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After IPBES-9: the strong science-policy marching beat for nature continues

UNEP-WCMC's Dr Neil Burgess, Matt Jones and Shena Garcia Rangel report back after taking part in the high-level negotiations and networking of the latest meeting of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, IPBES-9.

While governments continue to negotiate on the details of crucial new global goals and targets to halt and reverse the loss of biodiversity, consensus is clear on the latest science underscoring the need to act.

At the start of July, government leaders, policymakers, scientists and conservation and sustainable business experts converged in Bonn, Germany, for the first in-person meeting of the governing body of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) since the COVID19 pandemic.

Through its assessment teams of experts, and the agreement of the Plenary, IPBES brings authoritative consensus on the best available science to bear on the ambition to safeguard biodiversity and nature’s contributions to people.

In 2019, the platform’s global assessment on biodiversity and ecosystem services secured worldwide recognition of the huge scale of biodiversity loss, revealing that one million plant and animal species are at risk of extinction.  

IPBES approved assessment findings – agreed by the 139 governments as members of the platform’s Plenary – are an essential reference for conservation science and ongoing international negotiations on nature, as well as informing broader audiences, such as agencies working to transform business and boost human rights and sustainable development. 

This most recent meeting – “IPBES-9” – considered and approved assessments and next steps on the science underpinning action for nature, including two major reports on the sustainable use of wildlife and how decision makers can incorporate diverse values ascribed to nature – respectively titled “Assessment report on the on the sustainable use of wild species” and “Methodological assessment regarding the diverse conceptualization of multiple values of nature and its benefits, including biodiversity and ecosystem functions and services”.

The UNEP-WCMC team was there to support discussions, including on various pieces of policy-relevant research we contributed to, and to highlight our expertise and ongoing collaborative work guiding governments and businesses to act for nature.

Agreeing the status and monitoring of the sustainable use of wildlife

We all depend on wild-derived products in our daily lives, and many communities totally depend on food and trade from wild species.

The flagship product from IPBES-9 was the Assessment Report on the Sustainable Use of Wild Species. At close to 1,000 pages, and more than four years in the making, the report featured input from hundreds of science and policy experts, including various strands of work from the UNEP-WCMC team.

The “sustainable use” assessment gives a comprehensive and definitive status and trends report on humanities use of wildlife – for everything from food and fuel to materials, medicine and leisure – and the extent to which exploitation is becoming unsustainable. It found that around 50,000 wild species are used directly by people, and that one-in-five people worldwide rely on wild species for income and fuel.

Drivers affecting trends in the status of used wild species are identified, as well as key actions required to improve sustainability. For example, for fishing, the report highlights the well-established need to reduce illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, support small scale fisheries and reduce harmful subsidies. The report also states that ambitious global goals alone will not be enough to achieve sustainability, emphasising that sustainable use of wild species requires ongoing stakeholder discussions and adaptive management.   

UNEP-WCMC is proud to have contributed to the science behind the report – including through our ongoing policy-relevant research into wildlife trade, wild meat and timber usage, and indicators of sustainability.

Scoping IPBES’ assessment on business dependencies and impacts on nature

Sustainable business and sustainable development are mutually dependant. At UNEP-WCMC, our work on the Nature Economy  helps to scope and bridge knowledge gaps on business and biodiversity, to guide the business and finance world towards nature-positive economic transformation.

The crucial role of business alongside science and policy for nature was recognised at IPBES-9, with the platform giving the green light to a report setting out the scope of a “methodological assessment of the impact and dependence of business on biodiversity and nature’s contributions to people”.  

The scoping report outlines the proposed scope and chapters for the assessment, and underwent significant and detailed negotiation. Following its approval by the Plenary, IPBES will soon begin calling for authors and input. Over the next two-and-a-half years, experts will work on an assessment which categorises and assesses the approaches to understanding and measuring the dependencies and impacts of business on biodiversity, and options for action.

UNEP-WCMC has long been helping business to understand their dependencies on nature. We hope that much of our ongoing work– from our ENCORE biodiversity tool, to our work helping to align accounting approaches for nature and with the Taskforce on Nature-based Financial Disclosure on better understanding and harmonising available metrics – can help inform IPBES’ methodological assessment, set for release in 2025.

A core challenge for businesses to support implementation of the post-2020 global biodiversity framework is their capacity to measure and act on impacts and dependencies. The business and nature assessment, when it is ready, will provide clarity and codify much of the ongoing work to help align business and nature interests. In the meantime, our work guiding business partners towards a nature-positive future will forge ahead.

Supporting the development of national ecosystem assessments

Seizing the opportunity provided by the IPBES-9 meeting, the team behind UNEP-WCMC's National Ecosystem Assessment (NEA) Initiative brought together 12 partner countries and organisations to share success stories related to their NEAs. These assessments are nationally-driven processes to develop an up-to-date, comprehensive and critical synthesis of knowledge on biodiversity and ecosystem services and their interlinkages to people.

Working in collaboration with UNDP and UNESCO, through the Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services Network (BES-Net), the NEA Initiative supports countries to tailor IPBES assessment process to their national context. This works contributes to the IPBES capacity building rolling plan.

Alongside providing our research and expertise to IPBES’ thematic assessments, UNEP-WCMC will continue providing technical support to the IPBES task force on policy support tools and methodologies, through hosting of the Technical Support Unit. 

The meeting in Bonn was a key milestone in advancing scientific consensus to inform action for nature and sustainable development. UNEP-WCMC now looks forward to supporting that IPBES findings underpin new global goals and targets on sustainable use and scaling up recognition of the multiple values of nature. We will continue working with governments and others to promote the use of IPBES’ findings as a clear science foundation for public and private sector planning and action. 

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