IPBES is on its way

Since last year a new UN body has been created aiming at increasing the awareness of decision makers about the current biodiversity crisis. This new body is called the Intergovernmental Platform for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES in short). In this post I will quickly outline what is IPBES and will present the events that just happened in Bonn.

What is IPBES?

In short IPBES is the equivalent of the IPCC for the biodiversity, the IPCC is this organisation that deliver a report every 5 years or so about the current knowledge on the climate change. So these two organisation have a main function: delivering timely assessement which should be readable by every public and should be (beware magical words!!): policy relevant, which means that it should be interesting for policy-makers to read such report.

So in fact what happens in these bodies, is that every year or so every member state gather in a general assembly and decide to elect certain personn in key position, create new working groups… Then a few hundreds of scientists actively participate in the redaction of the assessment which are then reviewed by the member of the bureau.

The novelty with IPBES is that its assessment will be of varying scope and scale, for example they will tackle a wide range of issue at different spatial scale (global, national,regional..) whereas the IPCC report are only at the global scale. Another novelty is the inclusion in the scientific panels of expert from other field than just biological research like social science or geography. This is just a quick outline of IPBES more detailed informations can be found in the reference list at the end of this post.

What happened in Bonn?

Last year in Panama the IPBES was officially created yet a huge number of issues remained and the first meeting of the IPBES as an UN organisation tried to lay the fondation of the work to come.

The first big issue was to find a niche for IPBES among the already crowded space with organisation such as CBD, IUCN, CMS, Ramsar, UNEP, FAO that are all more or less working already on biodiversity the aim of IPBES was to be the central component of this ecosystem and to allow better knowledge transfer. The meeting in Bonn decided to place IPBES closely to the other Multilateral Environment Agreements (MEAs) since it was decided that only governments and MEAs could ask the IPBES to start some work. Hence organisation such as the IUCN will only be able to make suggestions. Yet a big issue remaining after the meeting is the relation of IPBES to the UN system, there are several big UN organisation that work at some extent with biodiversity issues: UNEP, UNDP,FAO and UNESCO. Since all of these play a major role into the biodiversity policy world the best would to link IPBES to all 4 of them, yet for the time being IPBES is only linked to the UNEP.

The second big issue was about the Multidisciplinary Expert Panel (MEP) the main scientific group in the IPBES which will be in charge of making the assessments. The composition of this panel was decided in Bonn and the result is a very male and natural science biased outcome. However the main work of this panel will be to determine the work programm for the 6 coming years, so not much science yet.

To conclude with IPBES offer an unique opportunity for researcher in biodiversity to better communicate their results to wider audience, and by engaging themselves into the process of making these assessment they can also become aware of the needs and way of thinking of decision-makers, this would help them design their projects and allow better communication to the public. On the other side decision-makers will gradually become aware of the interlinkage of all these issues and that they can only be tackle together and not separately, biodiversity today is threaten by many factors.

I will keep you updated with the advance and outcome coming from IPBES.


As always the IISD reporting service offer very interesting reports on all these meetings:


A few articles:

  • Koetz, T., K. N. Farrell, and P. Bridgewater. 2011. Building better science-policy interfaces for international environmental governance: assessing potential within the Intergovernmental Platform for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. International Environmental Agreements: Politics, Law and Economics 12:1–21. doi: 10.1007/s10784-011-9152-z.
  • Larigauderie, A., and H. A. Mooney. 2010. The Intergovernmental science-policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services: moving a step closer to an IPCC-like mechanism for biodiversity. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability 2:9–14. doi: 10.1016/j.cosust.2010.02.006

Taken from this blog post:


And of course the official website:



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