EMBARGOED- UNTIL 15/8/2017, 23:59 PM, Brussels time
Brussels / Yerevan 16 August 2017- Today’s entry into force of the Minamata Convention establishes the first new multilateral environmental agreement in over a decade. The Zero Mercury Working Group* has been calling for a legally binding treaty for over a decade and welcomes the new protocol.
“While there are alternatives to mercury, there are no alternatives to global cooperation,” said Michael Bender, coordinator of the Zero Mercury Working Group. “Mercury respects no boundaries and exposes people everywhere” Elena Manvelyan, AWHHE President. “Only a global pact can curtail this dangerous neurotoxin.”
In October 2013 the convention text was adopted and signed by 128 countries, but would not take legal effect until at least 50 countries had ratified it formally. This milestone was reached in May of this year, and the convention will enter into force on August 16.
“We are now on the right track line.” said Elena Lymberidi-Settimo, Project Manager, European Environmental Bureau and ZMWG co- coordinator. “Over time, the Convention is expected to provide the necessary technical and financial resources to reduce exposure risks worldwide. Governments must therefore move swiftly towards efficient implementation of the Treaty’s provisions”.
The aim of the Convention is “to protect the human health and the environment” from mercury releases.
The treaty holds critical obligations for Parties to ban new primary mercury mines while phasing out existing ones and also includes a ban on many common products and processes using mercury, measures to control releases, and a requirement for national plans to reduce mercury in artisanal and small-scale gold mining. In addition, it seeks to reduce trade, promote sound storage of mercury and its disposal, address contaminated sites and reduce exposure from this dangerous neurotoxin.
The First Conference of the Parties will take place from 24 to 29 September 2017 in Geneva, Switzerland. Over 1,000 delegates and around 50 ministers are expected to assemble in Geneva to celebrate and lay the groundwork for the treaty’s overall effectiveness.
The Minamata Convention joins 3 other UN conventions seeking to reduce impacts from chemicals and waste – the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions.
For more information, see:
Elena Manvelyan, President, Armenian Women for Health and Healthy Environment (AWHHE) NGO, T: +37410523604, firstname.lastname@example.org
Elena Lymberidi-Settimo, Project Coordinator ‘Zero Mercury Campaign’, European Environmental Bureau, ZMWG International Coordinator
T: +32 2 2891301, email@example.com
Michael Bender, ZMWG International Coordinator, T: +1 802 917 8222, firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes to the editors:
Mercury is a global pollutant that travels long distances. Its most toxic form – methylmercury – accumulates in large predatory fish and is taken up in our bodies through eating fish, with the worst impacts on babies in utero and small children.
*The Zero Mercury Working Group (ZMWG) is an international coalition of over 95 public interest environmental and health non-governmental organizations from more than 50 countries from around the world formed in 2005 by the European Environmental Bureau and the Mercury Policy Project. ZMWG strives for zero supply, demand, and emissions of mercury from all anthropogenic sources, with the goal of reducing mercury in the global environment to a minimum. Our mission is to advocate and support the adoption and implementation of a legally binding instrument which contains mandatory obligations to eliminate where feasible, and otherwise minimize, the global supply and trade of mercury, the global demand for mercury, anthropogenic releases of mercury to the environment, and human and wildlife exposure to mercury.
Since June 2016, the EU has discussed several draft proposals for scientific criteria to identify endocrine disruptors (EDCs). On July 4th, representatives of Member States agreed upon the criteria for pesticides. These criteria are far from what would be needed to actually identify, and eventually get rid of, all EDCs, but nothing is set in stone (yet).
So what does this mean?
There is an internationally agreed definition of endocrine disruptors from 2002 from the World Health Organisation’s International Program on Chemical Safety: Global assessment of the state of the science of endocrine disruptors. This definition, however, required further refinement to be applied to EU regulations.
Despite the mandate to develop harmonized hazard-based criteria to identify EDCs, the EU Commission has been focusing its efforts on specifically designing EDC identification criteria in the limited context of only two legal acts: the ‘pesticides regulation’ (plant protection product regulation n°1107/2009) and the ‘biocides regulation’ (biocidal product regulation n°528/2012).
The pesticides and biocides regulations contain a similar provision requiring EDC identification criteria, but the adoption procedure is slightly different in each, requiring two different expert committees and different timing, which impacts the final adoption procedure for the criteria.
What happens to the EDC criteria now under the pesticide regulation?
Under the pesticides regulation, the Commission had to present a proposal to a committee of EU member states – the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health (SC-PAFF). Since June 2016, the Commission presented and amended the draft five times, until it was finally agreed upon by SC-PAFF on July 4th.
The adoption procedure under the pesticides regulation, referred to as the regulatory procedure with scrutiny, involves the EU Parliament and Council. The Commission has to submit the text of the criteria to the two institutions. Then, both the Parliament and Council can oppose the criteria if:
- The Commission exceeds the implementing powers provided in the pesticides regulation,
- The criteria are not compatible with the aim or the content of the pesticides regulation, or
- The criteria do not respect the principles of subsidiarity or proportionality.
Both institutions have three months to adopt a decision to oppose the criteria, via a simple majority for the Parliament and qualified majority for the Council (that is 55% of member states, representing at least 65% of total EU population).
If three months expire without action from the Parliament or Council, the criteria are considered adopted and shall be published in the Official Journal of the EU.
There are two reasonable grounds upon which Parliament and the Council should oppose the criteria agreed upon on July 4th:
- the criteria contain an exception for substances specifically intended to control target organisms via their endocrine systems, and
- the very high burden of proof to identify a substance as an EDC.
Opposition from either of these institutions would effectively block final adoption of the criteria. In case of opposition, the Commission may submit amended draft criteria to the SC-PAFF.
The criteria will enter into force twenty days after their publication in the Official Journal of the EU, and –as specifically indicated in the current draft- application will begin six months after its entry into force.
The EDC criteria in the biocides regulation
Under the biocides regulation, the Commission still has a pending obligation to adopt the criteria through a delegated act after consultation of the Member States Competent Authorities for Biocidal Products. The deadline for adoption expired in 2013, and in 2015, the European Court of Justice condemned the Commission for its delay.
After the adoption of the delegated act, the Commission notifies the Parliament and Council of the criteria, both of which will then have two months to object, extendable by other two months.
The Parliament decision is adopted via a majority vote, while the Council requires a qualified majority. In this case, the institutions are not bound by specific grounds of opposition.
Other EU regulations – beyond biocides and pesticides
The EU 7th Environmental Action Programme and the EU Better Regulation Agenda mandated that the Commission develop horizontal criteria applicable across EU regulations, to account for the presence of endocrine disrupting chemicals in products other than pesticides and biocides. However, the nearly adopted criteria are narrowly designed for application within the biocides and pesticides regulations to the exclusion of all other areas where EDCs exist.
While the medical devices regulation directly refers to the criteria under the biocides regulation, other areas of EU law remain in a regulatory void. As a result of the flawed, narrow, sectoral approach chosen by the Commission and validated by the member states, endocrine disruptors are not only escaping identification in pesticides, biocides, and medical devices in contact with the most vulnerable, but also remain unregulated in entire product markets such as cosmetics, toys, and food contact material.
In the frame of the joint WECF France – AWHHE, Armenia project entitled “Sustainable Agriculture for Women in Armenia” the mission of the French Delegation took place on 20-24 June 2017. The delegation visited the Women Resource Agricultural Center in Solak, Kotayk region where the training on eco soap production for women of 3 targeted villages (Ditak, Solak and Voskevan) was conducted.
June 16, 2017
Washington, DC – The Endocrine Society, the European Society for Endocrinology, and the European Society for Paediatric Endocrinology sent a joint letter to the European Commission expressing serious concern with the Commission’s proposed criteria on endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs). In the letter, the three societies claim the proposed criteria will fail to identify EDCs that are currently causing human harm and will not secure a high level of health and environmental protection.
An EDC is a chemical or mixture of chemicals that can cause adverse health effects by interfering with hormones in the body. There are more than 85,000 manufactured chemicals, of which thousands may be EDCs. EDCs are found in everyday products and throughout the environment.
The EC’s proposed criteria on EDCs cannot be called science-based as it contains arbitrary exemptions for chemicals specifically designed to disrupt target insect endocrine systems that have similarities in humans and wildlife. The three societies strongly object to the addition of loopholes in the criteria as they create frameworks where potentially dangerous chemicals cannot be defined as EDCs by law.
The three societies urge Member States to work towards improved criteria for the identification of EDCs by incorporating the following recommendations:
- Removing the exemption for biocides and pesticides designed to act on endocrine systems;
- Adhering to a science-based definition of EDCs that include categories for known EDCs and chemicals for which more information is needed to make a determination; and
- Maintaining a hazard-based identification system without derogations based on risk.
Endocrinologists are at the core of solving the most pressing health problems of our time, from diabetes and obesity to infertility, bone health, and hormone-related cancers. The Endocrine Society is the world’s oldest and largest organization of scientists devoted to hormone research and physicians who care for people with hormone-related conditions.
The Society has more than 18,000 members, including scientists, physicians, educators, nurses and students in 122 countries. To learn more about the Society and the field of endocrinology, visit our site at www.endocrine.org. Follow us on Twitter at @TheEndoSociety and @EndoMedia.
Yerevan, 8 June 2017
On the 8th of June 2017 a workshop was held in Ani Plaza Hotel, Yerevan, dedicated to the problem of chemicals, in particular pesticides, which cause disorders of the endocrine system. The workshop was organized by the Armenian Women for Health and Healthy Environment NGO (AWHHE) within the framework of the project “Protecting Women from endocrine disrupting chemicals” supported by GGF. Detailed information on endocrine disrupting chemicals was provided by AWHHE employee Ms. Knarik Grigoryan. These chemicals in very small doses can block the action of hormones or can cause disruption in the endocrine system. The availability of information on the hazardous properties of substances and the use of recommended precautions when handling them make it possible to make production, transportation, handling and disposal processes safe. Many countries already have regulatory systems in these areas. In 2002, the international community adopted the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals. In hеr speech Ms. Elena Manvelyan, Head of AWHHE, got the participants familiarized with the content of the GHS and noted the advisability of implementing this system in national legislation, which will reduce the risks of exposure of such substances to health and the environment. She emphasized the necessity for respecting the consumer’s right to know what chemicals they buy together with the goods. In conclusion, Ms. Manvelyan called for increasing the focus on the issue of chemical safety and working more efficiently in this field, noting that the sound management of chemicals and wastes is one of the most important requirements for sustainable development. Mr. Artur Nikotyan, representative of the Ministry of Agriculture, briefed the participants of the seminar on the strategy of control and protection of plants and agricultural products against pests, use of chemical means of plant protection and their import into Armenia. A wide discussion arose around the question of the possibility of the transition of intensive chemization to agroecological methods of farming.
According to Mr. Nikoyan, this transition is still very slow, although Armenia is not a country with very intensive use of chemicals. The results of monitoring about the presence of the residual amounts of persistent organic substances in soil, irrigation water and agricultural products were presented by the representatives of the Center for Ecological and Noosphere Studies of the National Academy of Sciences of Armenia and the American University of Armenia. Ms Lilik Somonyan, AWHHE expert, presented the results of analysis for the content of pesticide residues in breast milk and agricultural products. In conclusion, the audience was informed about the results of the International Conference on the three Chemical Conventions by the representative of the Ministry of Nature Protection of Armenia and a member of the AWHHE who were delegates to that Conference.
On the 31st of May 2017, the launch meeting of the project entitled “Solar Energy for Low-Carbon Sustainable Lifestyles in Solak, Aygavan and Malishka Rural Communities of Armenia” was held in the Garni Hall of Ani Plaza Hotel, Yerevan with participation of representatives from the Ministry of Energy Infrastructures and Natural Resources of Armenia, the Embassy of Japan in Armenia, target villages, NGOs, solar technology companies and mass media. The aim of the meeting was to present the planned project activities in the above-mentioned communities.
The project is funded through the 10YFP Trust Fund established by UNEP ( brochure). The project was selected through an open 10YFP Trust Fund Call for Proposals for Sustainable Lifestyles and Education Programme with the financial support of the Government of Japan.
The project objective is to improve the social and economic situation in these villages through the promotion of solar energy use. The project will use an innovative participatory method for developing and implementing local sustainable development strategies and plans with active involvement of the different stakeholders and the public at large in local communities.
Triple COPs – The thirteenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Basel Convention (BC COP-13), the eighth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Rotterdam Convention (RC COP-8) and the eighth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Stockholm Convention (SC COP-8) were completed on the 5th of May 2017.
The meetings were organized back-to-back and included joint sessions on joint issues. The Conference also included a high-level segment on Thursday, 4 May and the morning of Friday, 5 May 2017. The theme of the meetings and the high-level segment was “A future detoxified: sound management of chemicals and waste”.
Representatives from IPEN Participating Organizations and Partners in 30 countries met today in Geneva for an IPEN preparatory meeting prior to the beginning of the Meetings of the Conferences of the Parties (COP) to the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions taking place in Geneva, Switzerland. The meetings begin on the 24th of April with a joint session of the three Conventions.
IPEN focal point in Armenia for chemical conventions AWHHE NGO participated in the meetings of the BRS Conference. The full information on the conference is available at the IPEN website: www.ipen.org
4 – 5 May 2017, Geneva, Switzerland
AWHHE representative participated in the Workshop on setting targets under the Protocol to support implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) (http://www.unece.org/index.php?id=44749#/) and the Ninth meeting of the Task Force on Target Setting and Reporting (http://www.unece.org/index.php?id=45258#/) which were held back to back on 4-5 May 2017 in Geneva.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (2030 Agenda) and the SDGs were adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in September 2015 as a next step in the world’s development agenda. As water is at the core of sustainable development, the implementation of SDG 6 on clean water and sanitation and of other water related goals and targets will be key to fulfill the aspiration of the 2030 Agenda.
The Government of Armenia was represented by delegates from the Ministries of Health and Nature Protection.
On April 7, 2017, the EUWI NPD Steering Committee held its 16th meeting to discuss national priorities for the water sector in the next 4 years.
The meeting was attended by the representative from the EU Delegation to Armenia Mr. Gregory Tsouris, OECD representative Ms.Tatiana Efimova and UNECE representatives Mr. Peep Mardiste and Ms. Chantal Demilecamps, as well as representatives from the relevant agencies, academic institutions and non-governmental organizations.
The agenda focused on the latest developments in the water sector in respect of water resources management, use and maintenance of water systems, cooperation with the international program implemented in Armenia, as well as the draft Action Plan 2018-2020 for the Provision of Equitable Access to Water and Sanitation developed by the Working Group of Experts in frame of the ongoing project “Development of an Equitable Access Action Plan in Armenia” based on the self-assessment results of Equitable Access Score–card for Water and Sanitation implemented by AWHHE NGO in the Republic of Armenia under the Protocol on Water and Health.
Webinar on HHPs problems, belonged to EDCs was held on 13th of March 2017. Experts from EECCA countries participated in the webinar. Five presentations were prepared by Olga Speranskaya IPEN/ EcoAccord; Oleg Sergeev, Russia Chapaevsk; Eugenia Koreneva, Ukraine; Elena Manvelyan, Armenia; Oleg Pechenjuk, Kirgistan.
- Общие проблемы стран ВЕКЦА по обращению с особо опасными пестицидами и как их решать, Ольга Сперанская, IPEN/Эко-Согласие
- Вещества, нарушающие работу эндокринной системы – введение в проблему, Олег Сергеев, Ассоциация медицинских работников г.Чапаевска
- Влияние пестицидов на репродуктивную систему (гипофертильность), Евгения Коренева, МАМА-86
- Результаты проекта по анализу содержания пестицидов в грудном молоке и сельскохозяйственной продукции, Елена Манвелян, AWHHE
- Кампания по внесению глифосата в списки пестицидов, запрещенных к применению в странах ВЕКЦА, Олег Печенюк, «Независимая экологическая экспертиза»
Participants of webinar agreed to continue the discussion and attract additional specialists and experts, in particular agroecologists.