The newly established IPBES: Exciting, exhausting, and enlightening

Sunday September 15, 2013

by Katja Heubach (Germany, GESA 2011 alumna)

Exciting!

In December 2013 Katja will again attend the annual IPBES conference, in Antalya, Turkey.

For my first official act as a new member of the German project NeFo (Network Forum Biodiversity Research, at the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ in Leipzig, Germany), I attended the first plenary of the newly established Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) that took place from January, 21st to 26th 2013, in Bonn, Germany. At the time, 105 states had already joined IPBES and today it embraces 109 members from all over the world. The atmosphere in the former plenary hall of the Lower House of German Parliament in Bonn was loaded with great expectations and emotionally coloured motives to bring the best for biodiversity out of this meeting.

Founded in April 2012, the IPBES was launched as an independent international platform to pool existing knowledge about the status quo and development of the global biodiversity as well as about the reasons for its decline in order to make this knowledge accessible and understandable to decision-makers. During its first meeting in Bonn, delegates of the member states decided the platform’s rules of procedure as well as further development, and elected the members for the various bodies of IPBES, e.g. the Chair, the Bureau and the Multidisciplinary Expert Panel (MEP, scientific advisory board).

 

Exhausting!

While this may sound like a lot for a session of five days and 105 nations with quite differing motives, delegates and observers (i.e. ‘non-delegates’: e.g. NGOs, scientific institutions, indigenous peoples and local communities, as well as individuals) had expected much more to be decided, particularly with respect to the work programme of the platform – the very ‘heart’ of IPBES. Consequently, the participants of IPBES-1 went home with mixed feelings: they had taken essential steps on the procedural and structural setting of IPBES but would have to await the second plenary of IPBES in December 2013 for further decisions with respect to content.

In the meantime, there is a lot of work to do. The main topics to be discussed are:

  • Designing a selection process for the future constitution of the MEP;

  • Prioritizing requests put to the platform;

  • Drafting the work programme;

  • Drafting a strategy for the inclusion of different knowledge systems for the assessments;

  • Drafting a conceptual framework for IPBES;

  • Designing a scoping process for the work programme;

  • Drafting a stakeholder engagement strategy for the implementation of the work programme.

Both member states and observers are invited to comment on the emerging drafts and suggestions which are prepared by different institutions and stakeholders, e.g. by IUCN/ICSU (stakeholder engagement strategy) and the MEP (scoping process).

 

Enlightening!

Having been deeply involved in the development of a stakeholder strategy and working closely with colleagues from ICSU/IUCN and a diverse and inspiring group of different stakeholders (e.g. environmental NGOs, indigenous peoples, representatives from the business and industry sector, as well as scientific societies), I am particularly excited about this strategy’s further progress. The draft strategy we compiled in Paris opened for both official and public consultation, and I organized a national workshop in Bonn, Germany, to inform and prepare German stakeholders for getting involved with the process. This open consultation process of IPBES is a truly qualitative step towards a more democratic, transparent, and inclusive form of an intergovernmental platform – what, for instance, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) did not succeed in.

Taking in the inspiring and motivating atmosphere of both the first meeting of IPBES and the associated meetings on different intersessional topics on IPBES, I am really excited about the further progress of the Platform!

If you are interested in learning more about the history, structure, and activities of IPBES, please have a look at the attached slides as well as on the official web page of IPBES provided by the UNEP interim secretariat (www.ipbes.net).

For further information, I will be more than happy to hear from you!

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Dr. Katja Heubach, Network Forum Biodiversity Research (NeFo), Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ, Leipzig, Germany, www.biodiversity.de, e-mail: katja.heubach@ufz.de.

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