transport of mercury in the atmosphere and research on its fate (UNEP F&T).
Subsequently, three other areas will be added to the previous ones:
- Management of waste containing mercury
- Mercury supply and storage
- Reduction of mercury in the cement industry.
The goal is to provide an updated picture about specific aspects relating to mercury contamination and its impact on human health and the environment.
UNEP Board of Directors recognizes the need to develop a legally binding instrument on mercury by identifying in the UNEP Global Mercury Partnership (GMP) the main mechanism through which immediate action can be taken.
Accordingly, the Board establishes a Partnership Advisory Group (PAG) to facilitate the work of the partnership areas to which belong the leaders of the partnerships, the partners appointed by the partnership areas themselves and other representatives.
The PAG meets annually within UNEP and provides an updated framework on the activities of each partnership. The first meeting of the PAG is held in 2009 in Geneva.
UNEP releases the latest update to the Global Mercury Assessment (GMA), that provides the most recent information available for the worldwide emissions to air, releases to water, and transport of mercury in atmospheric and aquatic environments.
The PAG now consists of 25 members. Since 2019, it has been co-chaired by Teeraporn Wiriwutikorn (Minister of Natural Resources and the Environment of Thailand) and Rodges Ankrah (of the United States Environmental Protection Agency).