Agreements at the IPBES-2 and Further Challenges:
The Work Programme 2014 – 2018

January 2014

The second plenary of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) was held in Antalya, Turkey, between 9 and 14 December 2013. Together with various observers including scientific communities, NGOs and indigenous groups, 77 countries out of 115 parties participated in this plenary and mainly discussed the work programme 2014-2018, the budgets and financial rules, and the nominations procedures of Multidiciplinary Experts Panel.

The work programme is designed to implement the goal, functions and operating principles of the Platform in a coherent and integrated manner so as to strengthen the science-policy interface for biodiversity and ecosystem services. For the period of 2014-2018, two types of assessments, namely, regional and global assessments as well as thematic and methodological assessments, will be conducted on the basis of necessary capacity building and delivered to society in the form of catalogues and data management systems. Specifically, "thematic assessment of pollination and pollinators associated with food production" and "methodological assessment of scenarios and modelling of biodiversity and ecosystem services" have been selected for the fast-track, with assessment starting in 2014 and the report or guide finalised by the end of 2015. Scoping and subsequent works for other issues, such as regional / sub-regional assessments, "thematic assessment of land degradation and restoration", and "methodological assessment of the conceptualisation of values", will proceed in a staggered way (see Figure 1).

[Figure 1 Schedule of work] Work Programme for the period 2014-2018 Reference: IPBES/2/CRP.9 Work programme for the period 2014–2018    To Zoom in

Notes on milestones:

  1. Preliminary principles and procedures for working with indigenous and local knowledge.
  2. Final principles and procedures for working with indigenous and local knowledge.
  3. Preliminary guide on how to use scenarios and modelling in the Platform’s work.
  4. Final guide on how to use scenarios and modelling in the Platform’s work.
  5. Preliminary guide on how to use values, valuation and accounting in Platform’s work.
  6. Final guide on how to use values, valuation and accounting in Platform’s work.
  7. Guidance on policy support tools.

From my observations, at least two major challenges could be recognised in this work programme: unclear relationships between assessments, and controversies in conceptualisation of values. Firstly, the relations between thematic assessments and other two types of assessments are not sufficiently discussed (whereas the methodologies for scenarios and values seem to be utilised for regional and global assessments). For instance, the fast-track assessment of pollination will show its economic and non-economic values, but it will be impossible to utilise the results of methodological assessment of values due to their respective staggered timelines. Likewise, more than half of regional / sub-regional assessments will be finished by the time that scoping of thematic assessment of invasive alien species is completed. In brief, the work programme is not framed to promote synergies between assessments. An independent assessment of each theme may be preferable from the perspectives of expertise and efficiency. However, one-shot assessment without considering integration into the wider framework may sacrifice policy implications. Sharing some experts and their knowledge could be one possible arrangement to strengthen interlinkages between assessments that have different timelines.

Conceptualisation of values was one of the most controversial issues at the plenary. This methodological assessment was originally entitled "value, valuation and accounting of biodiversity and ecosystem services" and was designated as fast-track. However, the large majority underlining the socio-cultural perspectives in value and valuation in contrast with the economic approaches blur the scope of this assessment and finally the word "fast-track" was struck from the title. Conversely, this will be an opportunity to take sufficient time to scope this clearly controversial issue. When we look at the recent international studies on economic valuation of ecosystem services including The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) and the World Bank’s initiative, there is no need to duplicate similar assessment in the work programme of the IPBES. Rather, establishing the methodologies to clarify socio-cultural values and identifying appropriate ecosystem services for these approaches may provide more meaningful deliverables to policies and societies. In this sense, the scoping process will be critical for this assessment.

The IPBES, which aims to create an interface between "science" and "policy" as well as "humans" and "nature", will initiate ambitious targets with attempting to integrate similar but different notions of "ecosystem services" and "nature’s gift". In addition to the above challenges in the timelines and the scoping processes, several issues may also come up in the budgets and the nomination procedures for the experts. However, meaningful deliverables for the Aichi Biodiversity Target 2020 will also be highly anticipated. We are ready to contribute to this policy process through our ongoing research activities such as quantitative evaluation of ecosystem services.

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