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Swiss join call to reduce mercury use

Switzerland has joined more than 140 countries in agreeing on moves to reduce mercury emissions at a United Nations gathering in Nairobi on Friday.

Environment Minister Moritz Leuenberger, who led the Swiss delegation in the Kenyan capital, agreed with his counterparts from all over the globe that talks must begin on a legally binding treaty to limit the use of the toxic metal.

In the past, moves to introduce binding limits on mercury emissions have been resisted by several countries including the United States, China and India.

About 6,000 tons of mercury – known for more than 100 years to harm the nervous system – are released into the environment each year, much of it coming from politically sensitive coal-fired power plants. Once released, it can travel across the globe.

Formal negotiations on the mercury treaty are set to begin next year and end in 2013.

While in Nairobi, Leuenberger also took the chance to argue that the current financial downturn is an opportunity to create environmental friendly initiatives with lasting economic benefits.

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