“Celebrations infuse life with passion and purpose. They summon the human spirit.” Reality vindicated Professor Terrence Deal’s quote during the fifth day of the ninth session of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES-9).
The day started cautiously. Working Group 1 (WG1) Co-Chair Douglas Beard stressed early in the morning that “we have a long, long day ahead of us,” joking with delegates that “every morning you seem to have more energy than your co-chairs and we get bogged down almost out of the gate.” Consideration of the methodological assessment regarding the diverse conceptualization of multiple values of nature and its benefits, including biodiversity and ecosystem functions and services (values assessment) started at a slow pace. Delegates dived into the assessment’s key messages offering a range of contributions, which improved the content, but did no favors to Co-Chair Beard’s request for speed and efficiency.
A similar situation prevailed in WG2, which addressed the scoping report for the forthcoming assessment of the impact and dependence of business on biodiversity and nature’s contributions to people (business and biodiversity assessment). Discussions were slow and often entangled in what some participants considered to be inconsequential details.
Things changed in the afternoon after a plenary session. The adoption of the SPM and the approval of the individual chapters of the thematic assessment of the sustainable use of wild species lifted participants’ spirits. And for good reason. As the assessment co-chairs emphasized in emotional addresses, the document offers a comprehensive analysis of sustainable use, unlike any other in the past.
“We used to work in silos; this time we worked together to get the big picture and ended up with a picture much bigger than we ever thought,” John Donaldson emphasized. “Both social and natural scientists have arrived at the same conclusion, that humans are fully part of nature,” offered Jean-Marc Fromentin. “The robust knowledge base of the assessment is an outcome of IPBES’ commitment to bring together multiple knowledge systems and sources, including Indigenous and local knowledge, and integrating social and natural sciences,” noted Marla Emery.
Although not much can be said on the assessment’s content prior to lifting the media embargo on Friday, the vast majority of participants, including IPBES Chair Ana María Hernández Salgar, underscored that it is a landmark assessment that will constitute a reference point for the future.
Chief scientist Jake Rice, one of the assessment’s authors, lauded the leadership of WG1 Co-Chair Beard, offering him “the best apple strudel in Bonn,” as a symbolic compensation for missing the 4th of July celebrations to work on the assessment.
Standing ovations followed for all the contributors of the assessment. However, a harsh reality check ensued as the two working groups had to keep celebrations short to immediately resume their work.
WG1 dived into the values assessment, concluding consideration of key messages and focusing on background messages. WG2 continued addressing the scoping report for the business and biodiversity assessment. The approval of the sustainable use assessment seemed to inspire delegates as the discussions were focused and productive, and the pace slightly faster.
Still, the sheer amount of work led to additional evening sessions for both groups. WG1 worked until midnight in an effort to finalize the values assessment and forward it to plenary for consideration on Saturday. Although it came quite close, it did not fully succeed, and discussions will continue early Friday morning. WG2 almost finalized discussion on the scoping report for the business and biodiversity assessment and discussed the nature futures framework. It will also conclude its deliberations on Friday.