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Abstract Title: From Stockholm to Minamata and Beyond: Past, Present and Future of Mercury Pollution
Presenter Name: Henrik Selin
Company/Institution: Boston University
Session: How are we doing in implementing the Minamata Convention?
Day and Session: Monday 25th July - Session Four
Start Time: 15:30 UTC
Co-Authors: Henrik Selin,Noelle Selin

Abstract Information :

The 50th anniversary of the landmark 1972 United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm provides an opportunity to reflect on five decades of international cooperation on hazardous substances and what will be important over the next 50 years. This paper summarizes current understanding of changes in mercury discharges over the past 50 years, details the role of the Minamata Convention, and explores what the mercury issue may look like and the relevance of the Minamata Convention in 2072. It draws on data from multiple estimates of mercury discharges and changes over time with respect to leading regions and sectors as well as literature on analyzing progress and treaty effectiveness. While trends in mercury emissions in the last 50 years are uncertain, all of the different estimates suggest that a considerable amount of mercury has been discharged in the 50 years since the Stockholm Conference. Of the all-time anthropogenic emissions of mercury to air, roughly a quarter have occurred since 1972. The paper examines in detail the cases of mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants and mercury use in artisanal and small-scale gold mining, as two leading contemporary and future sectors that contribute to global mercury emissions and releases. We argue that combinations of process and outcome indicators can be useful for measuring progress and the effectiveness of the Minamata Convention in the near term, but that a key longer-term global indicator of the continuation of mercury damages to the environment and human health is the cumulative amount of mercury discharged by future human activities. We conclude by drawing parallels to debates about combinations of mitigation and adaptation in the climate change area, and assessing efforts to define a ?planetary boundary? for mercury and other hazardous substances.

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