Tackling global mercury pollution

An enhanced programme to reduce health and environmental threats from toxic mercury pollution was agreed by 140 governments at an international gathering of environment ministers.

The decision includes developing partnerships between governments, industry and other key groups to curb emissions of the heavy metal from power stations and mines to industrial and consumer products.

After two years, governments will gauge its success and reflect on whether the voluntary initiative has worked or whether negotiations should commence on a new international and legally-binding treaty.

The mercury decision, along with 15 other key decisions, was made on the final day of the United Nations Environment Programmes (UNEP) Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment Forum in Nairobi.

Part of the new programme may mirror a successful UNEP-coordinated partnership to clean up vehicle fuels in developing countries. In four years this voluntary partnership, launched at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002, has phased out another heavy metal, lead, from petrol pumps across sub-Saharan Africa.

Other decisions taken include one to ask the UN General Assembly to declare 2010-2020 as the UN Decade for Deserts and the Fight Against Desertification.