United States Proposes Decision on Mercury at 25 GC/GMEF
Statement of Daniel A. Reifsnyder, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Environment and Sustainable Development U.S. Department of State
UNEP GC 25
February 16, 2009
Intervention on Mercury
Thank you Mr. Chairman, I greatly appreciate the opportunity to express the views of the United States on this important issue, and I encourage other delegates to take this opportunity in the plenary to express their own views so we can carefully gauge the progress we may be able to make at this meeting prior to breaking into a contact group.
Implications of Mercury Pollution
The United States has made great strides in addressing mercury contamination at home.
However, more than half of all mercury deposition within the United States comes from sources outside our borders. In the United States, mercury is the most common cause of fish contaminant advisories, and presents a major concern for public health as well as fisheries and commerce. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warn that pregnant women and young
children should avoid consuming fish that are high in mercury. Despite the major efforts currently undertaken domestically by U.S. Federal, State, and local authorities to reduce mercury levels in rivers and streams, currently all 50 states have fish advisories. In recognition of the importance of this issue, in 2008, under the leadership of our now President Obama, the United States' Congress passed the Mercury Export Ban Act to ban exports of elemental mercury beginning in 2013. However, neither the United States, nor any other country can achieve sufficient reductions of mercury risks to protect the health of its citizens without serious cooperation internationally to reduce global mercury emissions.
International Discussions on Mercury
I believe it is valuable to recall how the Governing Council has arrived at this point in the discussion. In 2001, the international environmental community began to focus on mercury when it launched the global mercury assessment to understand better the significance and sources of mercury as a global pollutant. The report from that assessment clearly set out the threat that mercury poses to human health and the environment, and the nature of mercury as a global pollutant. In 2003 and 2005, the Governing Council began substantively to address concerns over mercury, first by establishing a Mercury Program in UNEP, and second by launching a mercury partnership program. The United States has been a strong supporter of both of these developments and has contributed over $5 million to the Partnership. We are pleased with the significant work done by UNEP and the UNEP Global Mercury Partnership.