Archive for the ‘International Policy’ Category

The IBPES is established – Is it all good news?

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

The Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) was officially created on April 23rd. It’s secretariat will be based in Bonn (Germany).

In brief, the ambition of the IPBES is to replicate the IPCC’s role in the climate debate in informing the sustainable use / conservation of biodiversity and ecosystem services. That’s appears to be an even more challenging goal that limiting green-house gas concentrations…

Establishing the IPBES is certainly a victory for biodiversity and conservation worldwide, with greater scientific input into decisions that affect biodiversity across the globe. Nevertheless, this victory will certainly come at a cost.

Two issues are worth considering:

  • Who will pay for this? If its workings are comparable to those of the IPCC, then funding IPBES will require a lot of money. Unfortunately, the funds for running the IPBES will most likely have to be taken from existing public funding for conservation. Deciding which programs will loose out (on-the ground actions? research?) will be tricky.
  • How legitimate will it be on the ground? The IPBES is clearly set in a vision of natural resource management that subscribes to the technogarden scenario of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. One can easily imagine that – as is the case for the IPCC – not everyone will want to have scientists, mostly from the developed world, monitor their activities and publish recommendations and guidelines on how to minimize biodiversity impacts or enhance ecosystem services.
  • Concerning this second issue, Morgan Robertson puts it nicely in his blog:

    one person’s ecosystem services are another person’s conditions of biological existence, and to have them continuously monitored, valued and recorded is… unsettling. At the very least — regardless of the merits of the conservation actions — it unavoidably creates an unequal power relationship (or, more likely, reinforces an already-existing one) between the monitor and the monitored.

    This is worth remembering. As was often remarked by those involved in launching the IPBES, the devil lies in the governance structure. As always!

    TEEB on TED

    Friday, December 30th, 2011

    On TED, Pavan Sukhdev – who lead the TEEB initiative – explains why we need to “value nature” in order to manage it sustainably.

    He ends his talk on the suggestion to focus efforts on “green” and “blue” carbon as part of climate change mitigation. Green and blue carbon is the carbon stored in terrestrial and marine ecosystems respectively.

    Pavan Sukhdev tells us that he strongly supports the REDD+ mechanisms, whereby emitting countries fund projects in forested countries that avoid deforestation and/or forest degradation. There is a lot of potential there for synergies between carbon sequestration goals and the continued provision of other ecosystem services (and biodiversity).

    Concerning blue carbon, it is interesting to note how he explains that we, collectively, have made the ethical choice to lose coral reefs through unmitigated climate change. It was probably an implicit choice, but it is quite revealing that Pavan Sukhdev and TEEB recognize that there are critical thresholds of biodiversity and ecosystem service loss. Those thresholds can be ecological (to avoid extinction or complete loss) or social but they certainly define the boundaries of our future life support system. Good debates to be had there…

    Ecosystem services and offsets in the EU biodiversity strategy

    Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

    Earlier this month, the European Commission published the European Union’s Biodiversity Strategy to 2020. It has received considerable comment in the press and on-line, in particular regarding the place taken by ecosystem services and the value of nature. BusinessGreen, EurActiv, the Ecosystem Marketplace and others have rejoiced in finding that the strategy explicitly mentions the incorporation of biodiversity and ecosystem services into decision-making through valuation, monitoring and reporting. While this is true, it must be made clear that most of the strategy actually focuses on setting biodiversity targets and developing (incl. funding) the corresponding monitoring and reporting schemes. Valuation issues are only mentioned in the strategy’s introductory section.

    The document only makes a passing mention of offsets and PES schemes as mechanisms for involving the private sector in funding biodiversity conservation. As such, it is a bit of a stretch to say that the strategy endorses “species banking” (as did the Ecosystem Marketplace). In fact, it is strange that the key role of offsets in the Habitats directive (article 6.4) did not get mentioned in this context. The strategy does not mention the 2004 environmental liability directive which also includes offsets.

    Targets set by the strategy include (1) the full implementation of the Birds (1979) and Habitats (1992) directives (i.e. improving the conservation status of twice the number of habitat types as are currently and 50% more for species), (2) maintaining and enhancing ecosystem services through the development of “green infrastructure” and the restoration of >15% of currently degraded ecosystems (no definition provided), (3) developing a adequate policy response to invasive species and (4) “stepping-up” the EU’s contribution averting global biodiversity loss (whatever that means apart from forking out aid…).

    Interesting chapters in the document discuss interactions with existing policies and in particular the Common Agricultural Policy which will have to contribute to the first two targets : improving the conservation status of habitats and species and restoring degraded ecosystems. The forthcoming CAP will have considerable impact on biodiversity and Europe and a lot is certainly at play there. The document states that discussions are in progress for a framework directive aimed at preserving soil resources in the EU. That’s a lot of news to come…

    Merry Christmas to the new-born IPBES!

    Tuesday, December 21st, 2010

    The Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) was officially launched on December 21 by the UN General Assembly. Check out the press release on the UNEP website.

    Not totally unexpected…

    Tuesday, December 21st, 2010

    REDD mechanisms, recently established in Cancún, laid the carpet for escalating claims of “avoided emissions”. A first major shot was fired by the director general of the UN convention to combat desertification (UNCCD), Luc Gnacadja.

    He claims that slowing desertification and land degradation decreases the emission of carbon dioxide stored in the top-soil. A recent article in the Guardian (a UK newspaper) has him saying that people must be paid via global carbon markets for preserving the soil.

    people must be paid via global carbon markets for preserving the soil

    This claim should come as no surprise given the payments budgeted for reduced rates of deforestation in the tropics. There will certainly be other claimants soon : oceans, grasslands, wetlands…

    REDD has also generated concern about its effects on biodiversity, which has led the world bank to set up a wildlife premium for wildlife friendly policies aimed at reducing deforestation.

    Unfortunately, this premium only applies to emblematic species such as large mammals that require large forest areas. These species are often protected.

    Does the bank’s market-based instrument mean that governments will be rewarded financially for not destroying a protected species’ habitat? Leaves you wondering doesn’t it?

    Welcome to BISE

    Monday, September 27th, 2010

    The European Union’s new web portal on biodiversity was put on-line last week. BISE (Biodiversity Information System for Europe) aims to make information on the distribution and status of biodiversity more accessible, together with information on relevant EU and national legistlation. Good luck!

    Why does biodiversity matter?

    Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

    The United Nations themselves are onto something! Check out the conclusions of the high-level meeting of the General Assembly as a contribution to the International Year of Biodiversity (which took place on September 22nd 2010) published on the UN’s website:

    Biological diversity underpins ecosystem functioning and the provision of ecosystem services essential for human well-being. Its continued loss, therefore, has major implications for current and future human well-being.

    The IPBES launched in Busan

    Wednesday, June 16th, 2010

    The recent UNEP meeting in Busan has officially recommended the establishment of an Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, IPBES.

    Diversitas reports:

    Delegates agreed that IPBES will be established as an independent intergovernmental body, administered by one or more existing UN organisations. IPBES will respond to requests of government and also welcome suggestions from all relevant stakeholders, such as MEAs, scientific organisations, NGOs and the private sector. IPBES will perform regular and timely assessments of knowledge on biodiversity and ecosystem services. These assessments will be scientifically independent and peer-reviewed. IPBES will also support policy formulation and implementation, and place a major emphasis on capacity building needs to improve the science-policy interface.

    The official launch will most likely take place during the 65th session of the UN General Assembly (on 20-30 September 2010).

    A another step towards an IPBES

    Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010

    On February 26th, UNEP decided it would make a decision on the creation of the IPBES, the international platform for biodiversity and ecosystem services, in June 2010.

    Hopefully, a clear governance structure will be established for the IPBES and the interface between biodiversity science and policy will be strengthened.

    What about glacial melt in the Andes?

    Monday, February 15th, 2010

    Following the debate on the IPCC’s mistake on the future of Himalayan glaciers, and their statement (see previous post), the Inter-American Institute for Global Change Research (IAI) has asked its scientists to offer their perspective on glacial melt in the Andes. The report is available here (pdf).

    In summary, most glaciers are shrinking and although some may survive and others disappear (particularly in tropical and subtropical regions) the key message is that people who depend on rivers fed by glaciers and snow must already learn to adapt to changes in seasonal water flows.