Monday, February 16, 2009
Where Bush Ignored The Problem, Obama Team Plans On Leading Global Fight Against Mercury
In a complete turnaround of US policy.
Some excerpts from an AP article, and the AP photo by K. Senosi.
Daniel Reifsnyder, the deputy assistant secretary of state for environment and sustainable development, told a gathering of global environmental ministers in Nairobi, Kenya, that the US wants negotiations on limiting mercury to begin this year and conclude within three.
"We're prepared to help lead in developing a globally legally binding instrument," he said. "It is clear mercury is the most important global chemical issue facing us today that calls for immediate action."
The statement represented a "a 180-degree turnaround" from policy under the Bush administration, said Michael Bender, co-coordinator of the Zero Mercury Working Group, a global coalition of 75 environmental organizations working to reduce mercury exposure.
"The change is like night and day. The Bush administration opposed any international legal agreements on mercury and President (Barack) Obama is in office less than one month and is already supporting a global agreement," he said.
Bender said his group has had more discussions over mercury control in the past two weeks than they have in the last eight years and that the U.S. government included many of their ideas in the proposal they are presented in Nairobi.
A U.S.-drafted proposal obtained by The Associated Press would form a negotiating committee in conjunction with the U.N. environment program to help countries reduce their mercury use, clean up contaminated sites and find environmentally sound ways to store mercury. The European Union has already banned mercury exports starting in 2011. The U.S. has a similar ban that will be effective 2013, legislation that was sponsored by Obama when he was a U.S. senator.
Advocacy groups that have been working on getting such a global pact passed welcomed the U.S. policy change, saying it could encourage other countries such as Canada to make a similar change. Bender said mercury levels in the world had increased two to three times over the past 200 years.
"Given that the United States has pushed the door of resistance in a sense, that will lead others to follow," said Susan Egan Keane of the Washington, D.C.-based Natural Resources Defense Council.
It is actions like these that make me proud to have supported the change we Americans have initiated. It is actions like the ones in the other post today that remind me we have a long way to go.
There is another good article on this subject from Environment News Service here. Change is a coming.