Summary report, 14–24 June 2021
Stakeholder Days and 8th Session of the IPBES Plenary
Biodiversity loss is becoming more visible on the global environmental agenda, and the work of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) has been gaining traction largely due to the publication of high-profile, well-received, and thorough assessments. The eighth session of the IPBES Plenary met virtually to lay the foundation to ensure continued success by approving future assessments and work plans for the intersessional period.
Highlights of the meeting included:
- approval of the scoping report for a thematic assessment of the interlinkages among biodiversity, water, food and health (nexus assessment);
- approval of the scoping report for a thematic assessment of the underlying causes of biodiversity loss, determinants of transformative change, and options for achieving the 2050 Vision for Biodiversity (transformative change assessment); and
- approval of the interim workplans of the five IPBES task forces for the intersessional period 2021–2022.
Negotiations were difficult, especially those concerning the scoping report for the nexus assessment. Contentious items included a draft chapter focusing on climate change and energy; the chapters’ structure; and the inclusion of multiple worldviews in the analysis. By approving the scoping reports, the IPBES Plenary has initiated a process for the nominations of experts from governments and other stakeholders, and selection of assessment co-chairs, lead authors, and review editors.
IPBES-8 was held virtually from 14-24 June 2021. Participants met for four hours each day in two sessions, including plenary sessions and meetings of the working group addressing the scoping reports and the workplans. The budget group met five times, including a full day on Friday, 18 June. The meeting was originally scheduled to take place in Marrakesh, Morocco, but was rescheduled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. IPBES-8 was preceded by the IPBES-8 Stakeholder Days from 3-9 June. Participants attending the meeting represented IPBES Member and non-member governments, UN agencies and convention secretariats, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, Indigenous Peoples and local communities (IPLCs), and stakeholder groups.
A Brief History of IPBES
The Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services is an independent, intergovernmental body established in 2012 to provide evidence-based, objective, and policy-relevant information to decision makers regarding the planet’s biodiversity, ecosystems, and the benefits they provide to people. The Platform’s work is divided into four functions:
- developing assessments on specific themes or methodological issues at global and regional scales;
- providing policy support through the development of tools and methodologies, and facilitating their use;
- building the capacity and knowledge of Members; and
- ensuring impact through an effective communication and outreach strategy.
The Platform’s main governing body is the IPBES Plenary composed of representatives of Members. Non-member states, UN organizations, non-governmental organizations, and other organizations can attend as observers. The work of the Plenary is supported by the Bureau overseeing the Platform’s administrative functions, and the Multidisciplinary Expert Panel (MEP) overseeing the Platform’s scientific and technical functions. To date, the Platform has 137 Members.
Stakeholder Days have been organized prior to every session of the IPBES Plenary to continue to provide a forum for stakeholder engagement. Stakeholder Days bring together stakeholders from scientific, Indigenous and local communities, and civil society organizations to receive updates about the work and intersessional activities of IPBES, exchange views regarding the issues on the agenda, and coordinate general statements and positions on specific issues.
Key Turning Points
IPBES was established in 2012 as a result of a consultative process initiated in response to the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA), the first state-of-the-art scientific appraisal of the conditions and trends in the world’s ecosystems and the services they provide, which was conducted from 2001 to 2005. In January 2005, the Paris Conference on Biodiversity, Science and Governance proposed to initiate consultations to assess the need, scope, and possible form of an international mechanism of scientific expertise on biodiversity as part of the MA follow-up process.
IMoSEB Process: Supported by the Government of France, the consultative process on an International Mechanism of Scientific Expertise on Biodiversity (IMoSEB) was conducted through an International Steering Committee and a series of regional consultations from 2005 to 2007. At its final meeting in November 2007, the Steering Committee invited donors and governments to provide support for the further consideration of the establishment of a science-policy interface. It also invited the Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and others to convene a meeting to consider establishing such an interface.
Following this invitation, stakeholders also agreed that the follow-up to the IMoSEB process and the MA follow-up process initiated under UNEP in 2007 should merge. A joint meeting took place in March 2008 to develop a common approach. In the same year, the ninth Conference of the Parties (COP) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) welcomed the decision of the UNEP Executive Director to convene an Ad Hoc Intergovernmental and Multi-Stakeholder Meeting on an IPBES and requested the CBD Ad Hoc Working Group on Review of Implementation to consider the meeting’s outcomes.
Ad Hoc Intergovernmental Multi-Stakeholder Process: From 2008 to 2010, the establishment of a science-policy interface was further discussed in a series of Ad hoc Intergovernmental Multi-Stakeholder Meetings. The first meeting (November 2008, Putrajaya, Malaysia) recommended UNEP undertake a preliminary gap analysis on existing interfaces. Based on this analysis, the second meeting (October 2009, Nairobi, Kenya) developed options to strengthen the science-policy interface, and functions and possible governance structures of an IPBES. At the third meeting (June 2010, Busan, Republic of Korea), delegates adopted the Busan Outcome, which recommended inviting the UN General Assembly (UNGA) to take appropriate action for establishing an IPBES. The sixty-fifth session of the UNGA (December 2010) requested UNEP to fully operationalize the platform and convene a plenary meeting to determine the modalities and institutional arrangements of the platform at the earliest opportunity. The 26th session of the UNEP Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment Forum (February 2011, Nairobi, Kenya) also called for convening a plenary session for an IPBES.
Plenary for an IPBES: The modalities and institutional arrangements of IPBES were negotiated at two sessions of an intergovernmental “Plenary for an IPBES,” established as an interim body. At the first session (October 2011, Nairobi, Kenya), delegates considered the platform’s functions and operating principles, work programme, and legal issues relating to its establishment and operationalization. At the second session (April 2012, Panama City, Panama), delegates considered functions and structures of bodies that might be established under the platform, rules of procedure, and the platform’s work programme. Delegates selected Bonn, Germany, as the physical location of the IPBES Secretariat and adopted a resolution formally establishing IPBES.
Antalya Consensus: The first two sessions of the IPBES Plenary (January 2013, Bonn, Germany, and December 2013, Antalya, Turkey) focused on developing the Platform’s structure and processes. IPBES-2 adopted the Antalya Consensus, which included decisions on the development of a work programme for 2014-2018. Delegates also adopted a conceptual framework considering different knowledge systems, and rules and procedures for the Platform on, inter alia, the preparation of the Platform’s assessments and other deliverables.
First Work Programme: The first IPBES work programme (2014-2018) was adopted at the Platform’s third Plenary session (January 2015, Bonn, Germany) together with the stakeholder engagement strategy, a communication and outreach strategy, and the Platform’s rules of procedure. With these decisions, IPBES became fully operational and able to initiate its first assessments.
The following assessments were produced during the first work programme:
- Thematic Assessment on Pollinators, Pollination, and Food Production (IPBES-4, February 2016, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia);
- Methodological Assessment on Scenarios and Models of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES-4);
- Regional Assessment of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services for Africa (IPBES-6, March 2018, Medellín, Colombia);
- Regional Assessment of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services for Asia and the Pacific (IPBES-6);
- Regional Assessment of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services for the Americas (IPBES-6);
- Regional Assessment of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services for Central Europe and Asia (IPBES-6); and
- Assessment on Land Degradation and Restoration (IPBES-6).
Other outputs produced by the Platform during the first work programme included:
- the IPBES Capacity-building Rolling Plan;
- a Guide to the Production of Assessments;
- a Catalogue of Policy Support Tools and Methodologies, Experts, and Partners; and
- a Communication and Outreach Strategy.
IPBES-5: The fifth session of the IPBES Plenary (6-10 March 2017, Bonn, Germany) adopted decisions on, inter alia: capacity building; policy support tools and methodologies; the development of a second work programme; Indigenous and local knowledge (ILK); the scoping report for a thematic assessment on the sustainable use of wild species; review of the Platform; and the budget. The meeting was dominated by discussions around the budget and related concerns on whether three pending assessments in the Platform’s first work programme could be initiated and, if so, in what order, and whether funds would be sufficient to initiate all three. Delegates decided to prioritize the completion of ongoing assessments and to postpone initiation of new assessments to IPBES-6.
IPBES-6: At its sixth session (17-24 March 2018, Medellín, Colombia), IPBES approved four regional assessments and an assessment on Land Degradation and Restoration. The meeting also adopted: 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; the initiation of an assessment on invasive alien species in 2019; and a decision on the development of a strategic framework up to 2030 and elements of a rolling work programme.
IPBES-7: At its seventh session (29 April-4 May 2019, Paris, France) IPBES approved the summary for policy makers (SPM) and accepted the chapters of the Global Assessment on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, the first intergovernmental global assessment of this kind and the first comprehensive assessment since the MA released in 2005. IPBES-7 further adopted the IPBES rolling work programme up to 2030, including new assessments on: the nexus between biodiversity, water, food, and health; the determinants of transformative change; the impact and dependence of business on biodiversity; and a technical report on biodiversity and climate change to be prepared jointly with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
Intersessional Workshops: The IPBES Bureau and MEP authorized a workshop on biodiversity and pandemics that was held virtually from 27-31 July 2020. The Workshop Report on Biodiversity and Pandemics was launched in October 2020. An IPBES-IPCC co-sponsored workshop took place from 14-17 December 2020. The Workshop Report on Biodiversity and Climate Change was launched on 10 June 2021.
The eighth Plenary of IPBES opened on Monday, 14 June 2021. It was preceded by the IPBES Stakeholder Days, from 3-9 June 2021, which provided an opportunity for non-governmental stakeholders to present their activities to support IPBES and discuss their engagement in the Plenary. A summary of the proceedings of the Stakeholder Days can be found here.
As the Plenary began, delegates watched an introductory video noting the Platform’s work since IPBES-7 to bring biodiversity conservation to the forefront of environmental sustainability, especially through the influence of its Global Assessment on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services.
IPBES Chair Ana María Hernández Salgar (Colombia) thanked all participants for their commitment to overcome the challenges posed from the COVID-19 pandemic and drive the Platform’s agenda forward. She outlined the meeting’s agenda and stressed the importance of credibility, transparency, and solid scientific knowledge for a sustainable future.
Anne Juepner, UN Development Programme (UNDP), also on behalf of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), UNEP, and the UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), stressed “we are at a critical point in our joint mission to forge a new relationship between mankind and nature.” She highlighted IPBES’s work and the assessments as powerfully portraying the interrelationship between sustainable development and ecosystem health, and called for a more circular and equitable economy.
IPBES Executive Secretary Anne Larigauderie underscored the significance of the Global Assessment, noting it was well received by the media and broad audiences new to biodiversity concerns. She highlighted IPBES-8 will consider two scoping reports on: the interlinkages among biodiversity, water, food, and health in the context of climate change (the nexus assessment); and the underlying causes of biodiversity loss and the determinants of transformative change (thematic assessment on transformative change). Larigauderie further underscored the launch of the Workshop Report on Biodiversity and Pandemics and the IPBES-IPCC co-sponsored Workshop Report on Biodiversity and Climate Change.
Mexico, for the LATIN AMERICAN AND CARIBBEAN GROUP (GRULAC), welcomed progress on the ongoing assessments, and thanked the IPBES Secretariat for their work in organizing workshops and disseminating reports of activities since IPBES-7. He reiterated the region’s commitment to fostering the scientific credibility, transparency, and legitimacy of the IPBES process and its deliverables.
China, for ASIA AND THE PACIFIC, emphasized the importance of the report from the first ever collaboration between IPBES and the IPCC, noting its relevance for the upcoming COPs of the CBD and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). He highlighted the report’s relevance for the IPBES scoping report on the nexus assessment. He further stressed all time zones should be equally accommodated when holding virtual sessions.
Bosnia and Herzegovina, for EASTERN EUROPE AND CENTRAL ASIA, emphasized the importance of cooperation between parties to enable joint action and fruitful exchange of relevant experiences.
South Africa, for the AFRICAN GROUP, asked for the regular review and update of the IPBES reports, and stressed the importance of capacity building for addressing gaps, and ensuring regional balance when identifying experts.
Portugal, for the EUROPEAN UNION (EU), welcomed the reports on the agenda, taking note of outstanding deliverables on the implementation of the work programme for 2030. He also expressed concern at the low number of IPBES Members making voluntary financial contributions.
The US welcomed the two scoping reports for discussion at IPBES-8 and reaffirmed her country’s commitment to ensure both assessments remain relevant to policymakers. She called for “time zone equity” when holding future sessions. She also noted the offer by the US to host IPBES-10 in Madison, Wisconsin in 2023.
CBD Executive Secretary Elizabeth Maruma Mrema stated that the effective implementation of plans and actions to reverse biodiversity loss needs to be based on the best available science. Mrema emphasized the IPBES work programme, which addresses both the direct and indirect drivers of biodiversity loss, lays the scientific foundation for the post-2020 global biodiversity framework.
The Open-Ended Network of IPBES Stakeholders (ONet) urged IPBES Members to take more advantage of the skills and capacity of stakeholders. He also encouraged strengthening multidisciplinary approaches for policy making to curb biodiversity and ecosystem loss, and called for greater research funding.
The International Indigenous Forum on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IIFBES) said virtual meetings pose a challenge for IPLCs as they face technical and time zone challenges, calling for a review of how to ensure their equitable inclusion in meetings. She underscored IPLCs’ contribution to the assessment processes, highlighting the connection between knowledge and values, and emphasizing the strength of holistic approaches. She reaffirmed IPLCs’ commitment to disseminate the outcomes of the IPBES assessments to drive policy reform at all levels.
On Monday, 14 June, Chair Hernández introduced the meeting’s agenda and organization of work (IPBES/8/1 and Add.1), which were adopted without amendments. She noted a number of measures are suggested to accommodate the meeting’s agenda given the limited time, including the pre-recorded presentation of reports and deferring consideration of some items to IPBES-9. She further noted contact and working groups will be formed to address specific agenda items.
Regarding IPBES membership, Chair Hernández noted that since IPBES-7, Italy, Myanmar, Serbia, Sierra Leone, and Uzbekistan joined the Platform, raising membership to 137.
On admission of observers, Members welcomed all new observers as recommended by the Bureau. Regarding related procedures, delegates discussed whether the Bureau or the Plenary should approve observers at future sessions as well as ways to table potential objections to the admission of observers. They did not reach consensus.
Members adopted a procedural decision (IPBES/8/L.3) extending the term of office of the current members of the MEP until the end of IPBES-9, and of the Bureau until the end of IPBES-10.
On Monday, 21 June, Stadler Trengove, IPBES Secretariat, reported on credentials, noting 80 delegations have submitted their credentials. The Plenary approved the credentials’ report as presented.
Report on Progress in the Implementation of the Rolling Work Programme up to 2030
On Monday, 14 June, in plenary, IPBES Executive Secretary Larigauderie introduced the document (IPBES/8/2) on the report on the progress of implementation of the rolling work programme up to 2030, along with additional information documents.
Members welcomed the report of the Executive Secretary and acknowledged with appreciation the outstanding contribution made by all the experts involved to date in the implementation of the work programme. They highlighted the important interlinkages between IPBES and other bodies, especially the CBD, and asked for IPBES to contribute toward CBD processes, including the post-2020 global biodiversity framework. They asked for a process addressing areas where progress has been limited; and called for reviewing lessons learned from virtual working arrangements to improve the effectiveness of the Platform. Participants further called for greater focus on the marine environment, including capacity building at all levels, and cautioned against duplicating work of other expert bodies.
Scoping Report for the Nexus Assessment
On Monday, 14 June, IPBES MEP Co-Chair Luthando Dziba (South Africa) presented the scoping report on the nexus assessment (IPBES/8/3 and INF/4). A working group was formed to address the scoping report and met throughout the meeting.
On Tuesday, 15 June, Doug Beard (US), Co-Chair of the working group, invited Members to discuss the scoping report. Recalling the drafting process, he highlighted earlier work, including in a Friends of the Chair group, which looked specifically at the inclusion of the issue of energy in the assessment, among other issues.
In their general comments, many Members congratulated the experts and the Secretariat on the work done. Some Members called for a shorter, clearer, and less prescriptive scoping report.
- the importance of incorporating questions on transformative change into the report;
- promoting participatory processes and ensuring a regional and cultural balance between experts, leaders, and chairs, and learning from initiatives on the ground;
- the inclusion of nature-based solutions as cost-effective tools providing co-benefits;
- the need to strengthen collaboration and synergies with other processes and assessments, highlighting the development of the post-2020 global biodiversity framework under the CBD;
- the importance of including quantitative elements;
- the need for better balance between terrestrial and marine ecosystems, with concrete methodologies for the latter;
- approaches to link human and environmental health;
- different stages of development among countries need to be recognized in the approach, including poverty, capacity gaps, and infrastructure challenges; and
- the need to take into account international trade as well as develop relevant modeling and projections.
Members expressed different opinions on the use of the terms “nature-based solutions” and “ecosystem-based approaches.” A few Members expressed concerns about the inclusion of climate and energy as standalone aspects of the assessment; they further questioned the timeframe of analysis, noting it should take into account realities prior to 1970, which is used as the baseline.
Title: During initial discussions on the title on Thursday, 17 June, Members disagreed on whether it should refer to options for delivering sustainable biodiversity-related approaches to climate adaptation and mitigation, including relevant aspects of the energy system in conjunction with “the,” “other,” or “the other” components of the nexus. One Member suggested referring to “relevant global objectives for food, water, and health.” A number of options were considered, offering varying levels of specificity, with some Members also proposing deleting the reference to nexus components altogether.
On Tuesday, 22 June, Members resumed deliberations on the title indicating the elements of the nexus. The main points of discussion focused on how to refer to climate change and holistic approaches to different knowledge systems. Members eventually agreed to the previously agreed title “Scoping report for a thematic assessment of the interlinkages among biodiversity, water, food and health,” with the nexus elements introduced in the first paragraph.
Scope, timeline, overarching questions: On Tuesday, 15 June, some Members called for clarifying the proposal by the MEP regarding the inclusion of energy in the scope, bracketing the relevant part of the text. One delegate suggested reference be made to ILK, as well as different knowledge and value systems, with Co-Chair Beard proposing a new paragraph introducing this as an overarching concept.
On Thursday, 17 June, on an introductory paragraph on scope, Members debated terminology around nature’s contributions to people and ecosystem services; discussed references to the 2050 Vision for Biodiversity, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and other relevant multilateral objectives; and reignited deliberations on the inclusion of energy in the scope.
Regarding terminology, options included using previously agreed language referring to “nature’s contributions to people, which embody different concepts, such as ecosystem goods and services, and nature’s gifts” or “nature’s contributions to people, a term that includes ecosystem services and other analogous concepts.”
On the MEP suggestion to “address climate change adaptation and mitigation, including relevant aspects of the energy system and technologies and policies to allow the assessment to fully consider synergies and trade-offs,” some Members proposed further considering the goals of other relevant biodiversity-related goals found within other multilateral agreements and processes. A Member proposed adding consideration of “different worldviews, knowledge and multiple value systems, and systems of life.” The relevant part of the text remains bracketed.
Regarding a paragraph on multi-scale and interlinking policies, Members briefly discussed references to the IPBES conceptual framework and different knowledge systems, ultimately agreeing to introduce this as an overarching principle earlier in the text. Delegates also discussed whether to list specific elements of globally agreed goals, such as “affordable and clean energy,” rather than referring to these in broader terms as linking up to the components of the nexus. This prompted a wider discussion on what the components were, with the title and preceding paragraph still containing brackets. The final agreed text took a broad approach, making reference to “globally agreed goals.”
On a paragraph providing definitions for the purposes of the assessment, Members exchanged opinions on references to “climate change adaptation and mitigation including relevant aspects of the energy system” and the One Health approach. Some delegates wanted the reference to climate change and energy to be put in brackets, with others asking for explicit mention of plant and ecosystem health alongside a reference to human health. It was also suggested to add “and other holistic approaches” alongside the One Health approach. Some emphasized the need to include reference to the emergence and spread of infectious diseases.
On a paragraph discussing thresholds, feedbacks, and resilience in nexus linkages, as well as opportunities, synergies, and trade-offs between different response options, one delegate proposed ensuring the terminology is consistent with the three pillars of sustainable development. Another suggested deleting examples of social, economic, and environmental issues for brevity. On limits and safeguards, one delegate requested referencing these as examples of different response options. Delegates eventually agreed to include this reference at the end of the paragraph where it states “emphasis will be placed on response options considering the nexus elements and their diverse dimensions.”
On Tuesday, 22 June, on the time frame of the analysis, some Members suggested reference to the industrial revolution and the colonization period alongside the initial time frame of 50 years. Other Members disagreed with the reference to the colonization period, leading to extensive discussion. Following advice from an IPBES expert, Members agreed to include reference to studies going back to the 1500s and delete the reference to the colonization period. Members also agreed on a broad reference to “as far back as appropriate as data or information is available or as clearly relevant to future response options or to understand current status and trends.”
On a paragraph on the intended users of the assessment, one Member suggested, and others agreed, removing “environmental” from “multilateral environmental organizations,” as other organizations, such as the World Health Organization, may find such an assessment useful.
Regarding a section including overarching questions for the nexus assessment, an IPBES expert said the information contained in the overarching questions have been embedded in other parts of the document, so retaining the section was not necessary. Members agreed to remove the section but retain it as an annex.
The overarching questions included:
- How do past and current approaches to the production and use of water, food, and their interactions, impact on/interact with biodiversity and nature’s contributions to people?
- What is the role of biodiversity and nature’s contributions to people in human health and well-being?
- How can synergies among the SDGs be maximized to protect and restore biodiversity and resolve conflicts between development and biodiversity conservation?
- How can biodiversity contribute to and enhance the resilience and adaptability of food and bioenergy production systems?
- How can progress be measured toward equitability and sustainability of access to relevant components of biodiversity and nature’s contributions to people, including among IPLCs?
- How effective are the indicators of the monitoring framework of the post-2020 global biodiversity framework and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development at capturing the nexus interactions and what options exist for improvement?
On the methodological approach, a Member successfully proposed the summary for policy makers should summarize knowledge gaps and further research needs on top of reflecting the current state of knowledge.
Members further reached consensus on sections addressing: data and information; capacity building and development; communication and outreach; technical support; and process and timetable.
Climate and energy: On Tuesday, 15 June, delegates discussed the content of a potential chapter on climate change and energy.
A few Members expressed concern over references to climate change within the chapter, with some suggesting it be referenced in general terms or, in fact, be deleted altogether and addressed as a cross-cutting issue with other aspects of the nexus. One delegate pointed out that regardless of whether climate change is referenced in the paragraph or not, it is a significant driver of biodiversity loss—with one of its key determinants being energy production—and it will likely feature throughout the report, including in the relevant chapter. Some pointed to ongoing climate negotiations, stressing they need to be taken into account.
Some Members reiterated that energy should not be a standalone aspect of the assessment. Others highlighted that energy is a fundamental aspect of the nexus, calling for broad references, because both energy infrastructure and energy generation can have biodiversity and climate impacts.
Some Members underscored other aspects of energy, including consumption, transport, and storage. A delegate suggested referring to energy “development;” others offered alternative language referring to the delivery of sustainable approaches to energy; and yet others suggested focusing on “relevant aspects” of the energy system.
A lengthy discussion took place on terminology around “nature-based solutions” and “ecosystem-based approaches.” Delegates disagreed, with some insisting on including the term “nature-based solutions,” noting the Global Assessment Summary for Policymakers makes reference to “nature-based solutions.” Others suggested deleting it, while a few preferred middle-ground solutions, such as referring to nature-based solutions with safeguards.
Other issues raised included the importance of including different knowledge and value systems, suggesting references to ILK and IPLCs; and the need to include freshwater ecosystems in the analysis, along with terrestrial and marine ones.
One Member suggested compromise language simplifying the paragraph under discussion. The suggested text included references to climate change mitigation and adaptation, and relevant aspects of energy production. An IPBES expert confirmed it provides a reasonable framework for future work.
A few delegates noted the compromise language omits important elements and suggested including language on the mainstreaming of biodiversity into the energy sector, including carbon and non-carbon systems.
Following lengthy debates, some progress was made with most Members agreeing on the inclusion of different knowledge systems, including ILK. Many delegates further agreed on the inclusion of freshwater and marine ecosystems. Divergence of opinions remained around the terminology on “nature-based solutions” as well as on general approaches on whether to explicitly address energy in the nexus assessment. Given the myriad of changes proposed and the differing positions, working group Co-Chair Beard pleaded with delegates to take the time between the sessions to consider the topics under discussion; consult with capitals; and show spirit of compromise to move forward.
On Thursday, 17 June, Co-Chair Beard proposed compromise text for the chapter referencing climate and energy. The text suggested the paragraph address climate adaptation and mitigation, including relevant aspects of the energy system, which includes energy production, distribution, and consumption. One delegate suggested including “considerations” so that biodiversity considerations can be mainstreamed into energy systems. Another delegate suggested specifying the scope of the chapter to include “biodiversity-related” in alignment with IPBES’s mandate. A Member queried whether the text excludes consideration of fossil fuels when addressing climate adaptation and mitigation, which an IPBES expert clarified it did not.
On Tuesday. 22 June, a lengthy discussion took place regarding references to the Paris Agreement. One Member urged referring to the UNFCCC in conjunction with the Paris Agreement, as the Agreement was adopted under the UNFCCC. Members finally agreed to refer to the “UNFCCC and its Paris Agreement.”
Chapter outlines: On Thursday, 17 June, the working group addressed the draft chapter outlines. Members engaged in a lengthy discussion on an introductory paragraph. They discussed: different ways to refer to the nexus; terminology around ecosystem services and nature’s contributions to people; a reference to climate adaptation and mitigation including relevant aspects of the energy system; and ways to clarify that climate change is part of the nexus. Following the advice of an IPBES expert, the introductory paragraph was deleted as its content is already included in different parts of the document.
On a chapter introducing the nexus, there was a suggestion to simplify language to refer to the nexus elements rather than stating each one. There was also a suggestion to include a reference to ecosystems when defining where interlinkages and interdependencies should be assessed. Members agreed to both.
For the chapter on the status and past trends of complex interactions in the nexus, Members agreed to a proposal to include assessing trends in interactions and integrated perspectives of higher order interactions.
On the chapter on future interactions across the nexus, Members agreed to a proposal that assessing different scenarios includes “qualitative scenarios and diverse views of future projections of good quality of life.” On text stating the chapter will include analyses of which interactions are the most influential in determining how the multiple internationally agreed goals can be achieved, Members could not agree whether to include specific reference to the different goals; some suggested using already agreed IPBES language.
The second part of the draft assessment and the chapters it contains address pathways to a sustainable future. On scope, Members agreed to reference “multi-dimensional” alongside multi-sectoral views in assessing the potential for different sets of actors to create change. On the overall themes, Members agreed to refer to “environmental” rather than “ecological” costs, with one Member asking “cost” to be changed to “impact” and for reference to be made to “multiple value systems.” Members also asked for reference to “ecosystem services” alongside nature’s contribution to people, reflecting earlier discussions. Delegates also asked for the inclusion of reference to terrestrial, freshwater, and marine ecosystems.
Regarding a chapter on policy and socio-political options across the nexus that could facilitate and accelerate the transition to a range of sustainable futures, Members asked for clarification on the use of the term “transition” rather than “transformation.” An IPBES expert responded that the term “transition” was used deliberately as it is more generic and provides scope to consider a wider range of perspectives than the ones that would be described as transformative. One Member also asked for the inclusion of reference to different value systems in relation to understanding conceptualizations of transformative change.
On options for delivering sustainable approaches to water, Members suggested:
- adding the marine sector to the freshwater one; adding land tenure and access to water tenure;
- studying challenges to implementation also at the transboundary level;
- studying interactions between freshwater, terrestrial, and marine ecosystems; and
- including the prevention and management of invasive alien species.
These suggestions were agreed upon. A lengthy discussion took place on the term “value of water,” with an IPBES expert suggesting an alternative of “approaches to capture diverse values of water.”
On Monday, 21 June, a Member suggested condensing the content of different chapters into a single one, highlighting the full interactions among the nexus elements. Other Members wanted the chapters’ structure to be retained, with each chapter addressing a specific component of the nexus, providing actionable options for policy makers. Co-Chair Beard suggested a way forward, requesting the MEP and the Bureau to suggest a logical number of integrated chapters, without altering content, and present it at IPBES-9.
On a chapter on options for delivering sustainable approaches to finance, a Member suggested including in the considerations “perverse incentives,” while others preferred referring generally to incentives. Other proposals included referring to international cooperation rather than international aid, and including that the issues will be addressed in accordance with international trade law.
A Member suggested including, in the response options, an assessment of the existing modalities for handling donor funding from the private sector and non-governmental organizations. Other Members noted this consideration should be addressed under a different agenda item.
Another Member suggested: amending the chapter’s title to “options for delivering sustainable means of implementation for the nexus approaches to finance”; considering the provision of means of implementation (finance, technology transfer, and capacity building); and examining the role of public funding through the mechanisms of multilateral conventions and international cooperation. Some Members did not welcome such extensive changes at such a late stage in the process. An IPBES expert noted this chapter specifically addresses how to finance sustainable development from all sectors in the context of the nexus.
Following lengthy deliberations, Members agreed to a title on “options for delivering sustainable approaches to public and private finance for biodiversity-related elements of the nexus.” They also agreed the assessment will examine the role of international and national public and private financers. Delegates further reached consensus referring to development cooperation agencies and deleting: an indicative list of economic instruments; response options that refer to IPBES; examples of evolving economic paradigms; and examples of multilateral organizations.
Regarding options for delivering sustainable approaches to biodiversity, Members exchanged opinions on the chapter’s title, with some reflecting earlier concerns about reference to climate change and energy systems. They eventually agreed on “options for delivering sustainable approaches to biodiversity conservation, restoration, and sustainable use in synergy with other components of the nexus.”
Members extensively discussed terminology around ecosystem-based approaches and nature-based solutions, with some delegates wanting to ensure the two remain separate, reflecting earlier discussions. Delegates successfully suggested including references to: “Mother Earth rights-based approaches; green and blue urban spaces; “freshwater” alongside marine and terrestrial ecosystems; and “environmental public awareness” alongside education to support change.
On a draft chapter on the summary and synthesis of options, knowledge gaps, and capacity development, an IPBES expert urged addressing concerns on capacity building and technology gaps in this part of the scoping report. One delegate suggested, and Members agreed, to include “women, youth, and other stakeholders” in the list of relevant stakeholders. Delegates further agreed to the title “Summary and synthesis of options, knowledge gaps, capacity development and technology gaps.”
On Tuesday, 22 June, Members agreed to:
- use previously agreed terminology on references to the Paris Agreement;
- remove reference to “diverse values of water” since the topic is already covered in the relevant chapter; and
- remove reference to international trade laws to not unnecessarily restrict the experts’ work.
Following this discussion, one Member proposed a new chapter considering holistic approaches for understanding interlinkages between nature and society to inform the nexus assessment. Following a protracted back-and-forth between Members, they agreed to incorporate aspects of the proposal in the relevant decision text as well as note it in the meeting report.
With these amendments, Members approved the scoping report for the nexus assessment and forwarded it to plenary for adoption.
On Thursday, 24 June, in plenary, Co-Chair Beard (US) said the group had concluded their deliberations and, following discussion with the concerned parties, the scoping report is submitted with two bracketed additions in the chapters’ outlines to address holistic approaches, as well as a note for the management committee to address a request to consider reordering the paragraphs. With this understanding, Chair Hernández introduced the scoping report and Members held a brief discussion on whether to include climate change in the title. They decided to reflect any concerns in the meeting’s report and adopted the scoping report for the nexus assessment without further amendments.
Final Outcome: In the final decision, contained in the collection of decisions in document IPBES/8/L.2, the Plenary approves undertaking a thematic assessment of the interlinkages among biodiversity, water, food, and health, for consideration at IPBES-11. It further requests the management committee to consider reducing the number of chapters, without changing the underlying content of each individual chapter, in time for the final selection of authors, and assuring each sector is represented in overall assessment leadership, and to report to the Plenary at IPBES-9.
The scoping report is contained in document IPBES/8/L.6. It is divided in seven sections:
- Scope, timeline and geographic coverage, policy context, and methodological approach;
- Chapter outlines;
- Data and information;
- Capacity building and development;
- Communication and outreach;
- Technical support; and
- Process and timetable
The assessment addresses the interlinkages among biodiversity, climate change, adaptation and mitigation, including relevant aspects of the energy system, water, food, and health, and will consider holistic approaches based on different knowledge systems. It will fully take into account the IPBES conceptual framework and will highlight thresholds, feedbacks, and resilience in nexus linkages, as well as opportunities, synergies, and trade-offs between different response options.
The assessment will be global in scope, but highlight and interpret regional and sub-regional similarities and differences, and will include terrestrial, freshwater, and marine systems. The time frame of analyses will cover the past (the last 50 years, the industrial revolution, from around 1500 or as far back as appropriate data or information is available, or as clearly relevant to future response options or to understand current status and trends) and plausible future projections up to 2050.
The assessment will be produced by a group of experts in accordance with the procedures for the preparation of Platform deliverables. It will be based on existing evidence: data (including, as appropriate, national data), scientific and grey literature and other forms of knowledge and languages (to the extent possible), including ILK, in line with relevant procedures of the Platform.
Building on and complementing previous and ongoing work by IPBES, the assessment will identify key knowledge gaps and areas of knowledge generation needs in capacity and policies, promote the use of policy support tools, and provide options and solutions for addressing them at the appropriate scales.
The assessment will be divided into two parts, with part I focused on framing the nexus and holistic approaches, and part II focused on pathways to sustainable futures based on different knowledge systems.
Part I contains four chapters:
- Introducing the nexus;
- Status and past trends of basic interactions in the nexus;
- Status and past trends of complex interactions in the nexus; and
- Future interactions across the nexus.
Part II includes eight chapters:
- Policy and socio-political options across the nexus that could facilitate and accelerate the transition to a range of sustainable futures;
- Options for delivering sustainable approaches to water;
- Options for delivering sustainable biodiversity-related approaches to climate change, adaptation and mitigation including relevant aspects of the energy system;
- Options for delivering sustainable food systems;
- Options for delivering sustainable approaches to health;
- Options for delivering sustainable approaches to public and private finance for biodiversity-related elements of the nexus;
- Options for delivering sustainable approaches to biodiversity conservation, restoration, and sustainable use; and
- Summary and synthesis of options, knowledge and technology gaps and capacity development.
The nexus assessment is expected to be concluded in 2024 and will be considered at IPBES-11.
Scoping Report for the Transformative Change Assessment
On Monday 14 June, in plenary, IPBES MEP Co-Chair Luthando Dziba presented the scoping report on the transformative change assessment (IPBES/8/4 and INF/6). Discussions continued in the working group, which addressed the scoping report on Wednesday and Thursday, 16-17 June.
On 16 June, Marcus Fischer, IPBES MEP Member, gave an overview of changes to the latest draft, including those made to ensure the usefulness of the study to policy makers, looking closer at proposed pathways, and including an explicit mention of a task force on capacity building. IPBES Executive Secretary Larigauderie offered an overview of the practical measures to ensure complementarity between the transformative change and nexus assessments. Co-Chair Doug Beard (US) opened the floor for discussions.
In their general comments, many Members congratulated the experts and the Secretariat on their work. Many stressed that since the transformative change and nexus assessments have interlinkages, complementarity and synergies must be maximized without duplicating work. Some delegates also urged that the document address how to realize transformative change, emphasizing it must be applied to all countries equally.
Members also stressed:
- the importance of this report for strengthening implementation of the post-2020 global biodiversity framework under the CBD and achieving the 2050 Vision for Biodiversity;
- the need for a clear explanation of what transformative change entails, including tangible examples on how it can be achieved;
- the importance of linking with work across sectors, including trade and finance, and addressing the underlying drivers of biodiversity loss;
- promoting engagement with all stakeholders, including women, youth, and IPLCs;
- the need to consider marine as well as terrestrial ecosystems, and looking at ecological regions as well as geo-political ones;
- the importance of recognizing that there is no one-size-fits-all approach and the need to address differences between regions and countries; and
- the role of equity and justice in transformative change.
Scope, methodology, overarching questions: A short discussion took place on the title of the document, with a Member suggesting adding the study of “pathways for” transformative change. Other Members noted it is inappropriate to make such fundamental changes so late in the development of the scoping report, with the suggestion ultimately deleted.
Co-Chair Beard introduced a proposed new paragraph under the methodology section, making specific reference to the recognition and consideration of different worldviews and knowledge systems, including ILK. One Member proposed adding an explicit reference to scientific knowledge. It was later also suggested to move the proposed paragraph under the section on scope.
Regarding scope, a few delegations made suggestions for the text to reflect internationally agreed terminology. A lengthy discussion took place regarding a proposed inclusion of a reference to paragraph 59 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which reflects different approaches and circumstances of countries for achieving sustainable development, and includes mention of “Mother Earth.” After extensive deliberations, some proposed that the paragraph make reference to the IPBES conceptual framework or to certain elements of paragraph 59. Others suggested the paragraph remain as it was, with elements of paragraph 59 brought in at different parts of the document.
On Thursday, 17 June, Markus Fischer, IPBES MEP, presented changes proposed by the experts, suggesting inserting a paragraph on scope, stating the assessment needs to be conducted considering the IPBES Conceptual Framework as well as different worldviews and knowledge systems, including ILK. Fischer also suggested referencing the 2030 Agenda—an idea raised in the previous day’s discussions. Co-Chair Beard noted this meant the initial paragraph of the section on scope would revert to the original language. Delegates agreed to both proposals.
On the section discussing the timeline and geographic coverage, Co-Chair Beard urged keeping text consistent between both the nexus and transformative change assessments, and delegates agreed to mentioning freshwater ecosystems as well as marine ecosystems. On a request to reflect the temporal scope of the assessment, Co-Chair Beard asked to include text previously agreed upon in the discussions on the nexus report, which includes the timeline. Delegates agreed.
On policy context, delegates agreed intended users of the assessment should include regional organizations. After some debate, they also agreed the assessment should inform policies relevant for restoration activities, among others.
Regarding a section on overarching questions of relevance to decision makers and other stakeholders dealing with transformative change, some Members successfully suggested adding specific questions on:
- social and economic inequalities among and within countries and the way they affect achieving transformative change; and
- the relationship between transformative change and transitional changes and what is needed to make sure that transformative change ensures just transitions.
Discussions also covered previously used terminology referring to “ecosystem services embodied in nature’s contributions to people,” with delegates eventually agreeing on a separate and explicit reference to both terms. One Member suggested highlighting the drivers of biodiversity loss, proposing two additional questions on: the underlying causes of the direct drivers responsible for causing biodiversity loss and degradation; and how emergent and deliberate transformative change can be used to reduce the negative impacts caused by the main drivers of biodiversity loss and degradation. Following a lengthy discussion on whether these considerations were already implicit within the scope of the study, the working group decided not to include these questions. Members further discussed the use of indicators, with an IPBES expert noting this opens a new field of research as we still lack all necessary indicators for transformative change.
The discussion over including specific reference to the Paris Agreement resurfaced with some Members underscoring its significance, while others reiterated that mentioning specific agreements is not helpful. Delegates decided to use compromise language referring to “the 2050 Vision for Biodiversity and the 2030 Agenda and its SDGs, and other relevant biodiversity-related goals found within other multilateral agreements and processes.”
Chapter outlines: On Wednesday, 16 June, Members considered the text paragraph-by-paragraph, addressing the outline of the assessment’s chapters in the draft.
On an introductory chapter titled “Transformative change and a sustainable world,” some Members cautioned against directly referencing the Paris Agreement, as it could lead to a number of processes being named and potentially “bloat the text.” They added that transformative change is a broad concept and highlighting specific agreements does not provide any added value. Others opined such an addition should not be controversial, noting similar language had already been used. An IPBES expert emphasized that the experts sought to take a broad perspective as is required to achieve transformative change. Some delegates suggested referring to “relevant global objectives.”
There was also a suggestion to delete references to the inclusion of indicators to monitor transformative change. Other Members favored its retention, stressing there needs to be a way to monitor if transformative change is achieved.
On a chapter reflecting visions of a sustainable world for nature and people, including specific challenges that transformative change presents, one Member suggested reflecting both “anthropocentric” and “cosmobiocentric” understandings, as well as different knowledge systems and worldviews. Other Members expressed concerns about adding new concepts and terminology as well as going into such detail in the scoping report. They further underscored the significance of the assessment on transformative change and the importance of concluding discussions on the scoping report in a timely manner in order for work to start. Additional suggestions by Members included deleting references to normative ethics and explicitly referring to the role of the media. Delegates also discussed the best way to refer to existing climate scenarios and agreed to replace references to specific agreements with general language on “relevant global objectives.”
Regarding a draft chapter on how transformative change occurs, an expert clarified that principles of action for decision-making were included in the strategies to be explored.
On a draft chapter on overcoming challenges of achieving transformative change toward a sustainable world, some Members made additional suggestions on the scope of challenges to be looked at. Delegates discussed the inclusion of “knowledge systems and systems of values” alongside actions and habits, as well as the difference between “habits” and “behaviors.” An IPBES expert clarified that “habits” is a more specific term that may help guide experts in their work. Members also discussed a proposed reference to power imbalances, as well as political, social, and economic inequalities among and within nations. One Member proposed additional sub-paragraphs, including references to the “influence of anthropocentric developments through ideological, financial, and other technical means, including modern colonialism.” The same Member suggested including “the lack of commitment of developed countries in fulfilling the provision of means of implementation to developing countries in the context of UN conventions.” Both these suggestions were opposed by a number of delegates, with several responding to the second proposal that it is not the role of experts to assess countries’ “intent.” An IPBES expert remarked that different paradigms of development and related challenges are implicit in the document.
On a paragraph discussing the range of literature the experts carrying out the assessment should draw on, delegates agreed to include reference to case studies in literature discussing how transformative change can cause losses for IPLCs. They also agreed to reference the modification of sectoral frameworks as an approach to address the indirect drivers of biodiversity loss. Delegates also asked if the inclusion of reference to subsidies duplicates work in the nexus assessment; the expert clarified it did not.
On a chapter on assessing options for institutions, instruments, evaluation, and pathways to achieve a sustainable world, Members agreed to add reference to scientific research, and social experimentation and learning. Regarding instruments, they debated ways to refer to businesses. Some supported business models, others preferred business approaches, while yet others opted for deleting the reference. Members suggested the analysis presents suitable instruments for all key actors. A lengthy discussion took place on whether to refer to the assessment of “existing,” “possible,” “desirable,” or “relevant” scenarios and transitional pathways, eventually reaching an agreement to remove all qualifiers. Members further agreed to clarify timescales, noting they refer to the initial start of the assessment.
On assessing potential interventions and pathways, a Member suggested also assessing efficiency. Others noted the difficulty of assessing efficiency of potential pathways, stressing the lack of relevant methodologies. Delegates also discussed at length the principles to be considered, with many Members suggesting adding to “justice, equity, and power” references to legality, international law, social capital, and internationally agreed principles.
One Member noted the difficulty in projections and quantitative objectives regarding transformational change, stressing the need to explore different options. Some Members emphasized that work should aim to provide experts with the necessary flexibility to conduct the assessment.
On Thursday, 17 June, discussions on the chapter outlines resumed. On a draft chapter on visions of a sustainable world, Co-Chair Beard reminded delegates of the agreed overarching paragraph referencing worldviews and knowledge systems. The paragraph reverted to the original language and was agreed with the inclusion of a reference to ensure IPLCs’ views and understandings of biodiversity and nature’s contribution to people is included.
On a draft chapter on how transformative change occurs, delegates agreed to include assessment of different dimensions and scientific disciplines. One Member suggested “scientific” could be too narrow. Following consultation with IPBES experts, delegates agreed to assess “transdisciplinary perspectives.”
On a draft chapter on realizing a sustainable world for nature and people, there was a proposal to include reference to international law and internationally agreed principles as instruments to effect transformative change. After some debate and a clarification from the IPBES Secretariat on the distinction between the two terms, delegates accepted the amendment.
Delegates further accepted the sections on data and information, capacity building, communication and outreach, technical support, and process and timetable, with minor amendments.
On Tuesday, 22 June, the working group briefly addressed a reference to the Paris Agreement, agreeing to use “the Paris Agreement adopted under the UNFCCC.” With this amendment, Members approved the scoping report for the transformative change assessment and forwarded it to plenary for adoption.
On Thursday, 24 June, Chair Hernández introduced the scoping report in plenary. Members agreed to add reference to a summary of knowledge gaps and further research needs as an outcome of the assessment. With this amendment, the scoping report was adopted.
Final Outcome: The scoping report for a thematic assessment of the underlying causes of biodiversity loss and the determinants of transformative change and options for achieving the 2050 Vision for Biodiversity is contained in document IPBES/8/L.7. It is divided in seven sections:
- Scope, timeline and geographic coverage, policy context, and methodological approach;
- Chapter outlines;
- Data and information;
- Capacity building;
- Communication and outreach;
- Technical support; and
- Process and timetable
The assessment will assess and compare different visions, scenarios, and pathways for a sustainable world, in line with the 2050 Vision for Biodiversity and considering the 2030 Agenda and its SDGs, including visions of IPLCs. It will assess the determinants for transformative change, how it occurs, and potential obstacles. It will fully take into consideration the IPBES conceptual framework, and explore practical options for concrete actions to foster, accelerate, and maintain transformative change towards visions, scenarios, and pathways for a sustainable world.
The assessment will be global in scope, while also highlighting similarities and differences between regions, sub-regions, and countries, and look at terrestrial, freshwater, and marine issues across scales. Its time frame of analysis will cover past and future time ranges and time steps of transformative change, as appropriate.
It will be produced by a diverse group of experts, including scientists, experts on ILK, and practitioners in accordance with the procedures for the preparation of Platform deliverables. It will aim to be credible, legitimate, draw evidence from multiple sources, and reflect a comprehensive analysis of the current state of scientific knowledge and other knowledge systems, including ILK.
The assessment will address questions of relevance to decision-makers and other stakeholders across scales dealing with transformative change issues, by strengthening the knowledge base for informed evidence-based decision-making, in the context of the 2050 Vision for Biodiversity and considering the 2030 Agenda and its SDGs, including visions of IPLCs.
The assessment will be divided into five chapters, with each chapter containing an assessment of multiple values, relevant disciplinary perspectives, knowledge systems, development pathways, and roles of different actors. The chapter titles are:
- Transformative change and a sustainable world;
- Visions of a sustainable world – for nature and people;
- How transformative change occurs;
- Overcoming the challenge of achieving transformative change towards a sustainable world;
- Realizing a sustainable world for nature and people: means for transformative strategies, actions, and roles for all; and
- Summary and synthesis of options, knowledge, and technology gaps, and capacity development
The transformative change assessment is expected to be concluded in 2024 and will be considered at IPBES-11.
Work Related to the Interlinkages Between Biodiversity and Climate Change
On Monday, 14 June, in plenary, IPBES MEP Co-Chair Luthando Dziba presented work on the interlinkages between biodiversity and climate change, highlighting the IPBES-IPCC co-sponsored Workshop Report on Biodiversity and Climate Change. He further drew attention to the Workshop Report on Biodiversity and Pandemics, noting video presentations available on the IPBES website.
Regarding work on the interlinkages between biodiversity and climate change, and collaboration with the IPCC, Members discussed a draft decision welcoming the report; inviting experts of the nexus assessment to make use of it; and inviting the Secretariat to explore further possible joint activities.
Many Members welcomed the report and the collaboration with the IPCC. Their suggestions included: conducting further consultations, including inviting governments to explore pragmatic approaches for future work; considering transparency, accountability, and government participation in joint efforts as well as the respective rules of procedure; reflecting on lessons learned from cooperation so far; and establishing robust processes for future collaboration. Chair Hernández noted the draft decision will be reviewed, following the interventions and further consultations.
On Tuesday, 15 June, in the working group, many Members welcomed the two workshop reports. Some stressed the documents are of high scientific quality and should be considered during the development of the nexus assessment. Others lamented governments were not involved at any stage of the process, stressing that the content of the reports may not be considered as having been endorsed by governments.
On Thursday, 24 June, a lengthy discussion took place in plenary on the draft decision regarding the two workshop reports. Many Members suggested welcoming the reports, stressing high scientific standards and the usefulness of the reports. Others preferred “taking note of” the reports, underscoring that governments had not been involved in the organization of the workshops and the production of the reports. Delegates offered compromise solutions, including: taking note with appreciation; taking note and thanking the authors; acknowledging with appreciation either the reports or the organization of the workshops; and recognizing the scientific value of the workshops. Following lengthy debates, a Friends of the Chair group was formed, which was able to reach a compromise. Delegates further debated a suggestion to the Secretariat to invite Members to provide feedback on the Workshop Reports, without reaching agreement.
Final Outcome: In the final decision (IPBES/8/L.2), the IPBES Plenary: thanks the organizers and participants in the two workshops on biodiversity and pandemics, and biodiversity and climate change; appreciates the significant effort that went into the reports; and invites experts on the nexus and transformative change assessments to consider the reports, as appropriate.
The Plenary further:
- requests the Bureau, in consultation with the MEP, to review scoping processes in other bodies;
- decides that a technical paper on biodiversity and climate change is no longer required following the completion of the Workshop Report;
- welcomes the note by the Secretariat on collaboration with the IPCC;
- invites the Chair and the Secretariat to continue exploring approaches for future joint activities between the IPCC and IPBES; and
- requests the Secretariat to invite Members to submit suggestions for thematic or methodological issues related to biodiversity and climate change for future collaboration with the IPCC.
Building Capacity, Strengthening Knowledge Foundations, and Supporting Policy
On Monday, 14 June, IPBES MEP Co-Chair Marie Stenseke (Sweden) introduced the document (IPBES/8/7), which contains information on the accomplishments of the IPBES task forces. In the document, the Plenary is invited to assess the work of the task forces and approve the work plans for the intersessional period 2021-2022. Discussions took place in the working group on Thursday, 17 June, and Tuesday, 22 June.
On Thursday, working group Co-Chair Sebsebe Demissew (Ethiopia) provided an outline of the document, noting discussion would take place at the next working group session. Luthando Dziba, MEP Co-Chair, provided an overview of the intersessional workplan for the period 2021-2022 for the Task Force on Capacity Building. He highlighted the IPBES Fellowship Programme, communities of practice, and providing support to other organizations supporting the IPBES deliverables.
On Tuesday, 22 June, Co-Chair Demissew invited Members to discuss the Chair’s note on interim work plans for the intersessional period 2021-2022 for the five IPBES task forces.
Regarding the task force on capacity building and activities to implement the fellowship programme, Members agreed on criteria for nominating early career individuals and selection of up to 12 fellows for each of the nexus and transformative change assessments. The criteria noted the candidates are selected “based on their merit and academic qualifications and in their individual capacity as experts, with the view to achieve disciplinary, gender, and geographic balance.” On organizing the fifth meeting of the capacity-building forum, Members agreed the specific theme of the meeting will be identified by the task force and agreed to by the Bureau.
On the interim workplan for the task force on knowledge and data, Stenseke highlighted the intent to mobilize all relevant actors at the regional level through networks. She explained that knowledge gaps can be identified from approved assessments. She also highlighted that the task force supports ongoing assessments, including considerations on data sets and indicators, without developing indicators independently. She then provided information on the IPBES data management policy.
On activities to provide support to assessment authors, a Member suggested a review by the task force of the draft scoping report for the business and biodiversity assessment. The Secretariat explained the contribution of the task force in identifying knowledge gaps takes place upon the completion of the assessment.
On the workplan for the task force on ILK systems, Stenseke explained the process for IPLC representatives’ participation, and outlined the challenges that come with online dialogues, stating efforts will continue to develop and enhance participation in IPBES processes.
One delegate proposed adding text providing for translation into all UN languages to support the IPLC liaison group, with a short discussion leading to the inclusion of the wording “as appropriate.” Another Member proposed additional changes, including: a comprehensive review of the conceptual framework with balanced participation from all regions; technological assistance for enhancing the inclusion of recommendations based on ILK; and developing and strengthening regional and national networks of IPLCs for enhancing their participation in the preparation of IPBES deliverables. Regarding the participatory mechanism, a series of methodologies and pathways to facilitate the effective engagement of IPLCs, their organizations, and networks in IPBES work, a Member suggested:
- promoting inter-scientific dialogue between academic science and science based on traditional and local knowledge;
- developing and strengthening regional and national networks of IPLCs’ participation in the preparation of IPBES deliverables; and
- providing support for the functioning and strengthening of the Participatory Mechanism.
Following concerns raised about budgetary consequences, delegates agreed to include “as appropriate” and “when resources are available” to these additions.
On the workplan for the task force on policy tools and methodologies, Stenseke presented changes, including:
- emphasizing the importance of developing a strategy to increase the participation of practitioners familiar with policy-making processes in assessments;
- enhancing the policy relevance of IPBES’s work, including identifying partners to produce sector-specific products based on completed assessments; and
- considering other activities to enhance the relevance of IPBES’s work such as through the use of dialogues, and developing case study materials.
One Member proposed including language that ensures the task force will support policy makers with concrete services resulting from the convening of dialogue workshops with actors at the science-policy interface, and identifying options for potential activities to strengthen the use of IPBES assessments in decision-making.
Regarding the task force on scenarios and models, Stenseke said much of the work concerns the nature futures framework and its potential adoption at IPBES-9. She noted the task force plans to promote testing and collect feedback during the biointervening time period.
Some Members noted the nature futures framework requires further refinement, including in-depth discussions outside the task forces and with the IPBES community. Following lengthy discussion, the working group agreed the task force will: further develop the nature futures framework to catalyze the development of the next generation of scenarios for biodiversity; submit the framework’s foundations at IPBES-9 for further advice; and report back on further work at IPBES-10, with a view to finalizing the framework.
On Thursday, 24 June, in plenary, one Member proposed new text on the workplan for the task force on capacity building, inviting, inter alia, the development of a comprehensive induction and training programme on cosmobiocentric and ILK systems for IPBES stakeholders. Members were reassured by IPBES ILK experts that this work is already under way and is reflected in the meeting’s report. A Member noted that future work needs to look at capacity building at the national level to enable countries to effectively conduct national assessments.
Final Outcome: In the final decision (IPBES/8/L.2), the IPBES Plenary welcomes the progress made by the task forces. It further approves the interim workplans for the intersessional period 2021–2022 for the task force on:
- capacity building (IPBES/8/L.8);
- knowledge and data (IPBES/8/L.9);
- ILK systems (IPBES/8/L.10);
- policy tools and methodologies (IPBES/8/L.11); and
- scenarios and models (IPBES/8/L.12).
Financial and Budgetary Arrangements
On Monday, 14 June, Chair Hernández introduced the agenda item on financial and budgetary arrangements (IPBES/8/5 and INF.24). IPBES Executive Secretary Larigauderie said that since IPBES-7, all planned activities have been completed within budget. She noted, however, future budgets will have to take into account that five assessments will be underway.
During the discussion, many Members lauded the Secretariat for the savings realized during 2020. They recommended assessing lessons learned from working virtually, with a view to realizing more efficient ways of working in the future, potentially through making use of both virtual and in-person meetings. While delegates reaffirmed the importance of the assessments, some suggested postponing some of the assessments to reduce the financial and resource burdens on the Secretariat. Others, recognizing private sector contributions to the Platform, suggested further exploring how to continue diversifying income streams. Delegates emphasized IPBES must “demonstrate both results and fiscal responsibility.” Discussions continued in a closed contact group throughout the meeting.
On Monday, 21 June, Vinod Mathur (India), Chair of the budget group, provided an update on the group’s deliberations. He said they concluded discussions on cash and in-kind contributions, and highlighted a request to the Secretariat to provide a report on the lessons learned from holding online meetings for presentation at IPBES-9. He requested more time to continue discussion on the remaining items, including the 2021, 2022, and 2023 budgets.
On Thursday, 24 June, Chair Mathur stated the group resumed discussion on the guidelines that contribute to the work of the platform, considering different formulations. He said they also deliberated on a revised 2021 budget, a proposed budget for 2022, and a provisional budget for 2023, taking into account all the changes and revisions. The group took note of the proposed budgets and projections, and submitted the final drafts to plenary for its consideration.
Final Outcome: In the final decision (IPBES/8/L.5), the Plenary:
- invites pledges and contributions to the trust fund of the Platform;
- requests the Secretariat to increase efforts to encourage Members of the Platform to pledge and contribute to the trust fund;
- adopts the revised budgets for 2021 and 2022, amounting to USD 5,674,428 and USD 9,882,675, respectively, as set out in the annex;
- adopts the provisional budget for 2023, amounting to USD 9,860,670, as set out in table 10 of the annex; and
- requests the Secretariat to review lessons learned from online meetings and other online working practices.
The IPBES Plenary further decides that: neither logos nor names of private-sector or non-governmental stakeholder donors may appear on IPBES reports; all donors will be listed in the budget report; and all donors providing financial contributions can be listed on the website of the Platform, subject to approval by the Bureau.
The document contains annexed tables on: the status of cash and in-kind contributions; earmarked contributions received in cash and pledges made for the period 2018-2022; in-kind contributions received in 2019 and 2020; examples of activities catalyzed by IPBES in 2019 and 2020; final expenditures for 2018-2020; proposed budgets for 2021 and 2022; and a provisional budget for 2023.
Improving the Effectiveness of the Platform
On Monday, 14 June, in Plenary, Chair Hernández introduced the agenda item, noting the suggestion for the Plenary to only receive a progress report (IPBES/8/8); adopt a procedural decision; and defer further considerations to IPBES-9. She introduced the report on the implementation of the recommendations made by the review panel in the context of the IPBES rolling work programme up to 2030, including solutions and issues identified (IPBES/8/8).
Discussions focused on: the importance of ensuring IPBES processes remain inclusive to all stakeholders and that expert panels include representatives of IPLCs and other practitioners; the standardization of data platforms for easy access; and the development of more accessible formats of reports, especially documents for policymakers. Some parties asked for an extension of the deadline for reviewing the conceptual framework.
On Monday, 21 June, Chair Hernández introduced a draft decision, which the Plenary adopted.
Final Outcome: In the final decision (IPBES/8/L.2), the Plenary welcomes the report on progress in addressing the recommendations of the review panel, requesting the Secretariat to continue to take them into account in the implementation of the rolling work programme. It further requests the Bureau, MEP, and the Secretariat to critically review the process for the nomination and selection of experts, ensuring disciplinary, regional, and gender balance. The IPBES Plenary further requests the Secretariat to consult the MEP on aspects related to reviewing the effectiveness of the platform, drawing from lessons learned from online meetings, including the implications on the budget, while responding to the need to enable full and effective participation of Members, experts, and stakeholders, and to report to IPBES-9.
Institutional Arrangements and Future Sessions
On Monday, 14 June, Chair Hernández introduced the agenda item on the UN collaborative partnership arrangement for the work of the Platform and its Secretariat (IPBES/8/INF/23). The partnership establishes an institutional link between IPBES, UNEP, UNESCO, FAO, and UNDP. Chair Hernández thanked the partnership for their continued support of the Platform’s work and the implementation of its work programme.
On future sessions, Simone Schiele, IPBES Secretariat, introduced the relevant documents (IPBES/8/9 and IPBES/8/9/Add.1), noting there are currently no offers to host IPBES-9, while the US has offered to host IPBES-10. The two meetings are scheduled for 2022 and 2023, respectively. She said the Bureau will consider the modalities for IPBES-9, including the possibility of holding a virtual meeting, if a physical meeting cannot be held. Chair Hernández requested any offers to host the IPBES Plenary be sent in writing to the Secretariat.
On Monday, 21 June, IPBES Chair Hernández stated there were still no formal offers to host IPBES-9, inviting countries who wish to do so to inform the Secretariat as soon as possible. The US reiterated their offer to host IPBES-10 in Madison, Wisconsin in late-April, early-May 2023, which Members applauded.
A regional group suggested including holding preparatory meetings in the modalities of future meetings, noting the future framework should be discussed at IPBES-10. A Member noted it is difficult to determine modalities for future meetings due to current uncertainties, calling for flexibility on the dates for IPBES-9, including consideration of decisions on meetings of other fora. Regarding projected work at IPBES-9, a regional group stressed they will be happy to discuss and acknowledge the work undertaken on the foundations of the nature futures framework, but will not be in a position to approve the foundations at IPBES-9, requesting reflecting this in the meeting’s report.
Final Outcome: In the final decision (IPBES/8/L.4), the IPBES Plenary:
- decides that IPBES-9 will be held in 2022 and requests the Bureau to decide on the specific dates, venue, and modalities, including the possibility of holding the meeting online should circumstances not make an in-person meeting feasible;
- decides that IPBES-10 will be held in April/May 2023 in Madison, Wisconsin, accepting with appreciation the US offer;
- takes note of the draft provisional agenda for IPBES-9 and IPBES-10; and
- requests the Secretariat to finalize the proposed organization of work for IPBES-9.
On Thursday, 24 June, Rapporteur Rashad Allahverdiyev (Azerbaijan) introduced the draft report of IPBES-8 (IPBES/8/L.1). Following a lengthy debate on the appropriateness of Member States wanting their opinions on particularly contentious issues to be reflected in the final report, given that discussions are ultimately agreed by consensus, the Chair clarified that, despite not constituting common practice, explicit requests will be accommodated. Members reviewed the report and approved it with minor amendments.
Mexico, for GRULAC, emphasized that, despite the difficulties, the meeting set the foundations for the nexus and transformative change assessments. She highlighted IPBES’s work, including synthesis and systematization of ILK, and warned that virtual meetings limit the Platform’s effectiveness.
Portugal, for the EU, underscored the excellent work of experts in consolidating the best available knowledge to inform decision making, and looked forward to opportunities for further synergies and collaborations, particularly under the nexus assessment.
Bosnia and Herzegovina, for EASTERN EUROPE AND CENTRAL ASIA, drew attention to regional cooperation and needs. She emphasized that capacity building is still a top priority for the region and called for a specific regional approach, addressing language barriers and including more experts from the region in IPBES’s work.
South Africa, for the AFRICAN GROUP, reiterated the challenges associated with virtual meetings, underscoring the value of in-person meetings. He highlighted the meeting’s achievements, including the adoption of the two scoping reports, and stressed that, to maintain momentum, financial support must be increased to meet present and future challenges.
The US underscored the challenges associated with holding the meeting virtually, highlighting the importance of IPBES’s work and looking forward to engaging in the review process at IPBES-9.
The Republic of Korea, for ASIA AND THE PACIFIC, focused on the two scoping reports, stressing they will inform decision makers on pathways and options to achieve the 2050 Vision for Biodiversity, the goals and targets of the post-2020 global biodiversity framework, the SDGs, and the Paris Agreement.
ONet expressed concern at the under-representation of regions, especially those in the Global South and asked for this to be taken into consideration in the planning of future meetings. He also asked for regional meetings to be open to IPBES stakeholders.
Chair Hernández drew attention to the closing statement from IIFBES, which highlighted the need to work with IPLCs on the development and implementation of policy, following from the IPBES assessments.
Executive Secretary Larigauderie highlighted the achievements of IPBES-8, thanking all participants and stressing that the meeting set high standards for digital multilateral work. She underscored the need to “seize the moment” and ensure our decisions are informed by the best available science.
Chair Hernández highlighted the spirit of flexibility and cooperation, which enabled Members to overcome all challenges and deliver a successful outcome. She gaveled the meeting to a close at 5:57 pm CET (GMT+2).
A Brief Analysis of the Meeting
I was taught that the way of progress was neither swift nor easy. ~ Marie Curie
There has been an increasing recognition that policy and action to halt biodiversity loss needs to be underpinned by sound science, and the Intergovernmental Platform for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) is increasingly recognized as the “go-to” source for sound multidisciplinary science on biodiversity and ecosystem services. The release of the Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services in 2019 has only served to underscore this, attracting unprecedented media attention.
While no new assessments were released at IPBES-8, the session sought to continue strengthening the Platform’s position. Over the course of two weeks, the Plenary had to approve two new scoping reports on the nexus and transformative change assessments, in addition to the interim work plans of the five IPBES task forces for the next biennium, allowing for their work to continue intersessionally. The session also considered the workshop report on biodiversity and climate change, co-sponsored by IPBES and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and launched shortly before the meeting, as well as the report on biodiversity and pandemics.
While the deliberations were at times fraught, and very often slow-going, the meeting did conclude its work successfully and set the foundation for IPBES to have a continued impact on halting the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services and why this is critical to our existence. This brief analysis will follow the Platform’s development, focusing on opportunities and challenges arising from IPBES-8.
Despite the global COVID-19 pandemic, IPBES has continued its work. It organized two timely workshops—one on biodiversity and pandemics and another on biodiversity and climate change. Both workshops released expert reports, which were largely well-received. The intersessional period also saw continued work on the assessments on the sustainable use of wild species, invasive alien species, and values; strengthening communication and engagement; and continued tracking of impacts. Lastly, it worked on the scoping reports for the long-awaited nexus and thematic assessments. During the intersessional period, the Secretariat anticipated the challenging circumstances of holding a virtual plenary session, which would not only result in less time to deliberate on the agenda items, but would require managing time zone equity issues and enable negotiations despite vastly different internet capabilities.
To facilitate matters, during the intersessional period, Members could provide comments on the scoping reports. These comments provided the basis for the working group negotiations at IPBES-8. As one Member was heard commenting, at IPBES-8, more so than any other session, the preparatory work was critical. It meant Members received the text beforehand, and came prepared with their comments and proposals.
At times, however, it appeared that the process may have been not as successful as hoped, when proposals for text were often diametrically opposed, particularly on issues such as addressing climate change and energy in the nexus scoping report, referring to the Paris Agreement of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, and incorporating different world views and forms of knowledge. Nimble crafting of text, along with pleas to accept that “not everyone is going to love the text, but could they live with it,” helped move the negotiations along. Often this was done by inserting overarching paragraphs instructing the experts to, among others, ensure that different world views and knowledge systems are considered when conducting the assessment.
Another opportunity that arose during the intersessional period was news of private sector support from the Kering Group and H&M, also highlighted during the Stakeholder Days, which were held prior to IPBES-8. This announcement underscored the multi-faceted nature of biodiversity, and the need for support from all sectors. Finally, and with a lot less fanfare, the interim workplans of the five IPBES task forces for the next biennium were approved. This paves the way for IPBES to continue generating knowledge and strengthening the science-policy interface. These workplans ensure that this can be done despite the challenging circumstances presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Both the scoping reports and private sector support provide IPBES with room to increase collaboration with other sectors. This will be essential in two ways: first, it provides an opportunity for IPBES to have a greater reach and a louder voice; and second, and arguably more important, intersectoral collaboration is crucial in halting biodiversity loss.
The adoption of the two scoping reports took up most of the time at IPBES-8. One challenge Members faced was how to effectively negotiate a scoping report providing direction to the experts according to Members’ priorities, while not being overly prescriptive and giving them sufficient latitude to conduct research thoroughly. Members regularly consulted with the experts present to ensure the scoping reports would provide the best possible guidance to the future authors.
A number of dichotomies were present during the discussions. It is no secret that countries have different approaches to sustainability, and this was particularly apparent in discussions on the nexus assessment. There were numerous disagreements, including differing worldviews and varying socio-economic and political priorities. This, despite having had the intersessional period to provide input, led to numerous text proposals and bloated text. This was particularly evident on how the nexus assessment would address climate change and energy. One can easily argue that these negotiations did not improve the draft document. One participant noted that the discussion often mirrored divergent opinions in the sociopolitical domain rather than the scientific one, highlighting this bridge needs to be crossed for policy to see eye-to-eye with science.
This was further underscored by the discussions on the workshop reports on biodiversity and pandemics, and biodiversity and climate change. The organization of the workshops and the workshop reports left some Members unimpressed, particularly as, despite the use of relevant disclaimers, they were announced in a manner resembling an assessment launch. There were also a number of concerns regarding the modalities for the organization and holding of the workshops.
Some Members opposed text such as “welcoming” or “taking note with appreciation,” as they felt the workshops did not have sufficient input from Members, nor were the outputs approved by Members, along with other concerns such as insufficient time to consider the workshop reports and framing of the issues around climate change and pandemics. Others argued that since IPBES-7 mandated a workshop, there was sufficient Member approval to both carry out the workshops, and to, at a minimum “take note with appreciation” the work that leading scientists had conducted on these matters. Some stressed the scientific quality of the reports and their usefulness for future work, including the nexus and transformative change assessments.
Members eventually agreed to a Friends of the Chair meeting to try and find a middle ground between the conflicting points of view, with one Member noting that in order to find a middle ground in negotiations, sometimes “everyone has to hurt.” Ultimately, Members agreed to “thank” the workshop organizers and participants, “appreciate the significant effort” going into the reports, and “invite the experts” to use these in the assessments, where appropriate. This wording was also conditioned upon the discussion being reflected in the meeting report. All Members agreed significant concessions had to be made to reach this agreement, but some went as far as to suggest that given the decision invites experts to use the reports in the various assessments, this acknowledges that such workshops and reports are useful to the broader scientific and policy-making communities.
Biodiversity loss is becoming more visible and more central to the global environmental agenda, and IPBES is playing a major part in raising awareness. It has received an increasing number of accolades for its work, and is bolstering its reputation, largely due to the publication of high-profile, well-received, and thorough assessments. IPBES-8 sought to lay the foundation for continued success by approving work plans for the intersessional period, and adopting language that paved the way for the assessment authors to use the workshop reports in their work.
But at the core of these actions, there are still opposing views—both among Members and between Members and the experts. As was noted throughout the two-week meeting, there needs to be a way to bridge these opposing views. Without this, the negotiations will continue to risk getting “bogged down” in back-and-forth arguments over issues such as what the various outputs are trying to achieve, or what is sufficient instruction to allow continued exploration at the interface of science and policy. Trying to develop a minimum common understanding among Members will progress this and serve to further increase the productivity and efficiency of IPBES formal sessions. As a participant noted, developing mutual understanding is a complex process with uncertain results, which requires “in-depth discussions and certainly more time than is available in busy formal meetings.” Succeeding in this would further serve the international community by providing sound science on which to formulate policies to halt biodiversity loss.
Addressing these challenges will enable the Platform to continue playing a catalytic role in the necessary transformational change to address the biodiversity crisis. As biodiversity-related concerns are expected to gain additional momentum with the negotiation and, hopefully, adoption of the post-2020 global biodiversity framework, delivering sound science and developing mutual understanding at the policy level may, as one delegate wrote it in the conference chat box, provide our last opportunity to protect the foundations of life on Earth.