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What exactly is IPBES?

IPBES (Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services) is an intergovernmental body that provides politics with scientific advice on biodiversity and ecosystems services, comparable to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). This biodiversity platform was created to provide policy- and decision-makers with reliable, independent and credible information on the status and development of biodiversity, to enable them to make well-informed decisions on its protection.

At an intergovernmental conference in Busan, Republic of Korea, in June 2010, the international community adopted a document paving the way for the establishment of IPBES. In December 2010, the UN General Assembly confirmed this decision. Further key aspects of IPBES were resolved at the 26th session of UNEP’s Governing Council in February 2011.

UNEP invited to the first session of the plenary meeting on IPBES to be convened in Nairobi from 3 to 7 October 2011.At this meeting important decisions concerning the establishment of the international scientific advisory body and its structure were taken.

At another session of the plenary meeting, which took place in Panama from 16 to 21 April 2012 in Panama, IPBES was finally formally established by the international community.

At the first session of the Platform's Plenary (IPBES-1) in January 2013 at IPBES Secretariat headquarters in Bonn, Germany, IPBES member state representatives laid down the rules of procedure for IPBES’ future work, the organisational structure and the composition of the different IPBES panels. The second session of the Platform’s Plenary (IPBES-2) in Antalya, Turkey, in December 2013 approved of an ambitious work programme for the period 2014 to 2018, a conceptual framework and financial and budgetary arrangements. The third session of the Platform’s Plenary (IPBES-3) in Bonn in January 2015 decided on an ambitious time table for drafting the thematic assessments of the work programme 2014 to 2018, essential rules of procedure for adopting IPBES thematic assessments, transparent rules to handle potential conflicts of interests, a communication strategy and a strategy for involving interested stakeholders.

The fourth session of the Platform’s Plenary (IBPES-4) will take place at the beginning of 2016. IPBES currently has 123 member states.

IPBES plenary sessions

Third session of the Platform’s Plenary (IPBES-3)
Bonn/Germany, 12 to 17 January 2015

At the third session of the Platform's Plenary in January 2015 in Bonn where the Secretariat is located participants were able to take central decisions on the further implementation of the ambitious work programme adopted in 2014. IPBES-3 approved draft scoping reports for the four regional and sub-regional assessments (Europe and Central Asia, Africa, Americas, Asia-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. Thus it was decided to carry out these thematic assessments. They are scheduled to be finalized by IPBES-6 (presumably in 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 are to be available for IPBES-7 (presumably in 2019). The global assessment is also to be finalized by 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 assessments and 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 transparant 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 session of the Platform’s Plenary (IPBES-2)
Antalya/Turkey, 9 to 14 December 2013

At the second session of the Platform’s Plenary in Antalya/Turkey in December key decisions on the Platform’s future activities were taken. The meeting adopted the work programme for the coming five years, the conceptual framework and the budget for the first two years of the work programme as well as set up a Trust Fund. During the meeting, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) announced that Dr Anne Larigauderie from France was to be appointed as the first Executive secretary of the IPBES Secretariat. The remaining posts are to be filled step by step in order to open the IPBES secretariat in Bonn officially in the first quarter of 2014. One of the great successes achieved at the second session of the Platform’s Plenary was the adoption of the comprehensive and ambitious work programme for 2014 to 2018. Table 1 below shows that it comprises methodological as well as thematic work packages, which will be dealt with in the form of so-called fast-track assessments or regular assessments.

Table 1: Planned IPBES assessments for the period 2014 to 2018

Type of assessmentsTopic
Fast-track (completion by IPBES-4), thematicPollination and food production
Fast-track (completion by IPBES-4), methodologicalScenarios analysis and modelling of biodiversity and ecosystem services
Regular, methodological and preliminary guideConceptualization of value, valuation and accounting of biodiversity and ecosystem services
Regular, thematicLand degradation and restoration
Regular, thematicInvasive alien species
Regular, thematicSustainable use and conservation of biodiversity

In addition, regional and subregional assessments on biodiversity and ecosystem services are to be carried out following the third session of the Platform’s Plenary (IPBES-3); their specific planning starting immediately. Plans are to draw up a global assessment on this topic based on this work.

The work programme is integrated into a conceptual framework, which attempts to depict and take into account the complex human-nature-relationship and the various existing value systems. It serves as a basis and framework at the same time: The individual assessments are to build on it while integrating into it at the same time. The conceptual framework allows investigation of the fundamental interlinkages and consideration of the big picture. It is stressed expressly that human life would be impossible without biodiversity and ecosystems; however, at the same time human life adversely modifies the composition, structures and functionality of ecosystems. The interlinkage between poverty and biodiversity loss which mutually influence each other is also highlighted. Highly complex socio-economic interlinkages in combination with the tremendous importance of biodiversity for mankind illustrate the importance of this Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services: A global panel has been established which draws on the expertise of all scientific disciplines, forms and sources of knowledge and provides an interface between science and politics to support governments in their biodiversity conservation efforts.

First session of the Platform’s Plenary (IPBES-1)
Bonn/Germany, 21 to 26 January 2013

In January 2013, the international community convened for the first official session of the Platform’s Plenary (IPBES-1) in Bonn, Germany. In order to enable the full functionability of this new intergovernmental platform the members of the executive bodies, i.e. the Bureau responsible for administrative matters and the Multidisciplinary Expert Panel (MEP), were elected. The MEP comprises scientists of high global esteem, whose main task will be to support the work of political decision-makers by providing reliable, independent and credible information on the status and the development of biodiversity. The panel is to collect scientific data from all over the world, analyse it and identify policy options for action in order to support governments in their efforts to protect biological diversity. To this end it will draw on knowledge from all scientific disciplines, forms and sources of knowledge. Scientific independence, objectivity and cooperation with existing institutions – alongside the science-policy interface – offer the greatest benefit here. Members of MEP who are elected for a term of two years comprise representatives of the five UN regions in equal numbers. For the Bureau, Prof Abdul Hamid Zakri from Malaysia, who is well experienced in international coordinating activities, was appointed Chair of IPBES. In addition, it was decided that IPBES will be adminstrated by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

IPBES meetings in the run up to its official foundation

Second session of the plenary meeting on IPBES
Panama City/Panama, 16 to 21 April 2012

UNEP, the United Nations Environment Programme, had invited around 300 delegates from more than 100 countries to come to the second session of the plenary meeting on IPBES to discuss potential functions, tasks, legal status, administrative structure and financing of the new Platform.

The international community decided among other things that the UN Secretariat IPBES is to be located in Bonn/Germany, Germany’s UN city.

Apart from Germany the Republic of Korea, Kenya, India and France offered to host the platform. The decision in favour of Bonn was in the end an acknowledgement of the longstanding commitment of Germany to biodiversity conservation. The German offer to host the secretariat was all the more convincing as there are already 18 UN organisations located in Bonn - with around 1000 employees working in the fields of environment, climate protection and nature conservation; the majority of their offices are located at the UN Campus in the former parliamentary district on the banks of the river Rhine.

Germany now wants to promote a swift, well-coordinated and successful establishment of IPBES and to ensure that the platform runs smoothly and efficiently in order to facilitate the full and effective participation of representatives of developing countries. The German government will provide offices for the IPBES headquarters at an ideal geographical and infrastructural location, enabling the best possible support for and coordination of networking and global IPBES activities.

IPBES International Expert Workshop on Policy Support
Bonn/Germany, 7 to 9 December 2011

Around 80 international experts from 41 countries participated in the international expert workshop "Policy support through relevant tools and methodologies" organized by Germany in cooperation with UNEP in Bonn. This workshop was part of the preparations for the second session of the plenary meeting on IPBES, which was to take place in Panama City/Panama on 16 to 20 April 2012.

The topic of IPBES policy support is of particular interest from a German point of view. It is vital that the scientific results of IPBES are made available both on demand and in a form accessible to policy makers, thus providing an important basis for day-to-day political decision-making. By hosting this international workshop Germany succeeded in advancing this important topic and thus further contributed to the international process.

The Network-Forum for Biodiversity Research Germany (NeFo) at the Helmholtz-Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) prepared and organised the workshop.

First session of the plenary meeting on IPBES
Nairobi/Kenya, 3 to 7 October 2011

At the UNEP Governing Council meeting in February 2011, the UNEP Executive Director was asked to organize a first session of the plenary meeting on IPBES in 2011 to decide on the modalities of IPBES. This first session of the plenary meeting took place in Nairobi/Kenya on 3 to 7 October 2011.

Around 350 representatives from 112 countries and of numerous international scientific organisations, institutions and NGOs discussed for a week about the legal basis, procedural rules and the administrative structure of IPBES. They also laid down the criteria for selecting the host organisation(s) and the host country for the IPBES Secretariat.

BMU/BMBF Workshop: IPBES Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services – Incorporating German Views and Expertise
Bonn/Germany, 7 to 8 July 2011

On 7 and 8 July 2011 some 100 experts from research, administration and civil society met in Bonn to discuss their expectations of IPBES and how the broad scientific expertise available in Germany could be contributed to the work and structures of IPBES. The two-day workshop was organised by the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) and the Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF) with the support of the Network-Forum on Biodiversity Research Germany (NeFo) in order to enter the IPBES foundation negotiations scheduled for that October with a strong commitment and specific proposals. 

National IPBES activities

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 national point of contact for any matters concerning IPBES, and thus also as the interface to international IPBES panels and processes. The German Coordination Office informs German scientists on international and national IPBES processes. It is responsible for the coordination of the nomination procedures for German experts. Another central task of the German Coordination Office is public relations work. It prepares and distributes information material in German for the public in general and has launched its own website ( Furthermore, it organises various stakeholder events, e.g. national fora on IPBES in the run up to the international IPBES plenary sessions. If required, the German IPBES Coordination Office also supports the national IPBES Focal Point at the BMUB and the IPBES Secretariat in Bonn. The German IPBES Coordination Office is located in the Project Management Agency as part of the German Aerospace Center (PT-DLR) in Bonn, Germany.

National fora on IPBES

In the run up to the international sessions of the Platform’s Plenary, the Federal Environment Ministry, together with the Federal Research Ministry, always hosts a "National Forum on IPBES". These fora are to provide a platform for a broad exchange between science, politics and the interested public. German scientists for example report on their work in IPBES panels and present the various scoping reports and thematic assessments. The national fora also contribute to the preparations of German positions for the next session of the Platform’s Plenary. Up to date information on the national fora on IPBES is available at the website of the German IPBES Coordination Office (mainly in German).

Further information