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Editor’s Note No. 152
Friday, 18 June 2010
Lynn Wagner, Ph.D.
Lynn Wagner, Ph.D.
Editor,
Linkages Update

and MEA Bulletin
Several of the meetings that teams from the International Institute for Sustainable Development Reporting Services (IISD RS) have reported on during the last two weeks highlight that the international environmental policy making process is only as good as the information that delegates are able to access.

Information for biodiversity policy processes was the focus of the third Ad Hoc Intergovernmental and Multi-stakeholder Meeting on an Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES III), which met from 7-11 June 2010, in Busan, Republic of Korea. This meeting ended with the recommendation to establish an IPBES, concluding a multi-year process to discuss the possible format for bridging the gap between biodiversity-related scientific knowledge already produced by the world’s several institutions and international policy-making. It is now up to the General Assembly and the UN Environment Programme Governing Council to reach the final decision and establish the platform, eagerly awaited by biodiversity scientists around the globe.

Among the proposals discussed at the Bonn Climate Change Talks, which took place from 31 May-11 June 2010, in Bonn, Germany, were a call for a technical paper by the Secretariat on options for limiting global average temperature increase to 1.5°C and 2°C from pre-industrial levels (which was not agreed), and a request that the Secretariat prepare a technical paper on legal issues and organize a technical workshop on the scale of Annex I emission reductions (which was agreed). Proponents of each proposal sought to bring new information into the process, and perhaps hoped to generate related research outside the system. Our Earth Negotiations Bulletin analysis of the meeting highlights the role that scientific uncertainty has played in this negotiation process, noting that a senior negotiator said parties are “hiding behind uncertainty to protect their interests and maintain long-held positions.”

In yet another process, the First Meeting of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee to Prepare a Global Legally Binding Instrument on Mercury (INC 1), which convened from 7-11 June 2010 in Stockholm, Sweden, asked the Secretariat to prepare “elements of a comprehensive and suitable approach” to a legally binding instrument. This document will be used as a basis for negotiations at INC 2, in January 2011, providing the opportunity for the Secretariat to set the tone for how the negotiations will proceed.

Through the many knowledge products that we produce at IISD RS, we seek to help level the negotiation playing field by increasing transparency of intergovernmental processes, providing information on negotiations (Earth Negotiations Bulletin) and information on the intergovernmental actors and actions that could shape and implement climate change policy (Climate-L.org). Our YMB work expands our reporting coverage to additional intergovernmental meetings, on a hired-for-services basis. We track Secretariats’ activities between meetings, to identify how parties’ decisions are being implemented as well as to learn about preparations for upcoming negotiations (MEA Bulletin). We bring all our reports and recent additions to our knowledge bases together (Linkages Update), and provide our readers an opportunity to network with each other and share their research and activities (with 11 listserves).

We are currently reorganizing our Climate-L.org and Linkages Update knowledge bases to make their contents more accessible, with the objective of improving the way we provide information to enhance international environmental policy making processes. An issue of the Economist highlighted earlier this year that “Government information is a form of infrastructure, no less important to our modern life than our roads, electrical grid or water systems.” We are pleased to help with the construction of this infrastructure, and making it accessible to all.
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