UN launches new global scientific body for Biodiversity

Plans for the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) to begin setting up the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) were formally announced at a meeting of the UN General Assembly in New York this week.

The idea to establish the IPBES was first discussed following the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment reports released in 2005, in which devastating levels of biodiversity loss worldwide were highlighted. It is thought that the panel will be modelled on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and will play a major role in shaping global environmental policy. As outlined in previous UN meetings, the IPBES will provide independent advice and scientific evidence on the state and trends of biodiversity for policy makers worldwide. It will also carry out peer-reviews on scientific literature to establish a ‘gold standard’ for reporting of biodiversity to policy makers.

Professor Bob Watson, Chief Scientific Advisor to Defra endorsed this historic agreement, expressing his hopes that: “this new platform will help to mobilise the world’s scientific community, and bring scientists and policy-makers together, to find solutions to these problems.”.

“IPBES has the potential to now raise global understanding of the threats we face… and empower governments to make policies to counter them, based on solid and integral scientific evidence.”, he added.

The UK will provide £2 million towards the development of the scientific body over the next four years. However, Caroline Spelman, the Secretary of State for Environment Food and Rural Affairs, sees this as a welcome step forwards in tackling global biodiversity loss and restoring natural ecosystems. In a statement to Defra she said: “IPBES will give trusted, independent advice to governments and policy makers across the world, helping them take the best action to protect the world’s natural environment. The creation of IPBES is a triumph of many people’s hard work and a great way to bring the International Year of Biodiversity to a close.”.

Plans are due to be finalised by environment ministers at UNEP’s global ministerial meeting in early 2011.