Products and Processes: An Explanation of Positive and Negative Lists

One of the main issues on the table during the mercury negotiations leading up to INC5 has been how to deal with products and processes containing mercury. In particular, the question of whether to adopt a “negative list” or a “positive list” approach was heavily debated.

So what’s the difference?

  • A negative list approach would mean a ban on mercury use in all products and processes, with the exception of a few agreed upon and listed uses. To remember this, think n = “no mercury use is allowed (possibly with exceptions).”
  • A positive list approach would only ban mercury use in products and process that are explicitly agreed upon and listed. Think p = “list of prohibited products and processes”

The mercury treaty negotiations have separated products and processes into two different annexes: Annex C and Annex D. For Annex C, which addresses mercury-added products, INC5’s contact group on selected technical articles proposes to use what is being called a “hybrid list” approach: basically, 1) they have listed the products that are banned (i.e., a positive list), and all other mercury-containing products are allowed, but 2) products that are in the banned list are allowed when used for certain, very specific uses (such as civilian protection or military uses).

Annex D, which addresses manufacturing processes in which mercury or mercury compounds are used, currently takes a positive list approach: only the processes that are listed are banned, all others are allowed.

While these Annexes currently appear to be settled, a lot can happen in the last hours of the treaty negotiations, and it remains to be seen how exactly products and processes will be regulated by the treaty.

Watch our blog and track us on twitter @lncz and @MITmercury to see how the produces and processes part of the treaty comes together!

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