By Candice Arendse

Based on Earth Negotiations Bulletin (Vol. 31 No. 34)

The 5th session of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) convened in early March in Bonn, Germany with over 460 international members and non-members attending. IPBES is a global scientific body with an international membership base of scientists who assess the state of the world’s biodiversity and its associated ecosystem services. The Platform emphasises the need for inclusion of society within this assessment.

IPBES provides decision makers and governments with updated information to be considered when drafting plans and policies that can impact the biodiversity sector, creating an additional communications platform between scientists, governments and other stakeholders. The Platform has four main focus areas: Capacity Building; Knowledge Generation Catalysis; Assessment; and Policy Support.

The agenda for the meeting included a review of the progress made in the implementation of the first work programme of IPBES, a review of the revised scoping report for assessment on the sustainable use of wild species, and discussion on approaches to indigenous and local knowledge.  In addition to agenda items under the four main areas of the platform, the conference included discussion on three assessments (methodological, thematic assessment on invasive alien species, and thematic assessment on the sustainable use of biodiversity).  The first work programme of the platform covers the period of 2014–2018 and should address the implementation of specific aims and objectives under the four key areas of the platform.

Guy Midgley of Stellenbosch University was a keynote speaker.  He addressed the importance of biodiversity conservation and climate change mitigation. Earth Negotiations Bulletin (ENB) reported that Midgley emphasised the importance of providing a well-researched assessment to inform decisions to use negative emission technologies. He explained that well-intentioned responses to climate change could pose risks to biodiversity and ecosystem services if they are not properly assessed. However, ecosystem-based approaches to adaptation can address these conflicts.

IPBES Executive Secretary, Ann Larigauderie reported on the platform’s activities during 2016 and called for increased financial support for developed country representatives due to concerns regarding a lack of funding from governments and institutions in developing countries. Larigauderie added that current IPBES activities will require an additional USD 3.4 million on top of the original budget to complete activities planned for 2017-2019.

Concerns regarding the funding situation of IPBES were a dominant topic of conversation during the meeting, reported ENB. It was agreed that the financial situation of the Platform would be addressed in detail at IPBES-6. The meeting also concluded that discussions on the IPBES fundraising strategy will continue to explore how to leverage strategic partnerships with other organisations, and how to raise funds within its membership.

In light of the budget talks and potential impacts, Future Earth signed an agreement with IPBES that will support the Platform in its efforts to implement its work plan. This includes assisting in recruiting and increasing the number of reviewers who will take part in the assessments, and supporting mobilisation of funding for core activities.

Ten key decisions were taken during the meeting, some of which are outlined below. The decisions on the integration of indigenous and local knowledge (ILK) systems into the assessments included inviting indigenous peoples and local communities, their representatives, and experts on ILK to engage in certain activities described in the approach through the participatory mechanism. Additional decisions were taken that requested the Executive Secretary to make the arrangements necessary to implement the approach, and called on governments, stakeholders, strategic partners and others to support activities that mobilise ILK.

The meeting endorsed the Capacity Building Plan, which aims to identify and address the capacity building needs of the Platform. It was also decided that the Task Force on Capacity Building should implement its proposed actions and report on the progress at IPBES-6, which will be held in March 2018.

The meeting adopted the following decisions (excerpt from ENB):


Final Outcome: In the final decision on knowledge foundations (IPBES/5/L.11), the Plenary takes note of the outcome of the Expert Group mandated to take into account the evolution of thinking on ecosystem services and the transition to nature’s contributions to people, to be in line with the inclusive approach of the IPBES conceptual framework. The Plenary also notes that nature’s contributions to people will be used in the Platform’s current and future assessments.


Final Outcome: In the final decision (IPBES/5/L.9), the Plenary decides, to allow the enhanced participation of the EU in its capacity as observer in the sessions of the Plenary of the Platform; that this includes the right to speak in turn, the right to reply, the right to Introduce proposals, the right to provide views, and the ability to support the implementation of the work programme of the Platform through financial support, among other means; and that this be applied on an interim basis, pending the resolution of the status of regional economic integration organizations in the Platform in the rules of procedure.


Final Outcome: In the final decision (IPBES/5/L.2), the Plenary, inter alia:

  • Welcomes the capacity-building rolling plan, noting it is a living document intended to guide the Platform’s work;
  • Requests the Task Force on Capacity Building to implement, subject to the availability of funds, the rolling plan and report on progress at IPBES-6;
  • Encourages member states and observers to take advantage of the regional consultation meetings in 2017 to enhance their contribution to the finalization of the regional assessments;
  • Requests the Task Force to further enhance collaboration transparently with other organizations in the implementation of the rolling plan; and
  • Requests the Bureau, in collaboration with the Task Force, to consider what would be the most effective way to leverage additional support for capacity building, consider whether a third meeting of the capacity-building forum is needed, and report on its work to IPBES-6.

Final Outcome: In the final decision (IPBES/5/L.6), the Plenary

  • Approves the approach for recognizing and working with ILK and requests the MEP, supported by the Task Force on ILK, to implement it;
  • Invites IPLCs and their representatives, as well as experts on ILK, to engage in the activities described in the approach, in particular through the participatory mechanism;
  • Invites governments, stakeholders, strategic partners and others to support activities that mobilize ILK where such knowledge is needed but not available in readily available formats, and that increase the capacity of IPLCs to engage in and benefit from the Platform; and
  • Requests the Executive Secretary to make the arrangements necessary to implement the approach, including for the establishment of the participatory mechanism, subject to the availability of resources

Final Outcome: In the final decision (IPBES/5/L.11) on knowledge foundations, the Plenary, inter alia:

  • Requests the Task Force on Knowledge and Data, subject to the availability of resources, to further develop the work plan with clear deliverables and milestones for 2017 and 2018, in consultation with relevant multilateral environmental agreements, international processes and organizations, to provide further updates during the intercessional periods through the Platform website and to report on progress to IPBES-6 and IPBES-7;
  • Encourages the Task Force on Knowledge and Data to develop TOR to specify the modalities of its collaboration with any partner organization to which specific tasks are assigned; and
  • Takes note of the outlined work plan for the Task Force on Knowledge and Data for 2017 and 2018, annexed to the decision.

Final Outcome: In the final decision (IPBES/5/L.12), the Plenary decides to request the expert group on scenarios and models to continue its work and report to IPBES-6 and IPBES- 7; and extends the mandate of the Expert Group on Values until IPBES-7, and requests it to report at IPBES-6 and IPBES-7.


Final Outcome: In the final decision (IPBES/5/L.12), the Plenary: approves the scoping report for the assessment of the sustainable use of wild species; requests the MEP, in consultation with the Bureau, to evaluate the need for any changes to already approved scoping documents based on major scientific findings of other Platform assessments, and to report to the Plenary if any significant modifications are needed.


Final Outcome: In the final decision (IPBES/5/L.4), the Plenary takes note of the development of the online catalogue and the support provided by the Expert Group. The Plenary also requests the MEP, in consultation with the Bureau, supported by a reconstituted task-specific expert group on policy support tools and the Secretariat, to continue, subject to the availability of funds, to inter alia:

  • Submit the prototype online catalogue for review by IPBES members and stakeholders;
  • Further develop the catalogue in cooperation with relevant international processes and partners;
  • Work with the Task Force on Capacity Building to explore ways to more effectively promote and facilitate future use of policy support tools and methodologies; and
  • Undertake an evaluation of the use and effectiveness of the online prototype catalogue in the context of the IPBES review and report to IPBES-6.