Protocol on Heavy Metals

The 1998 Aarhus Protocol on Heavy Metals

The Executive Body adopted the Protocol on Heavy Metals in Aarhus (Denmark) on 24 June 1998. It targets three particularly harmful metals: cadmium, lead and mercury.  According to one of the basic obligations, Parties have to reduce their emissions for these three metals below their levels in 1990 (or an alternative year between 1985 and 1995). The Protocol aims to cut emissions from industrial sources (iron and steel industry, non-ferrous metal industry), combustion processes (power generation, road transport) and waste incineration.  It lays down stringent limit values for emissions from stationary sources and suggests best available techniques (BAT) for these sources, such as special filters or scrubbers for combustion sources or mercury-free processes. In addition, the Protocol requires Parties to phase out leaded petrol.  It also introduces measures to lower heavy metal emissions from other products, such as mercury in batteries, and proposes the introduction of management measures for other mercury-containing products, such as electrical components (thermostats, switches), measuring devices (thermometers, manometers, barometers), fluorescent lamps, dental amalgam, pesticides and paint. 

In 2012, Parties to the Protocol on Heavy Metals adopted decision 2012/5 to amend the Protocol to include more stringent controls of heavy metals emissions and to introduce flexibilities to facilitate accession of new Parties, notably countries in Eastern Europe, South-Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia. In addition, they adopted decision 2012/6 to update guidance on best available technologies (BAT), as contained in annex III. The amendment to annex III entered into force on 9 January 2014. In line with article 13, paragraph 3, of the Protocol, the amendments to the text of the Protocol and its annexes other than III and VII require ratifications by two thirds of the Parties. These amendments have not yet entered into force.

In 2013, the Minamata Convention on Mercury was adopted, a treaty negotiated under the auspices of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). Building on the 1998 Protocol on Heavy Metals, the Minamata Convention raised the profile of mercury to the global level.

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Ratification

Entry into force

The 1998 Aarhus Protocol on Heavy Metals

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Status

29/12/2003

1998 Protocol on Heavy Metals, as amended on 13  December 2012 

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Status

Not yet in force except for Annex III: 09/01/2014

Further information:

Press-release on the adoption of amendments to the Protocol on Heavy Metals

On the importance of reducing heavy metals, by Katja Kraus, Chair of the Task Force on Heavy Metals, 2003-2013