Canada has signed a global treaty to reduce mercury emissions, and it may find itself as the single largest beneficiary.
The federal government estimates that while Canada has reduced its own mercury emissions by some 90 per cent over the last 40 years, as much as 95 per cent of mercury and its related compounds that continue to be deposited in Canada come from foreign sources.
The primary victim is Canada’s Arctic region.
“Signing this treaty reinforces Canada’s commitment to protecting the Arctic ecosystem, the health of our indigenous peoples, northerners, and the global population,” said federal Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq in an October 10, 2013 announcement from Ottawa.
Aglukkaq also acts as Minister for the Arctic Council.
The Minamata Convention on Mercury was negotiated under the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) during a diplomatic convention in Japan on October 10 – 11, 2013. Its name is derived from a Japanese city devastated by industrial mercury pollution during the mid-20th century. Some 2,000 residents died after eating fish polluted by discharges.
At a May 2013 meeting in Sweden, the Ministers of the Arctic Council said they looked forward to the Minamata Convention on Mercury, noting the particular vulnerabilities of Arctic ecosystems and indigenous communities.
The Minamata Convention on Mercury addresses all aspects of the life-cycle of mercury, including controls and reductions across a range of products, processes and industries where mercury is used, released or emitted. The Canadian government said that the rate of mercury reductions will depend on a number of factors, including which countries ratify the treaty, how many ratify (50 required for entry into force) and what actions are taken by the countries party to the treaty.
Mercury can be found in medical equipment such as thermometers, energy-saving light bulbs, and in many parts of the mining, cement and coal-fired power sectors.
Countries can join the Minamata Convention on Mercury until October 8, 2014.The U.S. is expected to sign the treaty once its federal government resumes from a temporary shutdown.