20 March 2018
IPBES-6 Opens, Readies to Finalize Five Assessments
Photo by IISD/ENB | Sean Wu
story highlights

The sixth session of the Plenary of the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES-6) opened in Medellín, Colombia, to negotiate the summaries for policy makers of four regional assessments and an assessment evaluating the state of land degradation.

The assessments to be launched will be the first to use an expanded analytical lens to capture the relationships between nature and humans.

Following IPBES custom, the Plenary session was preceded by a Stakeholder Day.

18 March 2018: The sixth session of the Plenary of the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES-6) opened in Medellín, Colombia, to negotiate the summaries for policy makers of four regional assessments and an assessment evaluating the state of land degradation and impacts on biodiversity, as well as measures to restore degraded land.

A special event held on Saturday, 17 March, attended by high-level local and national policy makers marked the opening. Federico Gutiérrez Zuluaga, Mayor of Medellín, Colombia, highlighted the city’s commitment to a green development pathway including through payment for ecosystem services involving the municipal government and communities living around watersheds. Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos mentioned several ongoing efforts to restore and preserve biodiversity throughout Colombia, including inter alia: increasing the number of terrestrial protected areas (PAs) by 14% and marine PAs (MPAs) by 13%; and regional efforts to protect marine corridors of the Andes, the Amazon, and the Atlantic.

An Ambitious Agenda

IPBES-6 is expected to finalize and launch five science-policy assessment reports and summaries for policy makers: a thematic assessment on Land Degradation and Restoration; and regional assessments on human induced challenges and opportunities in the Americas, Asia and the Pacific, Africa, and Europe and Central Asia.

The assessments review and summarize best available evidence for decision-makers that seek to balance the needs of people and nature. All five assessments also evaluate progress and lessons learned in the context of global agreements and targets, including the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) Aichi Biodiversity Targets, and the Paris Agreement on climate change.

Next to the assessments, the session is also expected to decide on the initiation of the three pending assessments of IPBES’ first work programme, including thematic assessments on the sustainable use of wild species and invasive alien species, and a methodological assessment regarding the diverse conceptualizations of multiple values of nature. Delegates will also discuss an update of the Platform’s review and consider a process for the development of the second work programme for IPBES. [IPBES-6 Website] [IPBES-6 Annotated Agenda] [IPBES-6 Meeting Documents]

Assessment Primers

The content of the assessment reports and summary for policymakers (SPMs) will remain confidential until the regional assessments and the assessment on land degradation are publicly launched on Friday, 23 March and Monday, 26 March, respectively. However, as a way of providing a sneak preview, the IPBES Secretariat released six ‘Assessment Primers’ that outline the mandate, process, and background for each assessment and provide their respective “hot topics.”

The ‘General Messages’ primer outlines the main research questions addressed by the regional assessments and the general structure of assessment reports. The primers on the regional assessments provide additional detail on the assessment process and list “hot topics” that are likely to be addressed in the key messages to policy makers to be adopted during IPBES-6.

  • Hot topics in the Africa assessment include: trade-offs in the water-energy-food nexus; changes in biodiversity and nature’s contributions to people in Africa; future scenarios and their implications for achieving Africa’s targets; and options for effective governance.
  • Hot topics in the Americas assessment include: the contribution of biodiversity and nature to people’s quality of life; loss and degradation of natural habitats and their impacts on biodiversity and quality of life; climate change, pollution, invasive species and natural resource exploitation; and urbanization and the decline of rural communities.
  • Hot topics in the Asia-Pacific assessment include: climate change impacts; sustainable consumption of biodiversity and ecosystem services; sustainable land management; managing deforestation; addressing invasive alien species; regulating adverse impacts of trade; saving biodiversity from rapid urbanization; addressing coastal pollution; options for good governance of nature; and reducing the impact of human-induced wildfires.
  • Hot topics in the Europe and Central Asia assessment include: valuation of nature’s contributions to people and well-being, including the role of biodiversity; transboundary ecological footprint; biodiversity trends across ecosystem types and taxa; direct and indirect drivers underlying biodiversity change; integrated future scenarios and pathways; progress towards Aichi Targets and implication for the SDGs; and options for decision makers.

The primer for the assessment on worldwide land degradation and restoration notes that this will be the first global evidence-based assessment that examines the implications of land degradation for achieving the Aichi Targets, the SDGs and the Paris Agreement. It explains that the assessment will: identify threats to land-based ecosystems as well as the range of available solutions to reduce the environmental, social and economic risks and impacts of land degradation. [IPBES-6 Assessment Primers]

Nature’s Contributions to People

The assessments to be launched at IPBES-6 will also be the first to use an expanded analytical lens to capture the relationships between nature and humans. Titled ‘Assessing nature’s contributions to people,’ the approach was introduced by the scientists serving on IPBES’s Multilateral Expert Panel (MEP) to better reflect the complex relationship between humans and nature and the diversity of perspectives on those relationships. The approach recognizes that most contributions of nature are co-produced by nature and people and are perceived through different cultural lenses. At the same time, it seeks to provide a general perspective that organizes nature’s contributions to people into 18 broad categories of material, non-material, regulating, and cultural contributions. The approach also aims to resolve the tension between indigenous and local knowledge (ILK), which is often context-specific and does not “explicitly seek to extend or validate itself beyond specific geographical and cultural contexts,” and scientific knowledge which is validated through its general applicability, among other criteria. Ultimately, the approach seeks to increase the legitimacy and usability of IPBES assessment, by enabling the effective incorporation of knowledge from many disciplines, contexts and cultural backgrounds.

The assessments to be adopted at IPBES-6 are expected to begin using nature’s contributions to people with a view to fully implementing the approach in the global assessment of biodiversity and ecosystem services, scheduled for adoption by IPBES-7 in 2019. [IPBES Press Release] [Article Abstract] [Assessing Nature’s Contributions to People]

Stakeholder Day

Following IPBES custom, the Plenary session was preceded by a Stakeholder Day, which offered an opportunity for organizations interested in the IPBES process to discuss their engagement in the Plenary session. In a series of panel sessions, participants focused on issues such as: ways to enhance the impact of IPBES assessments, including through capacity building for uptake; the role of the new participatory mechanism in incorporating indigenous and local knowledge in assessments; challenges in ensuring the policy relevance of assessments, and interpreting and communicating their findings; and next steps in implementing the IPBES Capacity-building Rolling Plan and how to prioritize requests for capacity building. [IPBES Stakeholder Day Website]

Opening of the Plenary Session

IPBES-6 took up its business on Sunday morning, 18 March, with many regions lauding its achievements to date, while stressing the need for a sustainable funding strategy to finance the completion of IPBES first work programme, including three pending assessments, and developing a new work programme for the next five years.

In her report on progress in implementing the IPBES work programme, Executive Secretary Anne Larigauderie highlighted progress in: strengthening national and regional capacities; implementation of the participatory approach to integrate indigenous and local knowledge; indicators for IPBES assessments; and improvements in stakeholder engagement and outreach. On Sunday evening, four contact groups were established to discuss the summaries for policy makers of the four regional assessments. [IISD RS Coverage of IPBES-6]

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