Remarks by Nick Nuttall, UNEP Acting Director of Communications and Spokesperson to the Network of Women Environment Ministers Wed, Dec 5, 2012

Doha, 4 December 2012 - Honourable Ministers I am here to seek your support.

In 2009 governments attending the UNEP Governing Council agreed to start negotiations on a new global treaty to deal with the notorious heavy metal mercury.

Mercury and its organic form methyl mercury is I am sure you know is one of the most health-hazardous substances known to man and woman and is especially damaging to the nervous systems of babies and young children.

The World Health Organization considers there is no safe limit in terms of exposure. Other impacts among those exposed can be liver, thyroid and skin damage to name but a few.

In the United States studies indicate that damage to the IQ persists into adulthood and could be costing the economy billions of dollars in terms of reduced productivity.

Instead of decreasing, level of mercury in the environment seems to be on the rise from multiple sources some of which are actually linked to the issues here at the UN Climate Convention talks here in Doha, Qatar.

For example a key source of new mercury into the environment is the burning of coal in power stations - reducing emissions from coal-fired power stations can thus deliver multiple, inclusive Green Economy benefits from cuts in CO2, air pollutants and mercury emissions.

Other sources that also echo to the climate agenda come from deforestation and slash and burn agriculture.

Meanwhile there is evidence that old methyl mercury, locked away in ice in the Arctic and mountain glaciers and in the sediments of lakes is re-emerging and getting back into the food chain.

Millions of workers and their families are also at risk in countries carrying out small-scale artisanal mining of gold for objects such as jewelry from Brazil to Venezuela to Papua New Guinea and Vietnam.

The final negotiation session on the mercury treaty is scheduled for mid January in Geneva. We need the women ministers for the environment to take a stand on this issue. The treaty needs to be agreed and it needs to be meaningful and I would ask you to use your voice, your social networking skills, your political clout and your powers of persuasion to realize this inspirational opportunity to make a difference for women, babies and men in the cause of a sustainable century.

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