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What is IPBES

Adapted from www.ipbes.net

What is IPBES?

IPBES stands for ‘Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services’.  IPBES will be an interface between the scientific community and policy makers that aims to build capacity for and strengthen the use of science in policy making.

Do we need an IPBES?

There are many organisations and initiatives that contribute to the science policy interface on biodiversity and ecosystem services. However, there is no ongoing global mechanism recognised by both the scientific and policy communities that brings information together and synthesises and analyses it for decision making in a range of policy fora such as the global environmental conventions and development policy dialogues.

A gap analysis and three intergovernmental and multistakeholders meetings convened from 2008-2010 determined the need for a new platform to address the gaps in the science policy interface on biodiversity and ecosystem services.

What will IPBES do?

IPBES will respond to requests for scientific information related to biodiversity and ecosystem services from Governments, relevant multilateral environmental agreements and United Nations bodies, as well as other relevant stakeholders.  Governments have agreed that the four main functions of IPBES will be:

  • To identify and prioritise key scientific information needed for policymakers and to catalyse efforts to generate new knowledge.
  • To perform regular and timely assessments of knowledge on biodiversity and ecosystem services and their interlinkages.
  • To support policy formulation and implementation by identifying policy-relevant tools and methodologies.
  • To prioritise key capacity-building needs to improve the science-policy interface, as well as to provide and call for financial and other support for the highest-priority needs related directly to its activities.

What are the key principles of IPBES?

Governments have agreed that in carrying out its work, IPBES should:

  • Collaborate with existing initiatives on biodiversity and ecosystem services, including multilateral environmental agreements, United Nations bodies and networks of scientists and knowledge holders, to fill gaps and build upon their work, while avoiding duplication;
  • Be scientifically independent and ensure credibility, relevance and legitimacy through the peer review of its work and transparency in its decision-making processes;
  • Use clear, transparent and scientifically credible processes for the exchange, sharing and use of data, information and technologies from all relevant sources, including non-peer-reviewed literature, as appropriate;
  • Recognise and respect the contribution of indigenous and local knowledge to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity and ecosystems;
  • Provide policy-relevant information, but not policy-prescriptive advice, mindful of the respective mandates of the multilateral environmental agreements;
  • Integrate capacity-building into all relevant aspects of its work according to priorities decided by the plenary;
  • Recognise the unique biodiversity and scientific knowledge thereof within and among regions, and also recognise the need for the full and effective participation of developing countries and for balanced regional representation and participation in its structure and work;
  • Take an interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary approach that incorporates all relevant disciplines, including social and natural sciences;
  • Recognise the need for gender equity in all relevant aspects of its work;
  • Address terrestrial, marine and inland water biodiversity and ecosystem services and their interactions;
  • Ensure the full use of national, sub regional and regional assessments and knowledge, as appropriate.

What will the governance structure for IPBES look like?

The governance structure for IPBES is under establishment. However, Governments agreed on the following principles:

  • That the platform’s efficiency and effectiveness should be independently reviewed and evaluated on a periodic basis as decided by the plenary, with adjustments to be made as necessary;
  • That the new platform should be established as an independent intergovernmental body administered by one or more existing United Nations organisations, agencies, funds or programmes.
  • That the plenary will be the platform’s decision making body.
  • That the plenary should be open to participation by all Member States of the United Nations and by regional economic integration organisations.
  • That intergovernmental organisations and other relevant stakeholders should participate in the plenary as observers.
  • Through its rules of procedure (which are yet to be determined) the plenary should in general take decisions by consensus of government representatives.
  • That there will be one Chair and four vice-chairs.
  • That two subsidiary bodies are established by, and report to, the Plenary to
    support the smooth, effective and timely operation of the Platform: the Bureau and the Multi-disciplinary Expert Panel (MEP). The Bureau will oversee the administrative functions of the Platform. The MEP will carry out the scientific and technical functions of the Platform.

How will IPBES be financed?

Governments have agreed that a core trust fund should be established to receive voluntary contributions from Governments, United Nations bodies, the Global Environment Facility, other intergovernmental organisations and other stakeholders, such as the private sector and foundations.

Where will IPBES be hosted and by which organisation(s)?

Which organisation(s) that might administer IPBES has not yet been decided. However, in Busan it was agreed that IPBES should be established as an independent intergovernmental body administered by one or more existing United Nations organisations, agencies, funds or programmes. FAO, UNESCO, UNDP and UNEP are working together to propose an institutional framework for IPBES.

The IPBES secretariat is hosted by the German government in Bonn.


How will IPBES work with other institutions?

It was agreed in Busan that IPBES would collaborate with existing initiatives on biodiversity and ecosystem services, including multilateral environment agreements, United Nations bodies and networks of scientists and knowledge holders, to fill gaps and build upon their work, while avoiding duplication.

There are a range of ongoing assessment initiatives at various scales that it will be important to consider as the IPBES work programme is established. These include a number of global assessments, for example the ongoing Forest Resources Assessment, and the assessments of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and also the growing number of sub-global ecosystem assessments being undertaken building on the millennium ecosystem assessment.

IPBES is often referred to as the IPCC-like platform for biodiversity and ecosystem services: what are the similarities and differences between the two?

The IPCC has repeatedly been cited in discussions over the establishment of IPBES, and has formed the basis for many governments’ considerations in establishing IPBES. IPCC has provided an authoritative independent channel by which the science of climate change has been made available to governments and other audiences, and serves as a flagship example of how the science on biodiversity and ecosystem services could be more effectively and independently brought to bear on environmental and development decision making.

IPBES is being established with the same broad intentions – to ensure the best available science is made available to governments and other decision makers. Like the IPCC, IPBES will have strong peer review processes in place, and will draw on multidisciplinary expertise from around the world.

However, there are also many lessons to be learned from the climate science-policy interface, including from the findings of the 2010 InterAcademy Council review of the IPCC.

Important differences are also likely to emerge as the details of the IPBES work programme are determined. For example, the scope of IPBES assessments will be broader with stronger elements of sub-global and thematic assessment than the IPCC assessments. This responds to the importance of managing biodiversity and ecosystem services at more local scales than the climate. Also, IPBES will have a stronger work programme on capacity-building than does the IPCC currently.

How can I get involved in IPBES as an individual?

In a similar manner to that of the IPCC, and the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, IPBES will depend on expert individual contributions for its scientific assessment work. The forthcoming sessions of the plenary meeting will decide on rules and procedures for engagement of various stakeholders in IPBES, and further details on how to be involved as an individual will be made available from the IPBES website and widely advertised through scientific networks and other means.

In preparation for putting in place the modalities and work programme of IPBES, many governments are also consulting with their national scientific communities, providing an opportunity to engage with governments in advance of decisions being taken on IPBES at the plenary sessions.

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