IPBES Plenary Approves Regional and Land Degradation Assessments
Photo by IISD/ENB | Kiara Worth
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The sixth session of the Plenary of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES-6) approved the summaries for policy makers and the report chapters of four regional assessments, as well as a thematic one on land degradation and restoration.

The assessments confirm that continued biodiversity decline seriously jeopardizes the chances of any region to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and highlight existing policy options that can reverse the trend.

24 March 2018: More than 700 participants attended the sixth session of the Plenary of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES-6), which approved the summaries for policy makers and the report chapters of four regional assessments, as well as a thematic one on land degradation and restoration. The assessments confirm that continued biodiversity decline seriously jeopardizes the chances of any region to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and highlight existing policy options that can reverse the trend.

The meeting was held from 18-23 March 2018 in Medellín, Colombia. It was preceded by a Stakeholder Day on 17 March. Highlights of the meeting included:

  • approval of the summaries for policy makers (SPMs) and the report chapters of four regional assessments on biodiversity and ecosystem services in Africa, the Americas, Asia and the Pacific, and Europe and Central Asia;
  • approval of the SPM and report chapters of a thematic assessment on land degradation and restoration;
  • a decision on implementation of the first work programme, including the initiation of work on two new assessments in 2018 on the sustainable use of wild species, and on tools and methodologies regarding multiple values of biodiversity to human societies; and the initiation of an assessment on invasive alien species in 2019; and
  • a decision on development of a strategic framework up to 2030 and elements of a rolling work programme.

The regional assessments focus on providing answers to key questions for each of the four regions, including: why is biodiversity important, where are we making progress, what are the main threats and opportunities for biodiversity and how can we adjust our policies and institutions for a more sustainable future? In every region, with the exception of a number of positive examples where lessons can be learned, biodiversity and nature’s capacity to contribute to people are being degraded, reduced and lost due to a number of common pressures – habitat stress; over-exploitation and unsustainable use of natural resources; air, land and water pollution; and increasing numbers and impact of invasive alien species and climate change, among others.

The assessment on land degradation and restoration shows that worsening land degradation caused by human activities is undermining the well-being of two fifths of humanity, driving species extinctions and intensifying climate change. It is also a major contributor to mass human migration and increased conflict, according to the world’s first comprehensive evidence-based assessment of land degradation and restoration. The report notes that successful examples of land restoration are found in every ecosystem, and that many well-tested practices and techniques, both traditional and modern, can avoid or reverse degradation. Opportunities to accelerate action identified in the report include: coordinating policy between different ministries to simultaneously encourage more sustainable production and consumption practices of land-based commodities; eliminating “perverse incentives” that promote land degradation, and promoting positive incentives that reward sustainable land management; and integrating the agricultural, forestry, energy, water, infrastructure and service agendas.

We must act to halt and reverse the unsustainable use of nature – or risk not only the future we want, but even the lives we currently lead.

“Biodiversity and nature’s contributions to people sound, to many people, academic and far removed from our daily lives,” said IPBES Chair Sir Robert Watson. “Nothing could be further from the truth – they are the bedrock of our food, clean water and energy. They are at the heart not only of our survival, but of our cultures, identities and enjoyment of life. The best available evidence, gathered by the world’s leading experts, points us now to a single conclusion: we must act to halt and reverse the unsustainable use of nature – or risk not only the future we want, but even the lives we currently lead. Fortunately, the evidence also shows that we know how to protect and partially restore our vital natural assets.”

Delegates celebrated the meeting as a major milestone in the history of IPBES, noting the approval of these assessments will enhance the Platform’s impact and assist policy makers around the word in developing actions to protect biodiversity and conserve or enhance nature’s contributions to people. The five IPBES assessments are expected to inform several international events, including the High-level Political Forum (HLPF) in July 2018, which will review, among others, progress on SDG 15 (Life on land), and the fourteenth session of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD COP14) to be held in November 2018. The regional assessments will also inform the global assessment on biodiversity and ecosystem services to be approved at IPBES-7 in May 2019. The global assessment, in turn, will be an important source of information for the fifth edition of the CBD Global Biodiversity Outlook and for the review of implementation of the CBD Strategic Plan 2011-2020 and the development of a Strategic Plan beyond 2020.

On the margins of the meeting, a memorandum of understanding was signed between the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) and IPBES. The memorandum formalizes ongoing cooperation between GBIF and IPBES and identifies specific areas for collaboration that include: identification of, and access to, biodiversity datasets relevant to IPBES assessments and indicators; mobilization of new data through IPBES-identified knowledge gaps; coordination of GBIF’s capacity-building activities to support data mobilization and access relevant to IPBES; and encouragement of collaboration between GBIF’s national nodes and IPBES national focal points. [IISD RS Coverage of the Meeting] [IPBES Press Release on Regional Assessments] [IPBES Press Release on Land Degradation Assessment] [CBD Press Release] [GBIF Press Release]


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