Better science and knowledge for better policy on biodiversity and nature’s contributions to people in the Asia-Pacific region.
Biodiversity and ecosystem services are intricately linked to almost every aspect of human development, which is why Governments, businesses and communities must prioritize them in shaping our collective future.
For job creation, food security, access to clean water, health and even conflict and security, all decision makers need the best-possible understanding of how their choices affect, and are affected by, the environment and the contributions of nature to people.
On UN International Day for Biological Diversity 2017, it is important to recognize the value of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) – the global body responsible for strengthening policy through science for people and nature.
What is IPBES?
Established in 2012 by UN member States from around the world, IPBES is an independent body in a collaborative partnership with four UN agencies: UN Environment, UNDP, UNESCO and FAO. With 126 countries now members of IPBES, it is often compared to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) because of its mission to assess available knowledge from multiple disciplines to better inform decision-making in response to requests from member States. IPBES aims to become the leading scientific body for assessing the state of the planet's biodiversity and ecosystems, as well as the essential contributions they make to people.
In January 2015, IPBES launched four landmark regional assessments of biodiversity and ecosystem services – for Africa, the Americas, Asia and the Pacific, and Europe and Central Asia. These regional assessments are almost complete, and will be presented to Governments for approval at the sixth session of the IPBES Plenary in March 2018.
Asia-Pacific Regional Assessment
The Asia-Pacific regional assessment covers five subregions, comprising more than 62 countries and territories. The region is socially and culturally diverse, rapidly urbanizing and made up of both highly developed and least developed nations. It is also geographically complex, ranging from towering Himalayan mountains to the lowest of all Pacific island states. The major policy challenge for Asia-Pacific governments is to improve the quality of life for people by providing equitable access to resources while ensuring the protection of biodiversity and ecosystem services. This is why member States tasked IPBES to undertake the regional assessment, to study and analyze the state of knowledge about the health of Asia-Pacific biodiversity and ecosystems.
One of the main objective of the assessment is to help countries achieve the conservation and sustainable development vision, goals and targets expressed in the Convention of Biodiversity Vision 2050, the Aichi Biodiversity Targets and the UN Sustainable Development Goals, while also supporting implementation of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.
More than 120 scientists and experts have already contributed to the assessment. “Working alongside so many experts, from more than 30 countries, has been a tremendous privilege,” said Madhav Karki and Sonali Senaratna Sellamuttu, the two Co-Chairs of the assessment.
The draft assessment report is made up of six chapters, which are broadly shaped by the IPBES Conceptual Framework:
- Chapter 1: Setting the scene
- Chapter 2: Nature’s contributions to people and quality of life
- Chapter 3: Status, trends and future dynamics of biodiversity and ecosystems underpinning nature’s contributions to people
- Chapter 4: Direct and indirect drivers of change in biodiversity and nature’s contributions to people
- Chapter 5: Current and future interactions between nature and society
- Chapter 6: Options for governance and decision-making across scales and sectors
Learn more about the IPBES Conceptual Framework by reading A Rosetta Stone for Nature’s Benefits to People.
The chapters also identify gaps in data, information and knowledge as well as in capacities, to ensure plausible scenarios, while offering evidence-based policy options for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity and ecosystem resources across the region.
The assessment pays particular attention to policy-relevant questions, dealing with many of the biggest challenges facing the people of Asia and the Pacific, while analyzing the impacts of both traditional and emerging drivers of change. Some of the focus issues and challenges include:
- The impact of climate change, particularly sea-level rise, increased intensity of extreme storm events, ocean acidification and glacier melting
- Persistent poverty
- Population growth
- Rapid urbanization
- Changing land use and land cover
- Deforestation and ecosystem degradation
- Invasive alien species
- Trade, including the illegal trade in wildlife and non-timber forest products
- Coastal pollution
- Poor governance of natural resources
- Lack of capacity to implement agreed multilateral environmental agreements
In addition, the assessment looks at issues specific to Asia-Pacific subregions, such as the nexus between food, water and energy security; biodiversity and livelihoods; and cooperative management and governance of critical cross-border ecosystems.
Although the full assessment report will be a lengthy, data-rich document, a much shorter summary for policy makers (SPM) has also been developed, drawing on the key findings of each chapter to highlight the main messages of the assessment for policy makers across the Asia-Pacific region.
So how can you get involved in this important global initiative?
Register as an external reviewer today! The second order drafts of the chapters of the assessment and the first order draft of its summary for policymakers are available for public peer review from 1 May to 26 June 2017.
Get the word out! Inform your networks, especially individuals who would be interested in engaging in this process. We are particularly interested in receiving feedback from Governments, as well as scientists, practitioners and the holders of indigenous and local knowledge. As noted by Dr. Anne Larigauderie, the Executive Secretary of IPBES: “The wider the range of expert participation in the external review, the more credible, legitimate and policy-relevant the assessments will be.”