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An organisation that raises awareness and coordinates public action to protect biodiversity...
"IPBES"… doesn't this acronym ring a bell? We can't say we don't blame you: this organisation established in 2012 is pretty much unknown.If it has a low profile, it nevertheless fulfils an absolutely vital mission: raising awareness and coordinating public action to protect biodiversity.In other words, nothing short of promoting… life on earth! On the occasion of its 10th anniversary (in 2022), let's take this opportunity to get to know it better..
> Established in 2012 under the auspices of the United Nations.
> To some extent, the IPBES does for biodiversity what the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) does for climate change.
> The IPBES published between 2016 and 2019:
2 theme-based reports, one about pollinating and the other on land degradation;
1 methodology based report about scenarios and models;
4 regional reports about the state of biodiversity in the Americas, Africa, Asia-Pacific and Europe-Central Asia;
1 global assessment report of Biodiversity and Ecosystem services.
Let's start from the basics: pronunciation. IPBES is pronounced "IP-BESS". A useful acronym because its full name sounds a bit overwhelming. The full name stands for Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services.
Established just 10 years ago, the IPBES, in fact, addresses a rather old concern that emerged in the 1970s: how to limit the damage caused by humanity to the rest of the living world.Deforestation, chemical pollution, concreting, overexploitation… our species is indeed unkind the way it treats its environment.The second half of the 20th century, in particular, was marked by a terrible acceleration of the assault on biodiversity. Gradually, voices were raised to defend the cause of plants, animals and other non-human species endangered by our hegemony.
An initial step was taken with the Convention on Biological Diversity, an international treaty signed in Rio in 1992. But there remained the idea that an intergovernmental organisation was needed to address this issue with greater focus. It was to be the IPBES. The platform was officially launched on 21st April 2012 and joined by 94 governments. Created under the auspices of the UN, it remains nevertheless independent.
The IPBES looks like a lot of intergovernmental organisations: it is organised in a slightly complex structure. It is worth noting the two most important elements of which it is composed are the following:
- a plenary assembly. It is made up of representatives of the Member States and meets once a year.This is where major decisions are taken and IPBES work is approved before being published. Within a decade, the IPBES has won over and grown as a result: its plenary sessions now bring together nearly 140 States (out of 195 in the world), as well as numerous observers from civil society.
- a multidisciplinary expert panel (MEP). It is the IPBES's real raison d'être: gather the brightest minds in science to better understand the state of biodiversity. For the sake of representativity, the panel's composition is very carefully established: each of the five UN regions sends five scientists.There are, therefore, 25 scientists in total. What is their job? Supervise all the platform's technical and scientific functions.
As its name indicates, the strength of this panel is its multidisciplinarity. There are subsequently: biologists, botanists, ecologists, geographers, political scientists, economists, agronomists and anthropologists. . It should be noted that dozens of other scientists support this panel, contributing, on an ad hoc basis, to the platform's various publications.
If we had to summarise, we could say that its principal mission is to inform and urge decision-makers to act to preserve the Earth's biodiversity. It thus acts as an interface between scientists and politicians: the IPBES assesses and compiles all available scientific knowledge to better relay it to those in a position to take action.
We can compare it to its older brother, the IPCC, which does more or less the same thing, but for the climate. Just like it, the IPBES produces very robust reports to persuade and warn of biodiversity's wealth and vulnerability. The IPBES also helps decision-makers who want to put together public policies that are good for all living things by recommending tools and methodologies.
On its website, the platform defines its role as: "Reinforce, through science, the knowledge underpinning the drafting of better policies for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, long-term human well-being and sustainable development. "
Biodiversity, or biological diversity, is all living things on our planet; us included. It is scientifically proven that diversity is necessary for our life on Earth:insects pollinate plants that feed us; the plants produce the oxygen we breathe; the bacteria sustain the soil we farm; et etcetera. We are structurally and directly dependent on thousands of other species around us.
But biodiversity is today in a very (very) bad way. It has even been collapsing for decades. It is what scientists call "the 6th mass extinction". If we had to keep in mind a some findings, let's retain those from the WWF Living Planet 2020 report: There has been a 68% decline in the number of birds, amphibians, mammals, fish, and reptiles since the 1970s.As for plant and tree varieties, 22 % of those known are endangered.
Humans are the cause of this tragedy, reminds the NGO. It is down to:
1/ "deforestation and the conversion of forestland into agricultural land";
2/ "the overexploitation of forests and land" ;
3/ "the illegal wildlife trade".
As for climate change, which is also man-made, acts as an amplifier of this collapse.
IPBES makes its essential work public on its website. The Assessment Reports are the best known and most widely read. They compile and summarise thousands of scientific studies and indigenous knowledge, offering an accurate and comprehensive view of biodiversity issues.
IPBES published its first report in 2016. The document focusing on the challenges of pollination made an impression at the time, becoming a reference on the subject.
"Pollinators, Pollination and Food Production" is the result of two years of work by 77 international experts and is based on 3,000 scientific articles and local knowledge gathered in nearly 60 territories from around the world.
Among its main messages:
- "Animal pollination plays a vital role as a regulating ecosystem service in nature.Almost 90% of wildflower plants depend on it. "
- "5-8% of the world's agricultural production, representing an annual market value of $235-577 billion, is directly attributable to animal pollination. "
- "Pollinator-dependent food products make an important contribution to healthy human eating and nutrition".
Since 2016, IPBES has also published a report on the theme of land degradation ; a global assessment report of Biodiversity and Ecosystem services ; and regional reports.
In July 2022, IPBES released new assessments, including a high-profile one on "sustainable use of wildlife". We discover that humans use more than 50,000 wild species to feed, cure, clothe and house themselves.For a large part of humanity, it is even a question of survival:1 in 5 of the Earth's population depends directly on wild species for their livelihood (income and food).
Like the IPCC, the work of the IPBES serves as a foundation for the COP.
Upcoming deadline: COP15 on biodiversity, in Montreal (Canada) from 5th to 17th December 2022.