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Earth Negotiations Bulletin (ENB)

Volume 31 Number 29 | Wednesday, 2 March 2016

IPBES-4 Highlights

20-28 February 2016 | Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Languages: EN (HTML/PDF)
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The Fourth Session of the Plenary of the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES-4) was held 22-28 February 2016 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It was preceded by the IPBES-4 Stakeholder Days) on 20-21 February 2016. More than 500 participants attended the meeting, representing IPBES member and non-member governments, UN agencies and convention secretariats, intergovernmental organizations, nongovernmental organizations, indigenous peoples and local communities (IPLCs), and stakeholder groups.

The meeting approved the first assessments and summaries for policy makers (SPMs) produced by the platform: a Thematic Assessment on Pollinators, Pollination, and Food Production; and a Methodological Assessment on Scenarios and Models of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. Delegates further adopted decisions on scoping reports for future assessments on: a global assessment on biodiversity and ecosystem services; a methodological assessment on diverse conceptualization of multiple values of nature and its benefits; and thematic assessments on invasive alien species (IAS) and sustainable use. The meeting also adopted decisions on a number of procedural and substantive issues, including: the work programme 2014-2018 of the Platform; financial and budgetary arrangements; rules and procedures for the operation of the Platform; communication, stakeholder engagement and strategic partnerships; a draft set of procedures for working with indigenous and local knowledge (ILK) systems; draft additional procedures to fill gaps in experts; draft terms of reference (ToRs) for the midterm and final reviews of the Platform; and ToRs for the further development of tools and methodologies regarding scenarios and models.

Delegates left Kuala Lumpur in a celebratory mood after having successfully accepted technical reports, approved two SPMs and thereby delivered the first IPBES products on time. Many were encouraged by the constructive atmosphere during the line-by-line negotiations of the SPMs, which some had expected to be far more arduous and politically-charged. Others stated that the positive media reception to the pollinators assessment was a confirmation that the IPBES can deliver assessments of high quality and relevance to policy makers and the general public. The enthusiasm was short-lived, however, due to concerns that IPBES could soon be subject to a severe budget shortfall. The immediate impacts on the IPBES work programme were limited. Most of the activities provided for in the work programme could be launched as planned, with work on two assessments being “subject to the availability of funds.” Whether these assessments can be completed, however, is all but assured as current pledges for 2016 do only cover a part of the approved budget for 2016-2017 and only a fraction of the indicative budget for 2018-2019. Overall, delegates expressed optimism that the success of IPBES-4 could help in bridging the shortfall, with incoming IPBES Chair Robert Watson stressing that one of the priorities for future IPBES sessions will be to develop a comprehensive fundraising strategy.


The Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) was established in 2012 as a result of a consultative process initiated in response to the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA). Conducted from 2001 to 2005, the MA provided the first state-of-the-art scientific appraisal of the conditions and trends in the world’s ecosystems and the services they provide, as well as the scientific basis for action to conserve and use them sustainably. Among other conclusions, the MA showed that biodiversity and ecosystem services are declining at an unprecedented rate. Recognizing the need for strengthening the dialogue between the scientific community, governments, and other stakeholders on biodiversity and ecosystem services, in January 2005 the Paris Conference on Biodiversity, Science and Governance proposed to initiate, as part of the MA follow-up process, consultations to assess the need, scope and possible form of an international mechanism of scientific expertise on biodiversity.

IMOSEB PROCESS: Supported by the Government of France, the consultative process on an International Mechanism of Scientific Expertise on Biodiversity (IMoSEB) was conducted through an International Steering Committee and a series of regional consultations from 2005 to 2007. At its second meeting in December 2005, the Committee identified a series of “needs and options” to link science and policy in the area of biodiversity, which were summarized in a document for regional consultations held from January – November 2007. At its final meeting in November 2007, the Steering Committee reviewed the outcomes of the regional consultations and invited donors and governments to provide support for the further and urgent consideration of the establishment of a science-policy interface. It further invited the Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and others to convene a meeting to consider establishing such an interface.

Following the invitation to the UNEP Executive Director, there was also consensus among stakeholders that the follow-up to the IMoSEB process and the MA follow-up process initiated under UNEP in 2007 should merge. A joint meeting, “IMoSEB-MA Follow up: Strengthening the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Interface on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services,” took place in March 2008 to develop a common approach.

The IMoSEB outcome and the IPBES concept note were also considered in 2008 by the ninth Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD COP 9). In Decision IX/15 (follow-up to the MA), the COP welcomed the decision of the UNEP Executive Director to convene an Ad Hoc Intergovernmental and Multi-Stakeholder Meeting on an IPBES, and requested the CBD Ad Hoc Working Group on Review of Implementation to consider the meeting’s outcomes.

FIRST AD HOC INTERGOVERNMENTAL AND MULTI-STAKEHOLDER MEETING ON AN IPBES: This meeting was held from 10-12 November 2008, in Putrajaya, Malaysia. Participants adopted a Chair’s summary, recommending that the UNEP Executive Director report the meeting’s outcomes to the twenty-fifth session of the UNEP Governing Council (GC-25) and convene a second meeting to continue exploring mechanisms to improve the science-policy interface on biodiversity and ecosystem services for human well-being and sustainable development. The summary also recommended that UNEP undertake a preliminary gap analysis on existing interfaces on biodiversity and ecosystem services to facilitate the discussions, to be made available to the UNEP GC.

UNEP GC-25/GMEF: The 25th session of the UNEP Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment Forum (GC-25/GMEF), held in February 2009 in Nairobi, Kenya, adopted Decision 25/10 calling on UNEP to conduct further work to explore ways and means to strengthen the science-policy interface on biodiversity. In response to the decision, UNEP invited governments and organizations to participate in an open peer review of the preliminary gap analysis. These comments were incorporated into the final gap analysis.

SECOND AD HOC INTERGOVERNMENTAL AND MULTI-STAKEHOLDER MEETING ON AN IPBES: At this meeting, held from 5-9 October 2009 in Nairobi, Kenya, participants exchanged views on the findings of the gap analysis, options to strengthen the science-policy interface, and functions and possible governance structures of an IPBES. Participants adopted a Chair’s Summary of Outcomes and Discussions, which highlighted areas of agreement and reflected the differing views expressed during the meeting.

UNEP GCSS-11/GMEF: The 11th Special Session of the UNEP Governing Council/GMEF, held in February 2010 in Bali, Indonesia, adopted a decision calling on UNEP to organize a final meeting to establish an IPBES.

THIRD AD HOC INTERGOVERNMENTAL AND MULTI-STAKEHOLDER MEETING ON AN IPBES: This meeting was held from 7-11 June 2010 in Busan, Republic of Korea. Delegates reached agreement that an IPBES should be established as a scientifically independent body. They adopted the Busan Outcome, which recommended inviting the UN General Assembly (UNGA) to consider the conclusions of the meeting and take appropriate action for establishing an IPBES.

SIXTY-FIFTH UN GENERAL ASSEMBLY: On 20 December 2010, the sixty-fifth session of the UNGA adopted Resolution 65/162, which requested UNEP to fully operationalize the platform and convene a plenary meeting to determine the modalities and institutional arrangements for the platform at the earliest opportunity.

UNEP GC-26/GMEF: This meeting, held from 21-24 February 2011 in Nairobi, Kenya, adopted Decision 26/4, endorsing the outcome of IPBES-III and calling for the convening of a plenary session for an IPBES to determine the modalities and institutional arrangements of the platform.

1ST SESSION OF A PLENARY FOR AN IPBES: At the first session of the plenary meeting for an IPBES, held 3-7 October 2011 at UNEP headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya, delegates considered the modalities and institutional arrangements for an IPBES, including the platform’s functions and operating principles, work programme, legal issues relating to its establishment and operationalization, and the criteria for selecting host institutions and the physical location of the Secretariat.

2ND SESSION OF A PLENARY FOR AN IPBES: At this session, held 16-21 April 2012 in Panama City, Panama, delegates considered the modalities and institutional arrangements for the IPBES, including functions and structures of bodies that might be established under the platform, rules of procedure, and the platform’s work programme. Delegates selected Bonn, Germany, as the physical location of the IPBES Secretariat and adopted a resolution establishing IPBES.

IPBES-1: The first session of the IPBES Plenary met from 21-26 January 2013 in Bonn, Germany. Delegates: elected the IPBES Chair, the Bureau and the Multidisciplinary Expert Panel (MEP); adopted an initial budget; and agreed on steps toward the development of an initial IPBES work programme, 2014-2018. IPBES-1 also requested the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the International Council for Science (ICSU) to convene a broad consultative process to develop a draft stakeholder engagement strategy. Other issues that were discussed but remained unresolved included the rules of procedure on the admission of observers.

IPBES 2: The second session of the IPBES Plenary met from 9-14 December 2013 in Antalya, Turkey. Delegates adopted the Antalya Consensus, which included decisions on: the work programme for 2014-2018, including fast-track, thematic, regional and subregional assessments and activities for capacity building; a conceptual framework considering different knowledge systems; and rules and procedures for the Platform on, inter alia, procedures for the preparation of the Platform’s deliverables. Anne Larigauderie was appointed as the first IPBES Executive Secretary. Due to shortage of time, IPBES-2 did not discuss the draft stakeholder engagement strategy and requested the IPBES Secretariat to provide a revised draft for IPBES-3.

IPBES-3: The third session of the IPBES Plenary met from 12-17 January 2015 in Bonn, Germany. Delegates adopted decisions, including on: the work programme for 2014-2018; a stakeholder engagement strategy; a communications and outreach strategy; the financial and budgetary arrangements; and rules of procedure for the Platform on, inter alia, the conflict of interest policy. Delegates did not reach agreement on procedures for the review of the Platform, and on policy and procedures for the admission of observers.


To continue to provide a forum for stakeholder engagement after the establishment of IPBES as an intergovernmental forum, Stakeholder Days have been organized prior to every session of the IPBES Plenary. Stakeholder Days bring together stakeholders from scientific communities, indigenous and local communities and civil society organizations to receive updates about IPBES’ work and intersessional activities, exchange views regarding the issues on the IPBES agenda, and coordinate general statements and positions on specific issues.

Previous Stakeholder Days have addressed, among other issues: IPBES’ stakeholder engagement strategy and its initial implementation plan; lessons learned from stakeholder involvement at previous IPBES Plenary sessions; coordination of stakeholder activities during intersessional periods; concrete proposals for stakeholder contributions to the IPBES work programme; and documents on admission of observers and conflict of interest procedures.


The Stakeholder Days preceding the Fourth Session of the Plenary of the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES-4 Stakeholder Days) were held 20-21 February 2016 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The meeting was convened by the IPBES Secretariat in collaboration with IUCN and ICSU/Future Earth who co-facilitated the meeting.

Attended by approximately 100 participants from academia, civil society, indigenous peoples and local communities (IPLCs) and the private sector, the event presented an opportunity for stakeholders to receive updates on the work of the IPBES and to coordinate their contribution to the Platform’s fourth plenary session (IPBES-4).


Megat Sany Megat Ahmad Supian, Ministry of Rural and Regional Development, Malaysia, welcomed participants and wished them fruitful deliberations. IPBES Executive Secretary Anne Larigauderie said there are opportunities for stakeholder engagement in “quite a few areas of IPBES that are becoming more concrete.” Laurence Perianin, IUCN, highlighted IUCN’s history, core mission, experience and expertise to support IPBES. Raj Kumar, IUCN, emphasized IUCN membership benefits, including strengthened credibility, visibility and a collective voice on conservation issues. Anne-Hélène Prieur-Richard, Future Earth, highlighted the open-ended network of stakeholders as a formal and concrete mechanism for engagement with IPBES.


Anne Larigauderie, IPBES Executive Secretary, presented progress achieved on the four objectives of IPBES, including, inter alia: development of draft procedures for working with indigenous and local knowledge (ILK); the scoping report for a global assessment on biodiversity and ecosystem services; progress in conducting thematic and methodological assessments; and a revised catalogue on policy support tools and methodologies. During the question and answer session, participants, among other things, called for clarification on the open-ended network of stakeholders and more information on stakeholder involvement in assessments.


TASK FORCES: Ivar Baste, Capacity-Building Task Force Coordinator, reported on intersessional work of the Capacity-Building Task Force and Technical Support Unit (TSU), including a pilot programme on fellowships and the development of a prototype matchmaking facility, matching capacity needs with resources. Brigitte Baptiste, ILK Task Force Coordinator, reported on two meetings of the Task Force, and the piloting of ILK into four ongoing IPBES assessments. Thomas Koetz, IPBES Secretariat, reported that the Knowledge and Data Task Force worked, among other projects, on a core set of indicators and a proposal for a discovery and access platform. Participants observed that capacity-building needs are two-sided and that including of ILK in the assessments is a complex challenge.

EXPERIENCES FROM THE FIRST ASSESSMENTS: Hien Ngo, TSU of the Thematic Assessment on Pollinators, Pollination and Food Production, outlined the processes conducted during the assessment, noting that the assessment contributes to IPBES crosscutting issues, such as the catalogue of policy support tools and methodologies and will also support ongoing IPBES dissemination, outreach and capacity building. Participants discussed, among other issues, the plans for disseminating and implementing the assessment and the value created by ILK and how ILK has been perceived by policy makers. Karachepone Ninan, Co-Chair of the Methodological Assessment on Scenarios and Models of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, said the assessment aims to provide advice on using scenarios and models in IPBES activities.

REGIONAL ASSESSMENTS: The coordinators of the regional assessments reported on process and status of the regional assessments; composition and experts; and opportunities for input by stakeholders. Responding to questions on opportunities for stakeholder participation, Felice van der Plaat, IPBES Secretariat, noted IPBES’ on-going work on building strategic partnerships in all regions and identifying organizations that can provide data and knowledge.


REGIONAL ASSESSMENTS: Discussions in this group focused on: the complexity of ILK integration, noting its scattered nature, diverse languages and sources; communication between regional coordinators; lack of capacities among government nominees from some regions; and the role of stakeholders as IPBES observers.

USING THE OUTCOMES OF THE POLLINATION ASSESSMENT: Participants in this group discussed communication of assessment results to a broader audience, including through: mainstreaming in education; social media; and presentations at local, national and international levels.

USING THE OUTCOMES OF THE SCENARIO ASSESSMENT: This group addressed how stakeholders can contribute to disseminating outcomes, including among policy makers, and opportunities for generating new models and scenarios.

CAPACITY BUILDING: This group discussed challenges and ways to move beyond traditional capacity-building approaches, noting, for example: difficulties in assessing and using existing capacities; the need for building capacities across multiple levels; and the importance of reaching the younger generations and building long-term capacities.


IPBES STAKEHOLDER NETWORK: Two representatives of the interim network committee reported on activities thus far towards building the IPBES Stakeholder Network. They listed the objectives of the network, including: fostering two-way communication with IPBES; supporting mobilization of stakeholders and diverse experts; and outreach to potential users and providers of information. Participants shared lessons learned from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) civil society network, including its rules of procedure, and discussed options for achieving regional balance.

BES-NET: Solène LeDoze, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), provided an overview of BES-Net (Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services Network), saying that it is a UNDP-managed capacity-building network of networks to promote dialogue between science, policy and practice. She highlighted BES-Net’s network approach, noting three pillars: “IPBES Trialogues”―face-to-face meetings to address policy questions; a web portal for capacity building and information dissemination; and a matchmaking facility to match capacity with funding and technical support. Participants discussed BES-Net’s role in supporting IPBES communication and stakeholder engagement efforts and the nature of the relationship between BES-Net and the IPBES Secretariat.

BRIDGING EXISTING NETWORKS: Jasper Montana, University of Cambridge, outlined activities of the Biodiversity Science-Policy-Interfaces Network (BSPIN), highlighting opportunities for youth involvement through internships, fellowships and review of assessments. Teuta Skorin, IPBES Engagement Network, said this network aims to bring together persons and groups interested in the IPBES process. Eva Spehn, Swiss Biodiversity Forum, reported on her organization’s work in in supporting biodiversity research and raising awareness of IPBES among scientists. Romano De Vivo, Syngenta Head of Environmental Policy and Sustainable Productivity, reported on his company’s activities in biodiversity conservation. Joji Cariño, Forest Peoples Programme, drew attention to the ILK networks of the International Indigenous Forum on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IIFBES) and noted the need for clarity in mechanisms for IPLC participation.

Participants discussed, among other issues: strategic mechanisms for partnerships with IPLCs; and the need to consider conflicts of interest within the stakeholder group.


ENHANCING IPLC ENGAGEMENT: This group discussed: challenges in nominating of IPLCs as knowledge holders for IPBES assessments; experiences of IIFBES in outreach, information flow and capacity building through seven ILK existing centers; and challenges in engaging ILK holders, due to confidentiality requirements to prevent misuse of information.

PROCEDURE FOR REVIEW OF THE PLATFORM: This group considered the proposed procedure for the review of the effectiveness of the administrative and scientific functions of the Platform, including a midterm and a final review at IPBES-5 and IPBES-7, respectively. Participants highlighted the critical scientific and technical function of the Platform, and noted the importance of fully implementing the conflict of interest policy in this regard.

LINKING EXISTING NETWORKS WITH THE IPBES STAKEHOLDER NETWORK: Participants discussed, among other issues: criteria for membership, noting that members should be networks and organizations, rather than individuals or companies; and criteria and qualifications for committee candidates, noting that their function is to disseminate information and contribute to the identification of experts to participate in assessments. On regional representation, most participants preferred using the four regions and 18 sub-regions used in IPBES assessments, rather than the five UN regions.


Following the breakout group reports, participants discussed the proposed stakeholder statement for the IPBES-4 opening plenary session. After some discussion, participants agreed to send their comments electronically. During the closing statements, Anne-Hélène Prieur-Richard underscored the goodwill for engaging in and embracing different perspectives and visions with regard to the implementation of the work programme and called for guidance from IPBES on implementing the stakeholder engagement strategy. IPBES Chair Abdul Hamid Zakri stated that stakeholders are a permanent and integral feature of IPBES and lauded participants for their inspiring, practical views expressed during the event.

The meeting was closed at 5:22 pm.


On Monday, 22 February 2016, IPBES-4 Chair Abdul Hamid Zakri opened IPBES-4 congratulating delegates for “having come full circle,” since establishing the Platform and described the two thematic assessments before IPBES-4 as “the first fruits of our labor.”

IPBES Executive Secretary Anne Larigauderie welcomed delegates noting that approximately 1000 experts had been mobilized to support IPBES assessments, including the assessments on pollinators and scenarios as well as the four scoping reports.

In their opening statements, speakers commended the completion of the first two assessments. Mexico, on behalf of the Latin America and the Caribbean Group (GRULAC), underscored that IPBES will make valuable contributions to achieving the theme of the thirteenth Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD COP13), “mainstreaming biodiversity for welfare.” South Africa, for the African Group, underscored capacity building, but cautioned against web-based seminars and e-conferences since participation is limited to those without “bandwidth problems.”

The Netherlands, on behalf of the European Union Member States that are Members of IPBES (EU IPBES Members), called for conducting a global assessment with the highest standard of work. Turkey, for Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), urged achieving regional balance.

The US emphasized that summaries for policy makers (SPMs) should adhere to IPBES’ principles of scientific independence and credibility, and supported practical timelines. Stakeholders, inter alia: welcomed the implementation of the conflict of interest policy; underlined the importance of a wide range of expertise and knowledge in the IPBES work programme; and recalled the precautionary approach.

ORGANIZATIONAL MATTERS: Chair Zakri welcomed the United Arab Emirates’ recent accession. Delegates then adopted the agenda and organization of work (IPBES/4/1 and Add.1) and approved a list of 25 new observers to be admitted to IPBES-4.

Agenda items were introduced in plenary and then negotiated in two contact groups. Contact Group I, co-chaired by Bob Watson (the US) and Alfred Oteng-Yeboah (Ghana), dealt with the SPM and the technical report of the Assessment on Pollination, Pollinators and Food Production; the scoping reports for a methodological assessment on diverse conceptualization of multiple values of nature and its benefits, and a thematic assessment of IAS and their control; and work on ILK systems. Contact Group II, co-chaired by Ivar Baste (Norway) and Asghar Fazel (Iran), discussed the SPM and technical report of the methodological assessment on scenarios and models of biodiversity and ecosystem services; scoping reports for a global assessment and a thematic assessment of sustainable use of biodiversity; review of the Platform; and policy support tools and methodologies. The Budget Group, co-chaired by Spencer Thomas and Leonel Sierralta Jara (Chile), met in parallel to the contact groups.

The following summary is organized according to the meeting’s agenda. Unless otherwise stated, draft decisions were approved by the contact groups and final decisions were adopted in plenary on Sunday, 28 February 2016. The plenary adopted an overarching decision containing operational aspects of the various agenda items (IPBES/4/L.5), as well as additional decision documents on substantive aspects of most agenda items.

REPORT OF THE EXECUTIVE SECRETARY: IPBES Executive Secretary Anne Larigauderie introduced the report on the implementation of the work programme for 2014-2018 (IPBES/4/2). She outlined lessons learned, including in: engaging social science experts and ILK holders in regional assessments; funding constraints for the participation of experts from developing countries; and the use of e-conferences to scope future assessments.

The EU IPBES Members stressed the importance of the draft set of indicators proposed by the Knowledge and Data Task Force (IPBES/4/INF/7) for linking the regional and global assessments. The African Group called for further support through the technical support unit (TSU) on capacity building. Ethiopia urged for regional balance in the fellowship programme and called for clarification on the online matchmaking facility.

Canada noted that the work programme is financially over-ambitious and welcomed the increased efficiency and cost saving of e-conferencing. Ghana suggested an evaluation of the effectiveness of e-conferencing. Switzerland said that IPBES products should be credible and of a high quality. Australia proposed prioritizing fewer activities.

Norway suggested considering existing modalities and legal obligations of states to IPLCs. FutureEarth praised the increasing engagement of new stakeholders and IPLCs, noting that it is a sign of success in implementing the work programme. The International Indigenous Forum on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IIFBES) informed that they have established “Centers of Distinction” to assist in monitoring and implementation of the Platform’s work.

IUCN expressed concern regarding the slow progress on crucially important and severely under-sourced functions of IPBES. The UN Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea (UN DOALOS) highlighted the release of its First World Ocean Assessment in December 2015, saying that it identifies gaps and supports science-policy interfaces. He noted the potential for synergies between the next phase of the Regular Process for Global Reporting and Assessment of the State of the Marine Environment, including Socio-economic Aspects (Regular Process) and IPBES’ global assessment.

CBD Executive Secretary Braulio Ferreira de Souza Dias said that the pollination assessment will be the first test case on how IPBES and the CBD can enhance the science-policy interface. He stated that regional assessments and the global assessment will be stepping stones for countries setting biodiversity targets beyond 2020. He also underscored that any delay in delivering the global assessment will compromise the impact of the assessment on the CBD.


An opening ceremony was held on Monday afternoon. Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar, Malaysian Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, welcomed delegates back to Malaysia, seven years after the first Ad-Hoc Intergovernmental and Multi-stakeholder meeting. Ibrahim Thiaw, Deputy Executive Director, UNEP, noted that IPBES’ cross-cutting approach will benefit all aspects of achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, with respect to biodiversity and ecosystem services.

Najib Razak, Prime Minister of Malaysia, formally opened IPBES-4, welcoming delegates and underscoring the importance of collaboration between governments and natural and social scientists to achieve the right balance between protecting the environment and ensuring social and economic progress and poverty eradication. Noting his country’s obligations under the CBD and efforts to implement the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted in 2015, he informed of Malaysia’s revised national policy on biological diversity for 2016-2025, which involves a wide range of stakeholders.


THEMATIC ASSESSMENT ON POLLINATORS, POLLINATION AND FOOD PRODUCTION: The SPM for the Assessment on Pollinators, Pollination and Food Production (IPBES/4/3) and the underlying technical report (IPBES/4/INF/1) were first introduced in plenary on Monday. The SPM was negotiated line-by-line in Contact Group I on Tuesday afternoon and throughout the day on Wednesday. On Thursday, plenary approved the revised SPM and accepted the technical report.

The key messages in the first part of the SPM are divided into three sections on: values of pollinators and pollination; status and trends in pollinators and pollination; and drivers of change, risks and opportunities, and policy management options. For each section, supporting material is presented in a corresponding background section in the second part of the SPM. After an initial exchange of views during Monday’s plenary, delegates considered the text in each background section, followed by line-by-line negotiations of the corresponding key messages. The following sections summarize the initial exchange of views, followed by the negotiations in each section. The plenary decision on the item is also indicated.

General Comments: On Monday in plenary, Executive Secretary Larigauderie introduced the technical report, noting that comments received during peer review and responses will be published online once the assessment report is approved. Assessment Co-Chair Simon Potts outlined the assessment’s key findings.

Many delegates welcomed the report and commented on the need to ensure wide dissemination to policy makers and the public. Denmark said the SPM should not leave room for speculative interpretation. Malaysia urged including key messages on the impact of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The African Group and Brazil said that data gaps and the need to improve knowledge and data are important lessons learned. Mexico highlighted the importance of small-scale agriculture for pollinators. Egypt noted pollinator decline due to pesticides, urging research on biological pesticides.

On Tuesday afternoon, Contact Group I Co-Chair Robert Watson outlined the rules of engagement, calling on delegates to make specific interventions based on evidence presented in the technical report. He said that the Assessment Co-Chairs, supported by the chapter lead authors, will respond to comments and make proposals to accommodate concerns. Regarding areas in which there is little research with conflicting results, he suggested using the word “inconclusive” instead of “speculative” to avoid misunderstandings.

Background to pollinators, pollination and food production: Delegates agreed to several background paragraphs containing definitions and describing the importance of pollinators for food production without modifications or after agreeing to clarify and streamline the language.

On the background to pollinators, pollination and food production, delegates added a new sentence, noting that “more than 90% of the leading global crop types are visited by bees, around 30% by flies, while each of the other taxa visit less than 6% of the crop types.” In a sentence listing pollinators, delegates agreed to add midge species.

Values of pollinators and pollination: On text noting that 33-35% of all agricultural land benefits from pollination, one member requested stating that such land “can” benefit since productivity is influenced by many factors, while another preferred adding a footnote qualifying the statement as valid “when other factors are not limiting.”

Several delegates requested deleting text referring to a study that estimated the potential human casualties that could result from a complete disappearance of pollinators, noting that the causal chain laid out in the study was highly uncertain and speculative. Others preferred retaining the reference to provide an idea of the potential magnitude of the impacts of pollinator loss, with one noting the importance of stating the link of pollination services with human health.

On a key finding stating that pollinators are a source of many benefits to people, delegates added text specifying that pollinators and pollination are critical to the implementation of: the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage (under the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)); the Convention Concerning the Protection of the Word Cultural and Natural Heritage (under UNESCO); and Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (under the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)).

In decision IPBES/4/L.5, the Plenary approved the SPM of the assessment (IPBES/4/L.2) and accepts the individual chapters and their executive summaries (IPBES/4/INF/1).

Final Outcome: In the final approved SPM (IPBES/4/L.2), the section on values of pollinators contains the following key findings (bolded in the SPM text):

  • Animal pollination plays a vital role as a regulating ecosystem service in nature.
  • More than three quarters of the leading types of global food crops rely to some extent on animal pollination for yield and/or quality.
  • Given that pollinator-dependent crops rely on animal pollination to varying degrees, it is estimated that 5-8% of current global crop production is directly attributed to animal pollination with an annual market value of US$235 billion–US$577 billion (in 2015 US dollars) worldwide.
  • The importance of animal pollination varies substantially among crops, and therefore among regional crop economies.
  • Pollinator-dependent food products are important contributors to healthy human diets and nutrition.
  • The vast majority of pollinator species are wild, including more than 20,000 species of bees, and some species of flies, butterflies, moths, wasps, beetles, thrips, birds and bats, and other vertebrates. A few species of bees are widely managed, including the western honey bee (Apis mellifera), the eastern honey bee (Apis cerana), some bumble bees, some stingless bees, and a few solitary bees.
  • Both wild and managed pollinators have a globally significant role in crop pollination, although their relative contributions differ according to crop and location. Crop yield and/or quality depend on both the abundance and diversity of pollinators.
  • Pollinators are a source of multiple benefits to people, beyond food provisioning, contributing directly to medicines, biofuels (e.g. canola, palm oil), fibers (e.g. cotton, linen) construction materials (timber), musical instruments, arts and crafts, recreational activities and as sources of inspiration for art, music, literature, religion, traditions, technology and education.
  • A good quality of life for many people relies on ongoing roles of pollinators in globally significant heritage; as symbols of identity; as aesthetically significant landscapes and animals; in social relations; for education and recreation; and governance interactions.

Status and trends in pollinators and pollination: Delegates made numerous clarifications on the background text of this section to improve the language and make it more accessible to policy makers.

On a key finding on declines of wild pollinators, delegates clarified that data was needed on species identity, distribution and abundance of wild pollinators and that such data should be generated by national or “international” monitoring.

On a key finding on the status of western honey bee hives, noting global increases while recording declines in Europe and North America, delegates accommodated a request to reflect a recent reversal in trends through response measures. They also agreed with an additional proposal to note the cost of such measures.

Delegates clarified several references in a key finding on the percentage of pollinators threatened by extinction, and agreed to referring to Red List “assessments” to ensure consideration of scientific assessments only.

Final Outcome: In the final approved SPM (IPBES/4/L.2), the section on values of pollinators contains the following key findings (bolded in the SPM text):

  • Wild pollinators have declined in occurrence and diversity (and abundance for certain species) at local and regional scales in North West Europe and North America.
  • The number of managed western honey bee hives has increased globally over the last five decades, even though declines have been recorded in some European countries and North America over the same period.
  • The IUCN Red List assessments indicate that 16.5% of vertebrate pollinators are threatened with global extinction (increasing to 30% for island species). There are no global Red List assessments specifically for insect pollinators. However, regional and national assessments indicate high levels of threat for some bees and butterflies.
  • The volume of production of pollinator-dependent crops has increased by 300% over the last five decades making livelihoods increasingly dependent on the provision of pollination. However, overall these crops have experienced lower growth and lower stability of yield than pollinator-independent crops.

Drivers of change, risks and opportunities, and policy management options: This section was initially titled “drivers of change and policy and management options.” Delegates agreed to rename it after one member had asked to reflect “risks” in the title.

In the supporting text section, delegates redrafted a paragraph stating that lack of data makes it difficult to link long-term pollinator declines with specific direct drivers of pollinator decline. Delegates also decided to refer to “changes in pollinator health, diversity and abundance,” rather than “shifts in pollinators” and to add a footnote defining risk as “the probability of a quantified hazard or impact taking place.”

On a paragraph describing habitat change as a driver of pollinator loss, delegates agreed to requests to add habitat “fragmentation,” and to state that some, but not all, land-use practices can lead to pollinator reduction.

Delegates discussed at length how to reflect the risks to pollinators from pesticides, in particular insecticides such as neonicotinoids and related management options, which were originally contained in a single key finding.

With regard to language describing the lethal and sublethal risks from the use of insecticides, such as neonicotinoids and pyrethroids, one member questioned whether it was appropriate to describe results from a single study using field-realistic exposure, noting that: several recent studies using field-realistic exposures were not reflected; the study used insufficient parameters to capture effects on all pollinators; and the text did not capture the combined risk arising from the use of multiple insecticides or in combination with other factors. Several participants underlined that recent studies had found lethal effects on wild bees, but none or only sublethal effects on western honey bees. After informal discussions, delegates agreed to text stating that: “the few available field studies assessing effects of field-realistic exposure provide conflicting evidence of effects based on the species studied and pesticide usage; recent research focusing on neonicotinoids shows considerable evidence of sublethal effects on bees under controlled conditions and some evidence of impacts on the pollination they provide.”

With regard to separate management options, one delegate suggested adding text describing how a reduction in pesticides can lower the associated risks. Another member asked to refer to a reduction of pesticides or “use within an established integrated pest management approach.” After further informal consultations, delegates eventually agreed to state that “actions to reduce pesticide use include promoting integrated pest management supported by educating farmers, organic farming and policies to reduce overall use.” Delegates agreed to reflect a proposal to include reference to organic farming in this context but disagreed with another suggestion to also include reference to diversified farming systems.

Delegates also agreed to text on risk assessment in the same paragraph after deleting a reference to the use of “codes of conduct,” retaining only a reference to the FAO International Code of Conduct on the Distribution and Use of Pesticides.

On a key finding regarding the threat of disease to the health of honey bees, bumble bees and solitary bees, especially when managed commercially, one member proposed text stating that “regulation of trade and use of managed pollinators would decrease the risk of unintended harm caused to existing wild and managed pollinators.” Several expressed reservations, with one noting that no single policy instrument or such regulation should be singled out. Delegates agreed to compromise text, stating that the risk of unintended harm to wild and managed pollinators could be decreased by better regulation of their trade and use.

Delegates extensively debated the use of the term “biocultural diversity,” which appeared in several places in the original text, including in a key finding stating that “practices based on ILK, such as those contributing to maintaining biocultural diversity can, in co-production with science, be a source of solutions to current challenges,” including a footnote defining biocultural diversity. While supporting the concepts cited, several delegates raised concerns that evidence in the underlying text does not refer to pollinators. Others preferred retaining the text. One member suggested moving the text to the footnote defining biocultural diversity.

After informal consultations delegates considered alternative text proposed by the Assessment Co-Chairs using the phrase “practices based on ILK, such as those contributing to maintain biocultural diversity,” but retaining the footnote. Expressing concern that IPBES should not develop a definition that could have policy implications in other fora, one member suggested: deleting the footnote; using the term with quotation marks throughout the SPM; and adding text in parentheses stating that “for the purposes of this assessment biological and cultural diversity and the links between them are referred to as “biocultural diversity.” Several delegates urged retaining the original wording and footnote, noting the importance of the concept in their countries.

Delegates agreed to remove the term from the key finding, but to use the term in quotation marks and explanation suggested in supporting text in the section on the values of pollinators and pollination.

In a paragraph listing promising, integrated approaches that address drivers of pollination loss, several participants asked to delete reference to “food sovereignty” and “rights-based approaches,” noting that these terms may have legal consequences. Delegates eventually agreed to refer to “food security, including the ability to determine one’s own agricultural and food policies, resilience and ecological intensification.”

After these discussions, delegates made the corresponding changes to a table providing an overview of strategic responses to risks and opportunities associated with pollinators and pollination, and an appendix outlining the conceptual framework and defining key concepts used in the SPM.

Delegates agreed to forward the text to plenary for adoption.

Final Outcome: In the final approved SPM (IPBES/4/L.2), the section on drivers of change, risks and opportunities, and policy management options contains the following key findings (bolded in the SPM text):

  • The abundance, diversity and health of pollinators and the provision of pollination are threatened by direct drivers, which generate risks to societies and ecosystems.
  • Strategic responses to the risks and opportunities associated with pollinators and pollination range in ambition and timescale, from immediate, relatively straightforward responses that reduce or avoid risks, to larger scale and longer-term responses that aim to transform agriculture or society’s relationship with nature.
  • A number of features of current intensive agricultural practices threaten pollinators and pollination. Moving towards more sustainable agriculture and reversing the simplification of agricultural landscapes offer key strategic responses to risks associated with pollinator decline.
  • Practices based on ILK, in supporting an abundance and diversity of pollinators can, in co-production with science, be a source of solutions to current challenges.
  • The risk to pollinators from pesticides is through a combination of the toxicity and the level of exposure, which varies geographically with compounds used, and the scale of land management and habitat in the landscape. Pesticides, particularly insecticides, have been demonstrated to have a broad range of lethal and sublethal effects on pollinators in controlled experimental conditions.
  • Exposure of pollinators to pesticides can be decreased by reducing the use of pesticides, seeking alternative forms of pest control, and adopting a range of specific application practices, including technologies to reduce pesticide drift. Actions to reduce pesticide use include promoting Integrated Pest Management supported by educating farmers, organic farming and policies to reduce overall use.
  • Most agricultural genetically modified organisms (GMOs) carry traits for herbicide tolerance (HT) or insect resistance (IR). Reduced weed populations are likely to accompany most HT crops, diminishing food resources for pollinators. The actual consequences for the abundance and diversity of pollinators foraging in HT-crop fields are unknown. IR crops can result in the reduction of insecticide use, which varies regionally according to the prevalence of pests, the emergence of secondary outbreaks of non-target pests or primary pest resistance. If sustained, this reduction in insecticide use could reduce this pressure on non-target insects. How IR-crop use and reduced pesticide use affect pollinator abundance and diversity is unknown. Risk assessment required for the approval of GMO crops in most countries does not adequately address the direct sublethal effects of IR crops or the indirect effects of HT and IR crops, partly because of the lack of data.
  • Bees suffer from a broad range of parasites, including Varroa mites in western and eastern honey bees. Emerging and re-emerging diseases are a significant threat to the health of honey bees, bumble bees and solitary bees, especially when managed commercially.
  • The ranges, abundances, and seasonal activities of some wild pollinator species (e.g., bumble bees and butterflies) have changed in response to observed climate change over recent decades.
  • Many actions to support wild and managed pollinators and pollination could be implemented more effectively with improved governance.

METHODOLOGICAL ASSESSMENT ON SCENARIOS AND MODELS OF BIODIVERSITY AND ECOSYSTEM SERVICES: This item was first introduced in plenary on Monday morning and negotiated in Contact Group II beginning on Thursday.

 Executive Secretary Larigauderie, during plenary on Monday, introduced the technical report (IPBES/4/INF/3) and presented the related SPM (IPBES/4/4). In the afternoon, Assessment Co-Chair Simon Ferrier presented a summary of the key findings of the methodological assessment and delegates conducted an initial exchange of views. India, with Indonesia recommended a clear distinction between guidance for science and guidance for policy. Morocco said the assessment can be refined through continued work, and Canada, the US and Australia said future work should be justified by available funds. Delegates also raised concerns that the SPM was too technical for policy makers and the language was too policy prescriptive.

Contact Group II negotiations commenced on Thursday. Ferrier, on a summary table of tools, ranked from simple to complex and specifying potential applications, said that the coverage would be non-exhaustive, both in the SPM and in the full assessment, and that a more comprehensive collection would be contained in the evolving catalogue of policy support tools.

Delegates then considered the three high-level messages contained in the SPM, followed by a discussion of the key findings.

Under the first high-level message on barriers that impede the widespread use of scenarios and models, participants discussed key findings, inter alia: scenarios and models as means of addressing the IPBES conceptual framework; the role of different types of scenarios in relation to the major phases of the policy cycle; models as a means of translating alternate driver or policy intervention scenarios; and barriers impeding widespread and productive use of scenarios and models for policymaking and decision-making.

Following further consultations, a box with high-level messages had been moved to the front of the report, and the definitions of scenarios and models had been included in the introductory section. Changes in the text and figures in the section on key findings under the first high-level message were elucidated by the Assessment Co-Chairs and accepted by the contact group.

In discussions on the key findings under the second high-level message on the relevant methods and tools available, Ferrier, responding to a query, agreed that the SPM would benefit from including references back to the technical report. He suggested, and delegates agreed, that this be an “editorial task after the report is approved due to time constraints.”

Participants discussed findings including whether currently available scenarios meet the needs of IPBES assessments, and whether ILK can contribute to scenarios and models.

Participants then addressed the findings under the high-level message on the challenges remaining in developing and applying scenarios and models.

Delegates agreed on text suggested by the MEP to incorporate the relationship between modeling in correlative, process-based and expert-based approaches. They also considered a new box provided to incorporate ILK into models, aiming to inform decision-makers. Delegates also considered revised text providing guidance points on the importance of effective model and scenario use, and thus their policy relevance. On encouraging multi-scaled scenarios, many noted the need to elaborate linkages with ongoing deliverables, but also on how IPBES should work with scientific communities to address a number of issues, and integration with all other assessments. One delegate expressed concern that the negative tone of some of the key guidance points may lead to policy makers not realizing the benefit of scenarios and models.

On the terms of reference (ToR) contained in the annex to the proposal on the further development of tools and methodologies regarding scenarios and models, the contact group revised text on catalyzing the development of scenarios and associated models by the broader scientific community and on the institutional arrangements for undertaking work on scenarios and models.

On the work schedule, participants expressed concern that there may be insufficient budgetary resources for all of the future work listed, with some noting that they may have to wait for the budget group to finalize their discussions. On cost estimates, some called for separation of what has already been offered and what is yet to be requested from the Trust Fund. One delegate called for synergies, such as back-to-back meetings that can lead to cost savings. Participants retained the schedule and budget in brackets. During the final plenary on Sunday, delegates adopted the SPM on scenarios and models approved in the contact group (IPBES/4/L.4) and the individual chapters and executive summaries (IPBES/4/INF/3). Another delegate proposed, and delegates agreed, to lift brackets on the scope of the assessment and delete the schedule of work and cost estimates.

Final Outcome: In decision IPBES/4/L.5, the Plenary: approves the SPM of the methodological assessments of scenarios and models set out in IPBES/4/L.4, and accepts the individual chapters of the assessment and their executive summaries (IPBES/2/INF/3); and requests the MEP to oversee further work on scenarios and models according to the ToR (IPBES/4/L.10). The SPM contains high-level messages and key messages for policy makers, guidance for science and policy, and guidance for IPBES and its task forces.

The high-level messages in the SPM (IPBES/4/L.4) state that:

  • Scenarios and models can contribute significantly to policy support, even though several barriers have impeded their widespread use to date.
  • Many relevant methods and tools are available, but they should be matched carefully with the needs of any given assessment or decision support activity, and applied with care, taking into account uncertainties and unpredictability associated with model-based projections.
  • Appropriate planning, investment and capacity building, among other efforts, could overcome significant remaining challenges in developing and applying scenarios and models.

WORK ON CAPACITY BUILDING: This item was first discussed in plenary on Monday, jointly with ILK issues, and in Contact Group II from Wednesday onwards. The Secretariat introduced the documents on capacity building (IPBES/4/6 and IPBES/4/INF/5). On Wednesday afternoon, Ivar Baste (Norway), on behalf of the Capacity-Building Task Force, provided an overview of the work undertaken thus far. Regarding the continuation of the pilot for the draft programme on fellowship, exchange and training, some noted the need to prioritize partnerships with organizations, in particular those that attended the first Capacity-Building Forum, held in October 2015 in India. Others suggested: a special emphasis on experts from CEE; the sustainability of the draft programme; tailoring the matchmaking facility to key priorities identified by IPBES; and capacity building for IPLCs.

The contact group then considered and agreed on the associated draft decision on capacity building, with textual amendments referencing the role of BES-Net and the need to prioritize capacity-building needs.

Final Outcome: In decision IPBES/4/L.5, the Plenary requests the Task Force to report at IPBES-5 on progress in piloting: the draft programme on fellowship, exchange and training; and the prototype matchmaking facility, including the online elements hosted on the BES-Net web-portal, in collaboration with strategic implementing and funding partners. The Plenary further requests the Task Force to further prioritize the list of capacity-building needs with a view to the implementation of the first work programme of the Platform. The Plenary also takes note of the lessons learned from the Platform’s first Capacity-Building Forum and requests the Bureau to convene a second meeting during the second half of 2016, and share the report of the meeting at IPBES-5.

WORK ON INDIGENOUS AND LOCAL KNOWLEDGE SYSTEMS: This item (IPBES/4/7 and IPBES/4/INF/6) was introduced by the Secretariat during plenary on Monday and subsequently addressed in Contact Group I on Thursday and Friday.

Discussions focused on, inter alia: the need to respect legal frameworks governing access to, and the use of, traditional knowledge; how IPBES could take into account prior informed consent (PIC); and identification of relevant sources of ILK, including local sources. 

On frameworks governing access to, and the use of, traditional knowledge, the US opposed a reference to the “approach of the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Use.” Australia and the EU IPBES Members agreed that the reference was not necessary. Colombia, Norway and Bolivia called for keeping a modified, broader reference.

 On taking PIC into account, Norway stressed the need for a clear framework or understanding on how IPBES will address the issue. Colombia proposed requesting the MEP to define specific procedures to follow up on the process and contributions of ILK holders and experts, including a PIC policy or tool, and to present a proposal at IPBES-5. The US proposed alternative language, requesting the MEP to develop a process to “address PIC.” IIFBES stressed the need for a “free” PIC process to ensure that PIC is respected when new knowledge comes in through the IPBES process.

On identification of relevant sources of ILK, delegates agreed that all relevant sources of ILK, including local and unpublished ones should be identified and that ILK holders and ILK experts should be included in the author teams drafting SPMs and synthesis reports.

Final Outcome: In document (IPBES/4/L.6), the Plenary outlines procedures for working with ILK systems. These procedures for bringing ILK into the Platform’s assessments are also annexed to the decision on procedures for the Platform’s deliverables. They address: receiving requests to the Platform; scoping for Platform deliverables; preparation of reports; preparation of SPMs; and preparation of synthesis reports.

The introductory paragraph to the procedures sets out that the MEP should work to ensure that ILK, and an appropriate number of ILK holders and ILK experts, are included in all stages of the Platform’s assessments, and encourage governments and stakeholders to nominate an appropriate number of ILK holders and experts. It further clarifies that, in accordance with applicable international obligations and national legislation, nothing in these procedures should be construed as diminishing or extinguishing any existing rights of IPLCs.

IPBES’ decision on the work programme of the Platform (IPBES/4/L.5) contains Section II on knowledge foundations. In this section, the Plenary, inter alia:

  • requests the continuation of piloting ILK dialogue workshops in the preparation of assessments with a view to considering this methodology at IPBES-5;
  • urges the MEP in conjunction with the ILK Task Force to further develop a roster of ILK holders and ILK experts;
  • takes note of the approach for the participatory mechanism for working with indigenous, local and various knowledge systems and requests the MEP, with the support of the task force on ILK systems, to pilot the mechanism, report on progress made in pilot activities and make recommendations for the further development and implementation of the mechanism to IPBES-5;
  • requests the MEP to report to IPBES-5 on progress made and options for bringing ILK into Platform products, including processes for addressing PIC, taking into account existing international, regional and national legal and non-legal frameworks, as appropriate; and
  • requests the task force and the MEP to continue, through an iterative process, to further develop, for consideration by IPBES-5, the approaches to incorporating ILK into the Platform set out in Section A of the annex to document IPBES/4/7.

These approaches for working with ILK systems include: acknowledging and respecting diverse worldviews; recognizing the importance of direct dialogue with ILK communities; building synergies and addressing gaps between ILK and science; establishing mutual trust and respecting intercultural differences; practicing reciprocity, giving back and building capacity; respecting rights and interests; and defining mutual goals, benefits and benefit-sharing.

SCOPING REPORT FOR A GLOBAL ASSESSMENT ON BIODIVERSITY AND ECOSYSTEM SERVICES: This item was first introduced in plenary on Monday afternoon and discussed in plenary and Contact Group II from Tuesday onwards. During Monday’s plenary, Paul Leadley, MEP, introduced the scoping report (IPBES/4/8) and the note by the Secretariat on the scoping process (IPBES/4/INF/8).

Delegates made general remarks on these documents in plenary. The US noted its reluctance to approve a global assessment that goes beyond evaluating existing evidence, noting they would not agree to any assessment until an agreement had been reached on a fully elucidated budget. GRULAC cautioned against overlap with the first World Ocean Assessment. The EU IPBES Members suggested that improved definitions of the relevant policy questions could improve the assessment’s relevance to policy makers. Norway welcomed links to the SDGs and proposed informing the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development of IPBES’ work. Pakistan suggested the global assessment draw on national reporting requirements. Nepal urged ensuring the linkages between the assessments and sustainable development.

Brazil stressed that the assessment use available information and scenario and modeling efforts that are already underway. The African Group called for integrating IPBES’ regional and thematic assessments.

Switzerland said there is a need for clear information in the baselines on the levels of biodiversity, ecosystems and ecosystem services from which the trends are evaluated.

In the contact group text negotiations proceeded line-by-line. On the scope of the assessment, the EU IPBES Members and the US said that while the fifth Global Biodiversity Outlook (GBO-5) would benefit from the global assessment, being less prescriptive in assessing progress in achieving the Aichi Biodiversity Targets could avoid duplication of work.

Others underscored the need to ensure a full glossary. The US suggested streamlining and “de-jargoning” the text to make the document more accessible. Bolivia called for including reference to: diverse knowledge systems; demographic projections that are drivers of ecosystem change; health; development planning; happiness; and harmonious relationships between society and nature.

Argentina, China and the US noted the need to clarify the interrelationships between the global assessment and the first World Ocean Assessment. On the rationale of the assessment, Japan called for including drivers of change, and Argentina for consistently referencing “ecosystem services” and “ecosystem functions.” On the utility of the assessment, the EU IPBES Members said that it responds to requests by governments and multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs). The US said there is a need to consider how stakeholder engagement is addressed. The African Group called for emphasizing ease of access to knowledge generated.

On the methodological approach, delegates questioned whether parties should be able to suggest relevant data sources for the review. They underscored the importance of dialogue to ensure the output of the assessment is as relevant as possible.

Discussing the chapter outlines, delegates urged clarifying that the assessment will synthesize existing evidence only, without engaging in the collection of additional data.  Other suggestions included: adding a reference to “holistic and integrated visions”; ensuring consistent references to different types of ecosystems; resource mobilization; and clarifying the link between the GBO-5 and IPBES. Delegates also debated: the need to clarify the goals of the chapters; avoiding duplication of work; and whether to include National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans and trade agreements in the analysis of synergies and trade-offs associated with meeting multiple goals in the context of sustainable development.

Regarding scenarios and models, the US noted the links with the methodological assessment on scenarios and models, and the need to relate to work on scenarios under the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). One participant noted that the opportunities for decision-makers presented are inadequate. On the data and information section, the EU IPBES Members stated that it should take into account existing indicators in other processes to avoid using diverse sets of indicators. The EU IPBES Members underlined that capacity-building activities should extend beyond the completion of the assessment and incorporate all areas, including ILK and policy makers. They also called for defining “zero-,” “first-” and “second-order” drafts. Australia called for reflecting in-kind contributions in the budget and including support from the capacity-building TSU for the assessment.

On Thursday morning, delegates considered a revised draft decision on the methodological approach. Brazil and Argentina, opposed by Japan and the EU IPBES Members, suggested including national data sources. Brazil also cautioned against an overemphasis on open oceans, requesting including reference to terrestrial assessments. Participants agreed on the use of “reports prepared by the Regular Process of UN DOALOS, including the World Ocean Assessment” and including the Global Environment Outlook series.

Japan expressed concern regarding the budgetary implications of experts liaising with secretariats of relevant global processes, agreeing that the MEP should facilitate this process. Norway, supported by the African Group and the US, suggested, and participants agreed, that the assessment should not include policy makers as authors, but rather include “policy-relevant experts.”

Delegates then considered the proposed chapter outline. Leadley reminded delegates that the introductory chapter aims to provide information from a broad perspective, which was supported by the US. On plausible futures of nature, nature’s benefits to people and their contributions to a good quality of life, Brazil said “comparisons with internationally agreed goals” is unclear. The US offered “outcomes of scenarios will be addressed in relation to agreed goals related to biodiversity and ecosystem services.”

On Friday, Leadley reported that the MEP had suggested reducing the number of authors from 160 to 130 due to budget constraints. The Secretariat clarified this would save approximately US$200,000. One participant suggested that external reviews be replaced by internal reviews conducted by MEP members, similar to IPCC assessments. Others said the reduction of authors should not compromise quality.

On communication and outreach, delegates agreed to delete text regarding user feedback on policy-relevant scenarios and response options.

Delegates discussed whether to delete reference to “biocultural hotspots,” agreeing eventually that the assessment will examine “biological and cultural diversity and the links between them, globally important biodiversity hotspots, and migratory species.”

On Thursday in plenary, Brazil, Mexico and the US proposed, and delegates agreed, to postpone adoption of the draft decision due to possible changes from ongoing contact group discussions. During the final plenary on Sunday, delegates agreed to remove brackets in the cost table and adopted the decision (IPBES/4/L.3).

Final Outcome:In decision IPBES/4/L.5, the Plenary: approves the undertaking of a global assessment of biodiversity and ecosystem services in accordance with the procedures for the preparation of the Platform’s deliverables outlined the scoping report for a global assessment (IPBES/4/L.3), for consideration at IPBES-7. The scoping report contains sections on, inter alia:

  • scope, geographic coverage, rationale, utility and methodological approach;
  • strategic partnership and initiatives;
  • technical support;
  • capacity building;
  • communication and outreach;
  • process and timetable for preparing the assessment report; and
  • estimated cost of conducting and preparing the assessment report.

REVISED SCOPING REPORT FOR A METHODOLOGICAL ASSESSMENT ON DIVERSE CONCEPTUALIZATION OF MULTIPLE VALUES OF NATURE AND ITS BENEFITS: This item (IPBES/4/9 and IPBES/4/INF/13) was introduced by the Secretariat during plenary on Tuesday and subsequently addressed in Contact Group I on Saturday. Discussions focused on, inter alia: the assessment’s value for the quality and credibility of IPBES; links or synergies with other assessments; linking the assessment to the work of the ILK Task Force; budget considerations and the possibility of postponing the assessment; interest in better understanding trade-offs among different valuations; the potential to inform local and regional decision making; and methods to evaluate non-monetary values.

Final Outcome:In decision IPBES/4/L.5, the Plenary, inter alia:

  • welcomes the preliminary guide on the conceptualization of values of biodiversity and nature’s benefits to people;
  • approves, subject to the availability of funding, the undertaking of a methodological assessment of the diverse conceptualization of multiple values of nature and its benefits, including biodiversity and ecosystem functions and services, for consideration by IPBES-5; and
  • requests the MEP, subject to the availability of funding, to nominate two experts per IPBES assessment to ensure, in collaboration with the MEP, that values and valuation are incorporated appropriately into all IPBES assessments.

The scoping document (IPBES/4/L.8) includes sections on, inter alia: the scope, rationale, utility and assumptions; the assessment outline; key information to be assessed; operational structure; communication and outreach; and capacity building.

The document identifies as the objective the assessment of: diverse conceptualization of values of nature and its benefits, including biodiversity and ecosystem services consistent with the Platform’s conceptual framework; diverse valuation methodologies and approaches; different approaches that acknowledge, bridge and integrate the diverse values and valuation methodologies for policy and decision-making support; and knowledge and data gaps and uncertainties. On the geographic boundary of the assessment, it describes the assessment will enable valuation to be incorporated into decision-making at any geographic scale from local to global.

Under rationale for the assessment, the document, inter alia:

  • lists several advantages of taking into account the diversity and complexity of these multiple values, including to provide a wide, balanced view of the mechanisms contributing to the construction of value from existing multiple values and that extends the use of valuation beyond conventional economic approaches;
  • notes that valuation, if carried out in a context-sensitive way, can be a significant resource for a range of decision makers, including governments, civil society organizations, IPLCs, managers of terrestrial and marine ecosystems, and the private sector, in making informed decisions;
  • explains that a critical evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of the concepts and methodologies regarding the diverse conceptualization of multiple values of nature will provide the knowledge base for guiding the use of existing policy support tools and the further development of such tools;
  • notes the possibility that the assessment may catalyze the development of tools and methodologies for incorporating an appropriate mix of biophysical, social and cultural, economic, health and holistic, indigenous and local community-based, values into decision-making by a range of stakeholders, including governments, civil society organizations, IPLCs, managers of ecosystems and the private sector; and
  • notes the assessment will help identify relevant gaps in knowledge, including scientific, indigenous and local community-based knowledge, and in practical policymaking as well as in capacity-building needs.

SCOPING REPORT FOR A THEMATIC ASSESSMENT ON INVASIVE ALIEN SPECIES: This item (IPBES/4/10 and IPBES/4/INF/12) was introduced by the Secretariat during plenary on Tuesday and subsequently addressed in Contact Group I on Saturday.

Discussions centered around, inter alia: linking the thematic assessment on IAS to the global assessment; interest in assessing control measures and management options; the relationship between IAS and climate change, and IAS and international trade; various impacts of IAS; and concerns about citing the definition used by the CBD.

Final Outcome:In decision IPBES/4/L.5, the Plenary approves, subject to the availability of funding, the undertaking of a thematic assessment of IAS and their control, as outlined in the scoping report for consideration by IPBES-5.

The scoping document for a thematic assessment of IAS and their control (IPBES/4/L.11) includes sections on, inter alia: scope, rationale, utility and assumptions; indicators, metrics and data sets; relevant stakeholders; and capacity building.

The document clarifies that the assessment defines IAS as animals, plants or other organisms introduced directly or indirectly by people into places out of their natural range of distribution, where they have become established and dispersed, generating an impact on local ecosystems and species.

The document states that the assessment will focus on the response measures and assess:

  • the array of such IAS that affect biodiversity and ecosystem services;
  • the extent of the threat posed by IAS to various categories of biodiversity and ecosystem services, including impacts on agrobiodiversity and food, human health and livelihood security;
  • the major pathways for, and drivers of, the introduction and spread of IAS between and within countries;
  • the global status of, and trends in, impacts of IAS and associated management interventions by region and subregion, taking into account various knowledge and value systems;
  • the level of awareness of the extent of IAS and their impacts; and
  • the effectiveness of current international, national and subnational control measures and associated policy options that could be employed to prevent, eradicate and control IAS.

SCOPING REPORT FOR A THEMATIC ASSESSMENT ON SUSTAINABLE USE OF BIODIVERSITY: This item was introduced on Tuesday in plenary and discussed in Contact Group II beginning on Wednesday. On Tuesday delegates discussed the scoping report and information on the scoping process (IPBES/4/11 and IPBES/4/INF/12).

Bolivia lamented that the report lacks a reflection of sustainable use of biodiversity “in its totality,” such as a holistic and integrated social approach to living in harmony with nature. The US suggested that this assessment be taken up under the second work programme. Brazil said that while the scoping was adequate, there should be more emphasis on lessons learned. The African Group said the assessment’s results should be “easy to incorporate in national development plans.”

Mexico and Uruguay called for collaboration with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) on sustainable use. France noted the need for long-term monitoring and evaluation in this area. Ethiopia opposed limiting the species under consideration to wild species. Pakistan suggested that the assessment be aligned with the Nagoya Protocol to enhance the Protocol’s implementation.

In the contact group, the US, Norway and Japan noted that the scope was too broad. Japan suggested using the CBD’s definition of sustainable use, which includes wild species and ecosystem services. Brazil called for including good practice and success stories, and policy-relevant messages. The US favored postponing this report to allow for input from the regional and global assessments. Brazil, Mexico, Argentina and the African Group opposed, saying sustainable use of biodiversity is paramount for them.

Delegates noted that the undertaking of the sustainable use assessment would be reconsidered at IPBES-5. During the final plenary, the Secretariat suggested deleting the schedule of work and the budget, which should be redrafted when the timetable and associated costs have been more accurately estimated. Brazil opposed, saying that the contact group had agreed to adjust the schedule and costs rather than delete, and delegates agreed to adjust the schedule and delete the budget.

Final Outcome:In decision IPBES/4/L.5, the Plenary requests the MEP, in consultation with the Bureau, to undertake a further scoping of the sustainable use of biodiversity, including by:

  • organizing a face-to-face scoping workshop of experts, involving relevant stakeholders, to provide a revised draft scoping report for the assessment that gives consideration to the revision of the title of the assessment;
  • organizing an open review of the revised draft scoping report by governments and stakeholders, taking into account the section of the procedures for the preparation of the Platform’s deliverables; and
  • preparing a revised scoping report for the assessment for consideration by IPBES-5.

WORK ON POLICY SUPPORT TOOLS AND METHODOLOGIES: This item was first introduced in plenary on Tuesday and negotiated in Contact Group II from Wednesday afternoon to Saturday evening. On Tuesday, delegates were introduced to documents on the work on policy support tools and methodologies (IPBES/4/12 and IPBES/4/INF/14).

In the contact group, delegates deliberated on the catalogue of policy tools and methodologies (IPBES/4/12). Key issues included: a common understanding regarding the policy support tools and methodologies is needed across all assessments; lessons learned from assessments assisting in developing the catalogue; budget considerations; and recognizing the diverse conceptualizations of values.

Final Outcome: In decision IPBES/4/L.5, the Plenary: takes note of the guidance for further work on policy support tools; encourages stronger integration of work regarding policy support tools and methodologies across all relevant deliverables of the work programme; and invites the submission of relevant policy support tools and methodologies.

The Plenary requests the MEP, supported by the expert group on policy support tools and methodologies, to:

  • continue development of the catalogue and make available a prototype of the online catalogue for testing and review prior to IPBES-5;
  • identify the various needs of users for, and facilitate the development of policy support tools for all relevant deliverables of the programme of work; and
  • undertake an evaluation of the use and effectiveness of the catalogue.

The Plenary also requests the MEP to oversee the content of the catalogue and, in consultation with the Bureau, to further develop the governance of the catalogue including by developing criteria and an open transparent process of inclusion of policy-support tools and methodologies provided by experts, governments and stakeholders.

The Plenary: requests the MEP to also provide a report at IPBES-5 on progress made on the online catalogue; approves the extension of the expert group’s mandate to continue its work on the catalogue; and notes that the activities are undertaken subject to the availability of resources.

Financial and budgetary arrangements for the Platform

This item was first introduced in Tuesday afternoon’s plenary. The Budget Contact Group met daily, completing their deliberations on Sunday morning before the closing plenary. On Tuesday, delegates considered documents outlining the budget and expenditure 2014-2018, including a proposed revised budget for the 2016-2017 biennium (IPBES/4/13 and IPBES/4/13/Add.1).

Belgium, France, the UK, Sweden, Japan, Norway and Switzerland pledged financial support for the 2016-2017 biennium. Ethiopia said they would be willing to host assessment meetings in Addis Ababa. Several countries called for increased efficiency and prioritization of activities, with some supporting a timely delivery of the global assessment. Uruguay, Argentina, Mexico, Brazil, Ecuador and Guatemala supported the idea of holding IPBES Plenary meetings every two years. The African Group said while they support e-conferences to save funds, this should be coupled with face-to-face meetings on more technical issues, such as sustainable use.

During plenary on Friday afternoon, Budget Group Co-Chair Spencer Thomas reported on progress made by the budget group throughout the week to harmonize the work programme with cost estimates. He further noted that the group was considering ways of narrowing the 2016-2017 budget gap. The US and Canada favored prioritizing the global assessment. The African Group said selection of priority assessments should be based on agreed criteria.

On Sunday morning, Thomas, referring to the draft document on financial and budgetary arrangements (IPBES/4/L.2), reported agreement to avail funds to ongoing work on: the global assessment; sustainable use of biodiversity; scenarios and models; and values. Delegates approved the financial and budgetary arrangements.

Final Outcome: In decision IPBES/4/L.5, the Plenary:

  • invites pledges and contributions to the Trust Fund, as well and in-kind contributions to support the work of the Platform;
  • requests the Executive Secretary, under the guidance of the Bureau, to report at IPBES-5 on expenditures for the 2015-2016 biennium;
  • adopts the revised budget for the 2016-2017 biennium; and
  • takes note of the indicative budgets for 2018 and 2019, noting that they will require further revision prior to their adoption.


NOMINATION AND SELECTION OF MEMBERS OF THE BUREAU: Delegates considered document IPBES/4/14 on Tuesday in plenary. Norway, for the Western European and Others Group (WEOG), nominated Robert Watson (UK) and Ivar Baste (Norway).

On Friday in plenary, the African Region nominated Alfred Oteng-Yeboah (Ghana) as Vice-Chair, Fundisile Mketeni (South Africa) as member, and Larbi Sbaï (Morocco) as alternate member. CEE nominated Senka Barudanović (Bosnia-Herzegovina) as Vice-Chair, Rashad Allahverdiev (Azerbaijan) as member, and Adem Bilgin (Turkey) as alternate member.

On Sunday, Argentina, for GRULAC, nominated Spencer Thomas (Grenada) as Vice-Chair; Diego Pacheco (Bolivia) and Lourdes Coya (Cuba) as members; and Carmen Roldán (Costa Rica) as alternate member. Malaysia, for the Asia Pacific region, nominated Asghar Mohammadi Fazel (Iran) as Vice-Chair. The region nominated Asghar Mohammadi Fazel (Iran) and Youngbae Suh (Republic of Korea) as members and nominated Zhiyun Ouyang (China) as alternate member. Norway for WEOG, nominated Watson as IPBES Chair.

Delegates elected the new members of the Bureau and Robert Watson as new IPBES Chair. In his acceptance speech, Watson stressed biological diversity and ecosystem services as central for achieving the SDGs. He announced his focus on developing a fundraising strategy and ensuring that IPBES engages ILK holders and the best scientists from various disciplines, including social sciences and economists.

PROCEDURES FOR THE PREPARATION OF THE PLATFORM’S DELIVERABLES: This item (IPBES/4/7 and 15) was introduced by the Secretariat in plenary on Tuesday and subsequently addressed in Contact Group I on Thursday. On Friday, the contact group forwarded the text to plenary, with the recommendation to add the procedures for bringing ILK to the Platform’s assessments, to the procedures for the preparation of the Platform’s deliverables.

Final Outcome: In decision IPBES/4/L.5, the Plenary revises earlier procedures by approving the procedure for filling gaps in the availability of experts and the procedures for working with ILK systems. The additional procedure to fill gaps in experts (IPBES/4/L.7) includes sections on the rationale for the additional rule as well as on the approach to filling gaps in expertise for scoping and preparing assessments and task forces, including several steps to be taken by the MEP and the Secretariat.

The procedures for working with ILK systems (IPBES/4/L.6) are summarized under the work on ILK systems.

PROCEDURES FOR THE REVIEW OF THE PLATFORM: This item (IPBES/4/16) was introduced by the Secretariat in plenary on Tuesday and subsequently addressed in Contact Group II on Wednesday and Saturday.

Discussions focused on, inter alia: the process of having a midterm and/or final review; either or both reviews being an internal and/or external review; the focus of the reviews; appointment of reviewers; the timing of the review(s); and ToR for the reviews. After some debate, delegates agreed to only conduct an end-of-work-programme review with the ToR to be revisited at IPBES-5.

Final Outcome: In decision IPBES/4/L.5, the Plenary, inter alia:

  • welcomes the proposal for the procedure of the review of the effectiveness of the administrative and scientific functions of the Platform;
  • invites governments and stakeholders to further provide views on the draft ToR for the end-of-work-programme review, taking into account the need to integrate the internal and external elements of the review; and
  • requests the MEP, in consultation with the Bureau, to further refine the scope and ToR of the end-of-work-programme review for consideration by IPBES-5.

The draft ToR for the midterm and final reviews of the effectiveness of the Platform (IPBES/4/L.9) sets out, inter alia:

  • an internal midterm and independent external final review will be prepared for consideration by IPBES-5 and IPBES-6, respectively;
  • the ToR for the review teams;
  • the focus of the internal midterm review lies on administrative and operational aspects and on the effectiveness of the functions, procedures and institutional arrangements of the Platform; and
  • the independent external final review will analyze the Platform with regard to its effectiveness, efficiency, relevance and impact, as measured against its objectives, operating principles, its four functions, and its administrative and scientific functions.

POLICY AND PROCEDURES FOR THE ADMISSION OF OBSERVERS: Delegates considered documents IPBES/4/17 and IPBES/4/INF/17/Add.1-5 on Tuesday in plenary.

Final Outcome: This item will be further considered at IPBES-5.


During the plenary on Tuesday, delegates took note of the document on communications, stakeholder engagement and strategic partnerships (IPBES/4/18) and an update report on the institutional arrangements established to operationalize the technical support (IPBES/4/INF/19), including a draft memorandum of cooperation with biodiversity-related conventions and processes.

Final Outcome: In decision IPBES/4/L.5, the Plenary takes note of progress achieved in the communication and outreach strategy (IPBES/4/INF/15).

On the stakeholder engagement strategy, the Plenary: takes note of the progress made by the stakeholders and in-kind contributions made towards the self-organization and structuring of an open-ended network of stakeholders since IPBES-3 (IPBES/4/INF/16); welcomes strategic partnerships between the open-ended networks of stakeholders and the Platform; and requests the Executive Secretary to collaborate with the open-ended networks, and finalize the institutional arrangements to establish such strategic partnerships.

On guidance on strategic partnerships, the Plenary requests the Executive Secretary: to finalize memoranda of cooperation with the secretariats of the individual MEAs related to biodiversity and ecosystem services and the IPBES Secretariat; and to report to IPBES-5 and regularly thereafter on outreach and collaboration with other relevant international bodies.


The Secretariat introduced this item (IPBES/4/9) in plenary on Tuesday. UNDP provided an overview of the activities that the four partner organizations UNDP, FAO, UNEP and UNESCO have conducted, including on capacity building and ILK.

Plenary took note of the report.


On Sunday, Chair Zakri suggested that the Plenary, in collaboration with the Bureau, draft a provisional agenda for IPBES-5. He suggested that the Bureau deliberate on the dates and venue of IPBES-5.

Final Outcome: In decision IPBES/4/L.5, the Plenary requests the Bureau to consider the provisional agenda, date and venue of IPBES-5 and requests the Executive Secretary to organize IPBES-5 and to invite IPBES members and observers to participate.


The final plenary convened on Sunday morning. IPBES-4 Chair Zakri asked delegates to consider the draft decisions contained in IPBES/4/L.5. Delegates approved the decisions with no or minor corrections. IPBES-4 rapporteur Senka Barudanović (Bosnia and Herzegovina) presented the IPBES-4 draft (IPBES/4/L.1). France, with Switzerland, requested that an appropriate and acceptable draft of the French version of the SPM on pollinators be made available for francophone countries. Delegates accepted the report with this amendment.

Noting that the pollinators assessment was mentioned in more than 800 press articles in 23 languages and 71 countries within the first days after its release, IPBES Executive Secretary Anne Larigauderie congratulated delegates for the success of IPBES and recognized the commitment and dedication of the assessment Co-Chairs and TSUs. IPBES-4 Chair Zakri, citing Dickens’ novel A Christmas Carol said that IPBES is now equipped to learn about the past, present and future of biodiversity in order to help the world change the future “towards the world we want.”

In their closing statements, regional groups lauded the adoption of the SPMs on pollinators and on scenarios, recognized the work of the Co-Chairs, TSUs and authors, and expressed their appreciation to outgoing Chair Zakri and the Malaysian Government for hosting IPBES-4. The African Group underlined the need for partnerships for knowledge and data generation to enable developing countries to conduct their own assessments.

GRULAC expressed optimism that funding challenges can be overcome and vowed to continue making financial and in-kind contributions. Asia and the Pacific requested the Secretariat to strategically mobilize resources and reduce its operative costs.

The EU IPBES Members welcomed the launch of the global and IAS assessments and, reiterating their request to allow for the membership of regional economic integration organizations, vowed to collectively take on the funding challenges of IPBES. The CEE underlined the need for financial support to achieve regional balance in expert participation.

Stakeholders called for the immediate incorporation of the key findings on pollinators in policy making and said stakeholders are looking forward to finalizing the establishment of a self-organized, open-ended network of IPBES stakeholders. Noting the relevance of the findings of the pollinators assessment for biodiversity mainstreaming, the CBD said its Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice will examine the findings and develop recommendations for the next CBD COP.

IPBES-4 Chair Zakri then gaveled the meeting to a close at 1:41 pm.


Incremental efforts do make a difference as the benefits accumulate. A little effort in time makes a hill, and a thread woven eventually becomes cloth. —Malaysian Proverb

IPBES-4 was the accumulation of many steps. Its first two “threads”—the assessments on pollinators and on scenarios and modeling—were completed and successfully woven into the cloth of biodiversity knowledge. Future “threads” were also approved, including the global assessment on biodiversity and ecosystem services. It was also pivotal to ensure that the yarns of thread were of a high enough quality, to prove IPBES’ value to MEAs and governments alike.

Against this backdrop, IPBES-4 still had to complete some “unfinished” business regarding systems and processes, including how to ensure that ILK, and ILK holders and experts, are included in IPBES assessments and other work. In addition, concern about budget shortfalls led to significant undercurrents, influencing discussions on the prioritization of the future work programme.

This brief analysis will review the first products of IPBES and their potential impacts. It then takes stock of the ILK discussions at IPBES-4, which show progress and remaining challenges in achieving ILK integration. It also revisits the budget discussions to assess their implications for the future of the IPBES work programme.


Eight years after the first intergovernmental multi-stakeholder meeting on an IPBES, delegates returned to Kuala Lumpur to begin harvesting the fruits of their labor. The approval of the first two assessments completed by the Platform was met with great applause. The SPM for the Thematic Assessment on Pollinators, Pollination and Food Production was generally hailed as a success and garnered wide attention; by Sunday, 28 February, there were over 800 mentions of the assessment in the press. Even stakeholders’ concerns were allayed. Some, having worried that the SPM would be “watered down,” were relieved to see that the key messages contained in the technical report were still reflected in the SPM.

Many negotiators were impressed by the quality of the assessment and the rigor of the process by which the team of authors ensured that the line-by-line negotiations did not produce misleading statements, but remained firmly based in the evidence reviewed. Several participants suggested that the assessment is solid enough to yield tangible impacts on policy making. At the international level, the first test of its impacts will be the CBD Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice in early May when CBD parties will be invited to develop recommendations for decisions on follow-up and implementation for the CBD’s Conference of the Parties to be held in December 2016. How IPBES’ first products will be taken up by the CBD and other biodiversity-related organizations is important. It will provide crucial feedback for IPBES itself to see how best it can meet the needs of its wider audience. Going forward, IPBES will need to ensure that its contributions are indeed meaningful, relevant and useful.

While the Methodological Assessment on Scenarios and Modeling was met with less fanfare and media attention, it is no less important for the future of the Platform. In fact, some delegates were heard saying that this assessment is perhaps more relevant since it will enable IPBES to produce forward-looking analyses and scenarios of the state of the world’s biodiversity and ecosystem services, thereby filling a key gap in biodiversity science. In contrast to climate change, biodiversity modeling has so far not achieved the level of maturity necessary to effectively inform policy making, which creates a barrier to mainstreaming biodiversity in other areas of global concern.

At the same time, many felt that the guidance and key messages were too technical for policy makers. During this honest exchange of views, delegates recognized room for improvement and welcomed the proposed further work, due to be completed in 2019. They expressed hoped that progressing on this would increase the likelihood that policy makers would take up these tools.


There are nine different words for the color blue in the Spanish Maya dictionary but just three Spanish translations, leaving six butterflies that can be seen only by the Maya, proving that when a language dies six butterflies disappear from the consciousness of the earth.
 —Earl Shorris, “The Last Word: Can the World’s Small Languages Be Saved,” Harpers, Aug. 2000

IPBES may be one of the first international science-policy platforms that aspires to fully integrate indigenous and local knowledge into its assessments on an equal footing with scientific knowledge. The pollinator assessment is testimony to the efforts made toward this goal by providing a comprehensive overview of the many ways that the knowledge, cultural traditions and practices of indigenous peoples and local communities can inform an assessment of the state of biodiversity and ecosystem services. Several of the key findings make reference to such knowledge and practices, in particular the value of biocultural diversity as both a source of knowledge about nature as well as practical management options that can reduce risks to pollinators. While the term “biocultural diversity” itself remains contested, delegates did not shy away from working overtime to ensure that the contributions of ILK were not lost.

On the other hand, the long and often difficult discussions on approaches and procedures for bringing ILK into the Platform’s work showed that the path towards full integration is still long and filled with obstacles. Some delegates asked, for example, how IPBES can devise rules and procedures that will ensure that the rights of ILK holders are respected and safeguarded once their knowledge is brought into the public domain in an assessment report. Sooner or later, IPBES will need to find a way to ensure that requirements for prior informed consent are met when mobilizing ILK.

Another aspect for consideration in mainstreaming ILK stems from the system of nomination of experts for assessments, where governments hold 80% of the nominations, and many, particularly during the Stakeholder Days, contended that this system did not sufficiently ensure ILK holders’ and experts’ engagement. To address this, ILK representatives suggested that IPBES recognize what it termed “Centers of Distinction,” which are already-established centers of ILK knowledge that could assist in mainstreaming ILK into IPBES.

Accepting the slow pace of the step-by-step progress of work on ILK, many nevertheless appreciated as an important step finally having reached a formal decision on knowledge foundations. Urging the further development of a roster of ILK holders and ILK experts was seen as a pragmatic way forward to inform nominations by governments and serve as a resource for assessment teams. In this context, many viewed the acknowledgement of the existing rights of indigenous peoples or local communities as another good deed along the way.


As with most things in life, if you want to get anything done, you need money. The Platform’s budget is funded through voluntary and in-kind contributions. To date, there have been some very generous donors, but 2015 still saw a budget shortfall of approximately US$1 million. Approximately US$8 million annually will be needed for the work programme to be fully implemented; each assessment alone costs about US$1 million to conduct, even with selected experts participating on a pro bono basis. Whereas the accomplishments with the thematic assessments were evidence that experts can be motivated without money, the budget shortfalls are a major constraint to sustaining the work programme.

Voluntary funding does not provide for the secure future of the nascent Platform that needs to continue producing reports and assessments based on the high standard it set at IPBES-4. As a result, Robert Watson cited that one of his primary tasks as the new IPBES Chair would be to develop a sustainable fundraising strategy for the future, in addition to seeking increased voluntary and in-kind contributions from governments, IGOs and NGOs. General discussions among delegates seemed to suggest that a sustainable fundraising strategy should be a primary task.

Other MEAs have tried alternate funding models, to some degree of success. For example, CITES imposes a nominal registration and participation fee on delegations with observer status. This is unlikely to be an option for IPBES, however, where observers already have to seek financial and other support to ensure their own participation. However, one observer noted, a government’s support for NGO participation is, in some instances, not so much determined by ability as by choice. Incoming IPBES Chair Watson seemed to echo this when he urged delegates to bring IPBES’ work to the attention of their governments on a regular basis.

Other possible options include the potential to exploit synergies with other processes and assessments such as the Global Biodiversity Outlook and World Ocean Assessment processes. This was a point raised numerous times throughout the meeting and, given the pending global assessment, now that the scoping document has been approved, it would seem to many that this is a logical route to follow.


IPBES-4 closed with a sense of pride and satisfaction. Not only had delegates succeeded in addressing and concluding discussions on all the agenda items on a “packed agenda”—although some delegates viewed the seven-day session as an unsustainable use of human and other resources—but they also reached decisions on a largely amicable basis.

Following the success of the launch of the pollinators assessment, participants commented that so far the process seems to be working, with the respective actors “playing their parts.” There was also a general sense that, despite the concerns raised during the meeting about SPM approval, the SPMs had been enhanced by the review and negotiation process and this augers well for the future.

The merit of IPBES was reinforced with the success of its first two work products, but the momentum needs to be seized and carried forward to the regional and global assessments, as well as the assessment on IAS. Some delegates, musing on the way forward, said that there will be plenty of opportunities to continue reinforcing IPBES’ role as a science-policy interface, but that difficult work is ahead, particularly in making the global assessment relevant at the country level and ensuring that knowledge gaps, including the vast gap on diverse values, are filled.

As one delegate commented, whatever IPBES does, it will be “step-by-step, little-by-little” so that eventually all its small steps and woven threads will become solid contributions to the body of knowledge on biodiversity and ecosystem services, and in turn lead to solid, sound decision making.


Joint Symposium on Biodiversity Assessment and Support for IPBES: This meeting will bring together biodiversity and global change scientists from Europe, Africa, and Asia to link the main research groups active in this area, improve data sharing, develop collaborative analyses, realize potential synergies and advance international cooperation, in particular on the science needs of IPBES.  dates: 6-10 March 2016  location: Monte Verita, Switzerland  contact: Future Earth  email: www:

First Meeting of IATT 10-Member Technology Group: The Division for Sustainable Development (DSD) of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) is organizing the first face-to-face meeting of the ten-member group to support the UN Inter-Agency Task Team on science, technology and innovation (STI) for the SDGs (IATT). The IATT is one of three elements of the Technology Facilitation Mechanism mandated by the Addis Ababa Action Agenda and 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The other two elements are an online platform aimed at matching the technology demand and supply, and a multi-stakeholder forum on STI.  dates: 3-4 March 2016  location: UN Headquarters, New York  contact: IATT Coordinator Wei Liu, UN Division for Sustainable Development  email: www:

Preparatory Committee on BBNJ: Pursuant to General Assembly resolution 69/292 the Preparatory Committee will make substantive recommendations to the General Assembly on the elements of a draft text of an international legally binding instrument on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity beyond areas of national jurisdiction (BBNJ) under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).  dates: 28 March - 8 April 2016  location: UN Headquarters, New York  contact: UN Division of Ocean Affairs and Law of the Sea (DOALOS)  phone: +1 212-963-3962  email: www:

First Meeting of the Sessional Committee of the CMS Scientific Council: The first meeting of the Sessional Committee of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) Scientific Council will meet in Bonn, Germany.  dates: 18-21 April 2016  location: Bonn, Germany  contact: CMS Secretariat  email: www:

CBD 20th Meeting of SBSTTA and First Meeting of the Subsidiary Body on Implementation: The twentieth meeting of the CBD Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA) and the first meeting of the CBD Subsidiary Body on Implementation will be held back to back.  dates: 25 April - 7 May 2016  location: Montreal, Quebec, Canada  contact: CBD Secretariat  phone: +1-514-288-2220  fax: +1-514-288-6588  email: www: and

Second Meeting of the UN Environment Assembly: The United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) of UNEP will convene for the second time in 2016. The UNEA of the UNEP represents the highest level of governance of international environmental affairs in the UN system.  dates: 23-27 May 2016  location: Nairobi, Kenya  contact: Jorge Laguna-Celis, Secretary of Governing Bodies  phone: +254-20-7623431  email: www:

Eighth Trondheim Conference on Biodiversity: The eighth Trondheim Conference on Biodiversity will focus on “Food systems for a sustainable future: interlinkages between biodiversity and agriculture,” with a view to identifying approaches for the achievement of mutually beneficial and sustainable outcomes, in the context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  dates: 31 May - 3 June 2016   location: Trondheim, Norway  contact: Trondheim Conference Secretariat  email: www:

FAO Committee on Fisheries (COFI): The 32nd session of the FAO Committee on Fisheries is scheduled to take place at FAO Headquarters in Rome in July 2016. dates: 11-15 July 2016  location: Rome, Italy  contact: COFI Secretariat  email: www: http://www.fao. org/unfao/govbodies/gsbhome/committee-fi/en/

High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development: The Fourth High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF), convening under the auspices of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), will take place on 11-15 July 2016, followed by a three-day ministerial meeting of the Forum on 18-20 July 2016.  dates: 11-20 July 2016  location: UN Headquarters, New York  contact: UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs Division for Sustainable Development  fax: +1-212-963-4260  email: www:

2016 IUCN World Conservation Congress: The IUCN World Conservation Congress meets every four years to bring together leaders from government, the public sector, non-governmental organizations, business, UN agencies, and indigenous and grassroots organizations to discuss and decide on solutions to environment and development challenges. The event will hold a public forum consisting of debates, workshops, dialogues, roundtable discussions, training courses, music and exhibitions, as well as a Members’ Assembly that will deliberate on IUCN resolutions and recommendations on key conservation issues.   dates: 1-10 September 2016   location: Honolulu, Hawai’i, US   contact: IUCN  phone: +41-22-999-0368  fax: +41-22-999-0002  email: www:

BIOECON XVIII Conference: The eighteenth BIOECON Conference will convene to discuss issues on biodiversity, ecosystem services, and sustainable development, in both developed and developing countries. In particular, it will explore the role of experimental evidence and behavioral economics in informing economic instruments and conservation policy, both in developed and developing countries.  dates: 14-16 September 2016  location: Cambridge, UK  contact: BIOECON Network   email: www:

CITES COP17: The Conference of the Parties to the Convention in Trade in Endangered Flora and Fauna will convene for its seventeenth session.  dates: 24 September - 5 October 2016  location: Johannesburg, South Africa  contact: CITES Secretariat  phone: +41-22-917-81-39/40  fax: +41-22-797-34-17  email: www:

CBD COP13, CARTAGENA PROTOCOL ON BIOSAFETY COP/MOP8, AND NAGOYA PROTOCOL ON ACCESS AND BENEFIT-SHARING COP/MOP2: The 13th COP to the Convention on Biological Diversity, the 8th COP serving as the Meeting of the Parties (MOP) to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety and the 2nd COP serving as the MOP to the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit-sharing will take place concurrently.   dates: 4-17 December 2016   location: Cancun, Mexico   contact: CBD Secretariat   phone: +1-514-288-2220   fax: +1-514-288-6588   email: www:

IPBES-5: The fifth session of the IPBES Plenary is expected to be held in early 2017 to review progress on the work programme.  dates: to be determined  location: to be determined  contact: IPBES Secretariat   phone: +49-228-815-0570   email: www:

For additional meetings, see