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In her address to the plenary, the Head of the Federal Department of the Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications (DETEC) stressed that a convention with clear commitments is required so that the community of states can take effective action against the poisoning and environmental damage caused by mercury.
According to Federal Councillor Leuthard the convention must contain measures for the provision of technical and financial support, and mechanisms for the settlement of disputes (compliance) and for guaranteeing its implementation. The presence of mercury must be reduced at global level. Hence, Federal Councillor Leuthard spoke in support of the closure of mines as this would send a clear signal and also ensure the promotion of efficient technical alternatives to mercury. It would also make a significant contribution to the reduction and prevention of the damage to health caused by mercury.
Federal Councillor Leuthard also stressed that the financing mechanism to be established to support developing countries in the implementation of the convention must take the needs of the recipient countries into account. Switzerland has offered to provide CHF1 million to cover the short-term financial requirements if the negotiations in Geneva reach a positive conclusion.
The Head of the DETEC also highlighted the need to integrate a mechanism for the resolution of disputes into the convention. The experience gained with other conventions has shown that the postponement of such provisions to a later date does little to establish trust between the partner countries.
Federal Councillor Leuthard further stressed that the world expects the delegates involved in the negotiations to find solutions for the points that remain open. She urged the delegates to fulfil these expectations by bringing the negotiations to a conclusion with credible results.
Switzerland is very committed to the reduction of mercury emissions. Mercury is a heavy metal which is liquid at ambient temperature. It is very volatile and highly toxic to humans, animals and the environment. The aim of the convention about be concluded is to reduce harmful mercury emissions at global level. To this end, the production and use of mercury shall be reduced, particularly for the manufacture of products and industrial processes. The convention shall also regulate the storage of waste containing mercury.
Thanks to measures undertaken over the past 30 years, mercury emissions in Switzerland have decreased significantly and are now estimated at just one tonne per year. Nevertheless, Switzerland has shown a strong commitment to the establishment of a mercury convention. One of the reasons for this is its acknowledged environmental policy expertise in the field of chemicals and hazardous waste. The secretariat of the other three international conventions dealing with environmentally hazardous chemical products is based in Geneva.