Almost 10 years after the launch of the idea and 5 years of intense discussions on the design, IPBES has adopted its first work plan for 2014-2018. The plan includes developing a set of assessments on pollination and food production, land degradation and invasive species aimed at providing policymakers with the tools to tackle pressing environmental challenges.
At a meeting - held last month in Antalya, Turkey - Member Governments agreed on a three-fold programme for the Intergovernmental science-policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). The programme aims at addressing the capacity and knowledge needs, providing sub-regional to global assessments on the status and trends of biodiversity and ecosystem services, and assessing knowledge related to various issues including threats, drivers and methods.
In addition, the governments decided to implement supporting activities such as maintaining catalogues of tools, developing a data and information management system, carrying out communication and outreach. Such a plan requires US$ 43.5 million to be availed with more than half already pledged.
"This excellent start is partly due to the determination and commitment of many scientific networks, including the IUCN Commissions of experts, which have reached out to national governments stressing the need to establish a global credible science-policy interface for decades," says Dr Cyrie Sendashonga, Director of IUCN Global Policy and Programme Group. "The adopted IPBES programme 2014-2018 shows an excellent potential for providing support to the formulation and implementation of international policies."
The subregional assessments could be strong drivers of better regional cooperation while the global assessment will provide the necessary data to evaluate the success of the CBD Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020, which bridges several international conventions. The thematic and methodological assessments have the potential to drive changes in sectoral policies, including on trade, agriculture and land-use planning. The methods that will be elaborated by the Platform could also have concrete impacts on the decision-making processes and on the recognition of natural capital in economic accounting.
"The task is huge and IPBES will have to demonstrate its ability to turn its reports and findings into useful tools for policy-making, in addition to creating substantial debates between the scientific and policy communities," adds Dr Tom Brooks, Head of IUCN Science and Knowledge Unit. "An equally big challenge will be to show its added value for filling the glaring gaps in research and technical capacity between countries."
He continues: "This first work plan provides for activities related to prioritization and matching the needs with resources, overseen by a dedicated Task Force. The financial resources allocated to these activities are actually far lower than the ones attributed to the production of reports and the experts involved less numerous. This may impede significantly the progress that can be made."
The Platform also envisions to contribute to setting the global agenda on biodiversity science and to develop methods for working with indigenous and local knowledge. The Plenary created two Task Forces to this end, however the resources are needed to make a difference and add value to the existing mechanisms and initiatives.
IUCN stands ready to support the ambitions of this work plan and recommends that more attention be given to capacity-building and knowledge production. On many topics the work of IPBES can build on and benefit from the existing work prepared by IUCN Commissions, Members and Secretariat.
"Substantial inputs are available, including on pollination, land degradation and restoration, sustainable use of biodiversity and invasive alien species. Regional mechanisms for harnessing biodiversity expertise are in place under IUCN auspices and could be used and leveraged for determining the most useful work to be done," explains Dr Brooks.
"IUCN, drawing on all its constituents, will technically contribute to most - if not all - of the deliverables. We will provide direct in-kind support to regional assessments, the thematic assessment on invasive species and the outreach and stakeholder engagement activities," adds Dr Sendashonga. "These are themes also aligned with IUCN's own programme for 2013-2016. In addition, the two resolutions on IPBES adopted at the 2012 IUCN World Conservation Congress provide a strong mandate for cooperating with and supporting IPBES."
The Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) was established in 2012 as an independent intergovernmental body open to all member countries of the United Nations. The members are committed to building IPBES as the leading intergovernmental body for assessing the state of the planet's biodiversity, its ecosystems and the essential services they provide to society.