Towards a Progressive Intergovernmental Platform on Ecosystem Services and Biodiversity (IPBES)

  • 2017/12/01     Dresden, Germany

    Image: Thuy Nguyen/UNU-FLORES

    Reporting by Jiwon Park, Intern, Communications & Advocacy Unit

    Across the globe, each species depends on the services provided by other species to ensure survival. Biodiversity is crucial not only to human society but also to boost ecosystem productivity. As time goes by, the importance of biodiversity and ecosystem services has been increasingly recognised. However, unfortunately, biodiversity loss and ecosystem deterioration are now declining faster than at any point in human history.

    Addressing the alarming situation of biodiversity loss and degradation of ecosystem services, the Nexus Seminar on “The Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES): Tasks and Challenges” was held on 20 November at TU Dresden. Focusing on the work programme for Regional Assessment for Europe and Central Asia (ECA), Prof. Irene Ring, Chair of Ecosystem Services of TU Dresden, talked about the promising IPBES and the challenges and prospects faced by the platform.

    About IPBES

    • IPBES is a science-policy interface with respect to biodiversity and ecosystem services within an intergovernmental forum; it strives to build the capabilities to address the many urgent problems facing the conservation and sustainable stewardship of biodiversity and ecosystem services worldwide.
    • IPBES provides four key functions:  (1) scientific assessment, (2) policy support tools, (3) capacity building, and (4) knowledge generation.

    The seminar was opened with an introduction to the history and structure of IPBES. After a brief account of the work programme, Prof. Irene Ring elaborated on the complexity of the working procedures of the platform. Running parallel tasks can spread various stakeholders thin – for instance to complete multiple steps at once and deliver a completed project within a short timeline.

    Prof. Ring is engaged as a Coordinating Lead Author for Regional Assessment for Europe and Central Asia (ECA), which is one of the work programmes of IPBES. She spoke about the main challenge faced by the project: tackling transboundary issues by integrating information from different regions. Due to the heterogeneity of three regions – Western Europe, Eastern Europe, and Central Asia – defining characteristics of the region and harmonising regional assessments are no easy matter.

    Organising and ensuring the desired high level of multiple stakeholders’ involvement are another challenge of IPBES. A concern raised is the lack of involvement of the many biodiversity experts from civil society and private sector. Generally stakeholders are typically governmental policymakers. Accordingly, selection and nomination of experts for scoping assessments take a long time.

    Image: Thuy Nguyen/UNU-FLORES

    In her presentation, Prof. Ring highlighted the need to recognise the importance of indigenous and local knowledge. In order to enhance credibility, relevance, and legitimacy of the deliverables of IPBES, one can no longer ignore the contribution of indigenous and local knowledge. However, there are still questions concerning how to coordinate local and indigenous knowledge experts, the scientific community, and policymakers. She emphasised the need to assess indigenous and local knowledge, and practice is needed to achieve all stated deliverables.

    In a fruitful discussion that followed, participants raised issues related to the possibility of involvement from private sector; for example, how companies can contribute to conserving biodiversity. Responding to the query, Prof. Ring explained that IPBES seeks to engage with a great diversity of stakeholders, including policymakers as well as the private sector. The Q&A session concluded the seminar.

    “We are aiming 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.”

    Prof. Irene Ring, Chair of Ecosystem Services of TU Dresden

    The next Nexus Seminar will take place on 18 December 2017 at UNU-FLORES, which closes the series for this year. UNU-FLORES researcher Dr Lulu Zhang from the Soil and Land-Use Management Unit  will talk about “Environmental Restoration Impacts on Hydrological Services in Drylands – Biophysical and Socioeconomic Perspectives”.