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

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

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 session outcomes

The IPBES plenary is the Platform's governing body. It convenes every one to two years and takes fundamental and strategic decisions. Ministry representatives from the member states and accredited participating organisations take part in the plenary sessions.

Fish swarm in the coral reef

Seventh plenary session 2019 at UNESCO headquarters in Paris

The 7th plenary session (IPBES-7) took place at the invitation of France at UNESCO headquarters in Paris in May 2019, with 800 participants. The plenary’s core decisions were:

  • Approval of the global assessment report on biodiversity and ecosystem services. The report comprises the globally accepted current state of scientific knowledge and highlights the desolate state of biodiversity and ecosystem services. It underlines how urgent it is that we tackle the main drivers of environmental destruction and biodiversity loss at all levels of society.
  • The following reports will be drawn up for the IPBES work programme up to 2030: transformative change, interlinkages among biodiversity, water, food and health (“nexus assessment”), and biodiversity and business.
  • Financing of IPBES activities was secured for 2019 and 2020.
  • Ana Maria Hernandez from Colombia was elected IPBES Chair.

Sixth plenary session 2018 in Medellín, Columbia

The 6th plenary session (IPBES-6) was attended by 750 representatives from IPBES member state governments, research institutes, NGOs and other stakeholders. Core decisions of the 6th IPBES plenary session (IPBES-6) included:

  • Approval of four regional reports on biodiversity and ecosystem services in Europe and Central Asia, Africa, the Americas, and Asia and the Pacific
  • Adoption of the thematic report on land degradation and restoration
  • Commissioning of two new assessment reports on the sustainable use of wild species and the importance of biodiversity
  • Specification of the procedure for the development of the new IPBES work programme and the strategic framework up to 2030

Fifth plenary session 2017 in Bonn, Germany

The 5th plenary session (IPBES-5) at the World Conference Center in Bonn took the following decisions:

  • The EU is granted enhanced participation in its capacity as observer (this does not affect the memberships of individual EU member states)
  • Development of criteria for an internal and external review of the IPBES

Fourth plenary session 2016 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Core decisions at the 4th plenary session (IPBES-4) included:

  • Approval of the first two IPBES reports:
  1. assessment report on pollinators, pollination and food production and
  2. methodological assessment report on scenarios and models of biodiversity and ecosystem services
  • Launch of the global assessment report on biodiversity and ecosystem services in addition to rolling regional reports
  • Unanimous election of Prof. Robert T. Watson of the United Kingdom as IPBES Chair for a period of three years

Third plenary session 2015 in Bonn, Germany

In January 2015, at the 3rd plenary session (IPBES-3) held at IPBES headquarters in Bonn, the following core decisions for the ongoing implementation of the ambitious work programme adopted at the previous plenary session were taken:

  • Approval of scoping reports for the four regional and subregional reports (Europe and Central Asia, Africa, the Americas, Asia and the Pacific) on biodiversity and ecosystem services and a general guide on how to develop these reports
  • Adoption of the scoping report for the thematic assessment on land degradation and restoration
  • Decision on the development of scoping reports for the three reports on invasive alien species, for the assessment of the sustainable use of biodiversity and the global report on biodiversity and ecosystem services
  • Clarification of procedural questions regarding the approval of IPBES reports and decision for transparent rules in case of conflicts of interest
  • Decision on a stakeholder engagement strategy with the aim of mobilising and engaging a wide and diverse range of stakeholders and knowledge holders in IPBES. This has enabled NGOs, researchers and research institutes to officially take part in the work of IPBES.
  • Adoption of a communications strategy

Second plenary session 2013 in Antalya, Turkey

At the 2nd IPBES plenary session in December 2013 in Antalya, Turkey, decisive steps were taken to map out the future course of IPBES:

  • Decision on a comprehensive and ambitious work programme for the period 2014 to 2018
  • Adoption of a conceptual framework and a budget for the implementation of the work programme during its first two years and establishment of a trust fund
  • Appointment of Dr Anne Larigauderie of France as first Executive Secretary of the IPBES secretariat by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)

First plenary session 2013 in Bonn, Germany

The first official plenary session (IPBES-1) in 2013 at the IPBES secretariat headquarters in Bonn took the following decisions:

  • Adoption of rules for the future work of IPBES, establishment of the organisational structure and appointment of posts to the different IPBES bodies
  • Election of members to IPBES’ executive bodies: the Bureau (administration) and the Multidisciplinary Expert Panel (MEP). The MEP is comprised of leading scientists from around the world, which are elected for a period of two years. It consists of equal numbers of representatives from the five UN regions. Prof. Abdul Hamid Zakri of Malaysia, with his broad experience gained in international leadership positions, was appointed IPBES Chair.
  • Decision that the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) will provide the IPBES secretariat

Germany's contribution to IPBES

Wildcat with pup

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.