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Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES)

IPBES stands for the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. Its task is to provide politics with scientific advice on biodiversity and ecosystem services.

IPBES was founded in 2012. Its Secretariat is in Bonn. Currently, 132 countries (including Germany) are members of IPBES.

The platform gathers scientific information from around the world, analyses it and points out political options for action to conserve biodiversity. IPBES itself does not conduct any research. Its main task is drawing up reports on the current state of biodiversity, ecosystem services and the latest knowledge about both. IPBES member countries nominate the experts who create the IPBES reports.

Reports completed during the first IPBES work programme 2016 to 2018

Mason bee on a flower
Mason bee on a flower - Silvia Hahnefeld - stock.adobe.com

Regional and subregional reports

In 2018, four regional and subregional assessment reports on Africa, the Americas, Asia and the Pacific, and Europe and Central Asia were published.

Thematic reports

The first thematic assessment report, which focusses on pollinators, pollination and food production, was drawn up in 2016.

The key messages:

  • Production of many high-quality food crops, primarily fruit and vegetables, depends on pollination.
  • For some years now, many regions around the world have been experiencing a drastic decline in pollinators.
  • The dramatic loss of bee colonies happens differently in Europe, North America and other world regions.
  • Intensive agricultural production and, in particular, the use of pesticides present major threats to pollinators and pollination.

Another thematic assessment report on land degradation and restoration was completed in 2018.

The key messages:

  • Constant expansion and unsustainable management of croplands and grazing lands is the most extensive direct driver of land degradation globally, causing significant loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services.
  • Land degradation has reached critical levels in many parts of the world. Wetlands are particularly severely affected.
  • Increasing demand for food and biofuels will likely lead to increasing land degradation in future.
  • Avoiding, reducing and reversing land degradation could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than a third by 2030.

Methodological reports

In 2017, IPBES published an assessment report on policy support tools and scenarios and models of biodiversity and ecosystem services based on an assessment and a guideline.

Assessment typeTopicYear
Regional and subregional reports


Africa2018
the Americas2018
Asia and the Pacific2018
Europe and Central Asia2018
Thematic reportsPollinators, pollination and food production2016
Land degradation and restoration2018
Methodological reportsPolicy support tools and scenarios and models of biodiversity and ecosystem services2017

Structure of IPBES

IPBES is made up of several bodies with various tasks and functions. Together, they fulfil the main function of providing politics with scientific advice on the topic of biodiversity and ecosystem services.

Anodorhynchus in flight
Anodorhynchus in flight - iStock.com/Denisapro

Plenary and plenary sessions

The IPBES Plenary is the platform's governing body and it usually meets once a year. The Plenary is the general assembly of all the IPBES member states. It takes decisions on fundamental and important matters. Representatives from ministries of the member states and from accredited participating organisations take part in the plenary sessions. At the sessions, matters decided include leadership roles, expert groups and taskforces, procedural points, the work programme and the budget. The Plenary also decides on the scope and structure of the IPBES assessment reports. The Plenary is supported by two subordinate bodies, the Bureau and the Multidisciplinary Expert Panel (MEP).

IPBES Bureau

The IPBES Bureau is a body composed of two representatives from each of the five UN regions. The members of the Bureau are nominated by their governments and must be elected by the Plenary. During the time between plenary sessions, the Bureau takes decisions within the framework of the plenary decisions. The Bureau prepares for plenary sessions by drawing up documents and it also chairs the Plenary.

Multidisciplinary Expert Panel (MEP)

The Multidisciplinary Expert Panel is the coordinating scientific support for IPBES. This includes providing scientific advice on the current IPBES work programme and facilitating international involvement of scientists in the various IPBES activities. The members of the panel are selected by their governments and are then nominated by the five UN regions. They are elected by the Plenary for two years. The panel includes equal representation from each of the five UN regions.

Expert groups and taskforces

In addition, temporary expert groups and taskforces are established for implementing the work programme. These groups draw up reports including the thematic, regional and global IPBES assessment reports.

Secretariat

The Secretariat holds operational functions and is located in Bonn. The Secretariat has the important task of organising and coordinating the implementation of the IPBES work programme. Beyond this, the Secretariat handles tasks for the Plenary and also prepares plenary sessions.

National focal points

All IPBES member states are called on to set up national focal points. In Germany, the national focal point is in the Federal Environment Ministry.

IPBES plenary sessions

The IPBES Plenary is the governing body of the platform and it usually meets once a year. Representatives from ministries of the member states and from accredited participating organisations participate in the plenary sessions. At the sessions, matters decided include leadership roles, scope and structure of expert groups, procedural points, the work programme and the budget. The Plenary also decides on the scope and structure of the IPBES assessment reports.

Fish swarm in the coral reef
Fish swarm in the coral reef - iStock.com/vlad61

Sixth IPBES Plenary, 2018, Medellin, Colombia

750 representatives from IPBES member state governments, scientific institutions, NGOs and other interest groups participated in the session.

Key decisions at the sixth IPBES plenary session (IPBES-6) included, in particular, the adoption of four regional IPBES assessment reports on biodiversity and ecosystem services for Europe and Central Asia, Africa, the Americas, and Asia and the Pacific. In addition, the thematic IPBES assessment report on land degradation and restoration was adopted. The Plenary also commissioned experts with drawing up two new reports, one on the sustainable use of wild species and one on diverse conceptualizations of nature and its benefits, including biodiversity. Finally, the procedure for drawing up the new IPBES work programme and a strategic framework until 2030 was established.

Fifth IPBES Plenary, 2017, Bonn, Germany

The fifth IPBES Plenary session (IPBES-5) was held in the World Conference Center Bonn. Key decisions taken included a stay on beginning work on further elements of the first work programme in 2017 and a decision on enhanced participation for the EU as a privileged observer (with no effect on the memberships of the individual EU member states). In addition, criteria for internal and external evaluation of IPBES were set. Processes for drawing up a framework for the second IPBES work programme after 2018 were begun.

Fourth IPBES Plenary, 2016, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Key decisions at the fourth IPBES Plenary (IPBES-4) included, in particular, the approval of the first two IPBES reports on (1) pollinators, pollination and food production and (2) scenarios and models of biodiversity and ecosystem services. Further, the decision was taken to begin on the global assessment report on the status of biodiversity and ecosystem services as a complement to the already ongoing regional reports. The decision regarding beginning work on the further elements of the work programme was delayed to the fifth Plenary in March 2017 due to lack of financial resources. The envisaged content of these elements was, however, determined at IPBES-4. Prof. Robert T. Watson of the United Kingdom was unanimously elected IPBES Chair for the next three years.

Third IPBES Plenary, 2015, Bonn, Germany

At the third session of the platform's Plenary in January 2015 in Bonn, home to the IPBES Secretariat, participants were able to take central decisions on the further implementation of the ambitious work programme decided in the previous year. IPBES-3 approved draft scoping reports for the four regional and subregional assessments (Europe and Central Asia, Africa, the Americas, Asia and the Pacific) of biodiversity and ecosystem services and procedures for the preparation of IPBES deliverables. The draft scoping report for a thematic assessment on land degradation and restoration was also adopted. They are scheduled to be finalised by IPBES-6 (2018). Participants at IPBES-3 also decided that the scoping reports for the thematic assessment on invasive alien species, the thematic assessment on the sustainable use and conservation of biodiversity and the global assessment on biodiversity and ecosystem services are to be drawn up by IPBES-4 in 2016. The two thematic assessments and the global assessment are to be available for IPBES-7 (2019). In addition, a regional assessment on the high seas has been envisaged. In order to guarantee consistency between all elements of the IPBES work programme and to exploit synergies, the participants decided on a coordinated approach between the regional and the thematic assessments.

IPBES-3 also decided on still pending critical questions of procedure concerning the adoption of IPBES assessments and on transparent procedures for potential conflicts of interest. Furthermore, a communication strategy and a strategy for stakeholder engagement were adopted. The adoption of the stakeholder engagement strategy paved the way for mobilising and involving as many and as various stakeholders and knowledge holders in the work of IPBES as possible. This means that, for instance, NGOs, scientists and scientific institutions can now officially participate in the work of the platform.

Second IPBES Plenary, 2013, Antalya, Turkey

At the second session of the platform's Plenary (IPBES-2) in Antalya, Turkey in December, key decisions on the platform's future activities were taken. One of the major successes of the second plenary session was the comprehensive, ambitious work programme for 2014 to 2018. In addition, the conceptual framework and budget for the first two years of the work programme were adopted. A trust fund was also established. UN Environment Programme (UNEP) appointed Dr Anne Larigauderie of France as the first IPBES Executive Secretary. Appointments will gradually be made to other roles for the scheduled opening of the IPBES Secretariat in Bonn in 2014. Finally, after the third IPBES Plenary, regional and subregional assessment reports on biodiversity and ecosystem services are to be carried out. A global assessment report on the topic is planned to build on this.

First IPBES Plenary, 2013, Bonn, Germany

The first official IPBES Plenary (IPBES-1), held in January 2013 in Bonn, home to the IPBES Secretariat, established the rules for the future work of IPBES, the organisational structure and the personnel of the various IPBES bodies. The most important measure for complete functionality of the new intergovernmental panel was the election of the members of the executive bodies, in other words the administrative Bureau and the Multidisciplinary Expert Panel (MEP). The MEP is composed of internationally esteemed scientists. Members of the MEP are elected for a two-year term and the panel includes equal numbers of representatives from each of the five UN regions. Prof. Abdul Hamid Zakri of Malaysia, who has a great deal of experience in international coordination, was chosen as IPBES Chair for the Bureau. It was also decided that IPBES will be administrated by UNEP.

Germany's contribution to IPBES

Wildcat with pup - iStock.com/bas0r

International IPBES activities

As the IPBES host country, Germany attaches great importance to supporting IPBES, for example by transferring one million euros annually to the trust fund for carrying out the IPBES work programme and financially supporting the participation of delegates from developing countries in plenary sessions.

Germany also supports capacity building as part of the International Climate Initiative (IKI), for example IPBES-related networking among experts in various regions of the world. From 2016 to 2019, Germany co-financed the Technical Support Unit for the global assessment report in the IPBES Secretariat. This makes Germany one of the main funders of IPBES. German experts have also worked on every IPBES assessment report.

German IPBES Coordination Office

The German IPBES Coordination Office was set up in early 2014 by the Federal Environment Ministry (BMU) and the Federal Research Ministry (BMBF). It acts as the link between the international IPBES bodies, the BMU as the IPBES National Focal Point and German scientists in the field of biodiversity and ecosystem services. The Coordination Office keeps German scientists informed about international and national IPBES processes. It is responsible for coordinating the process for nominating German experts. Another of the office's key tasks is public relations work. It also organises various stakeholder events. Beyond this, the German IPBES Coordination Office supports the IPBES National Focal Point in the BMU. The German IPBES Coordination Office is housed by the executing agency of the German Aerospace Centre (DLR).

National forums on IPBES

In the run-up to the international IPBES plenary sessions, the Federal Environment Ministry and Federal Ministry of Education and Research host a national forum on IPBES. These forums facilitate dialogue between the scientific community, politics and the general public in Germany. German scientists, for example, speak about their work in the IPBES bodies and present on various draft scoping reports and assessments. The national forums also contribute to preparations for the position Germany takes at the upcoming IPBES plenary session. Current information about the national forums on IPBES can be found at the website of the German IPBES Coordination Office.