EIUI team member Dr. Elizabeth De Santo participated in the 5th Plenary Session of the Intergovernmental Science Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) held in Bonn, Germany, 6-10 March 2017. As a member of the IUCN World Commission on Environmental Law, Elizabeth was part of the IUCN delegation to the meeting, which began with a Stakeholder Forum on the 6th March, followed by four days of negotiations. More than 460 participants attended, representing governments, UN agencies and convention secretariats, non-governmental and inter-governmental organizations, indigenous peoples and local communities, and other stakeholder groups. Elizabeth was accompanied by her research student Lea Senft (2017 graduate of Franklin & Marshall College), who has completed two independent studies on IPBES and presented some of her research findings at Dalhousie University in October 2016.
Founded in 2012, IPBES aims to strengthen the science-policy interface for biodiversity and ecosystem services for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, long-term human well-being, and sustainable development, through four functions: i) conducting assessments of biodiversity and ecosystem services, and supporting, ii) policy, iii) knowledge generation, and iv) capacity-building. IPBES is an intergovernmental body, designed to work with the scientific community and other knowledge-holders, to assess the state of biodiversity and the ecosystem services it provides to society (i.e., somewhat analogous to the role provided by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)). Its current membership includes 126 governments, and over 1,000 scientists from across the globe contribute voluntarily to the work of IPBES.
The concept of ecosystem services, including the idea of quantifying “nature’s contributions to people” is increasingly important in the biodiversity conservation arena, especially given the global biodiversity crisis. IPBES provides a key science-policy interface mechanism, bringing together the scientific community and other knowledge-holding communities, including indigenous groups, and responding to requests for information and advice from decision-makers. To date, IPBES has completed a thematic assessment on pollinators, pollination, and food production, and a methodological assessment of scenarios and models of biodiversity and ecosystem services.
A key outcome of the fifth session of the IPBES Plenary was the decision to delay pending assessments for the time being, and focus on assessments currently underway, due to budget challenges. The six ongoing assessments include regional (Africa, Americas, Asia Pacific, and Europe and Central Asia), and global biodiversity assessments, and a thematic assessment on land degradation and restoration. The meeting also adopted decisions on capacity building, and on a general approach to the inclusion of indigenous and local knowledge (ILK) in all of IPBES’s functions.
More information about IPBES-5 can be found at the IPBES website, and insight/analysis of the meetings is available in the IISD Earth Negotiations Bulletin. Further information is also available in this article published by Franklin & Marshall College.