The Issue -- How can the scientific community stimulate intergovernmental action on critical biological diversity issues?
The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) brought nations together in 2002 to address the biodiversity crisis. This convention was built on values, and not so much science, although scientists had some role in its construction as well as in the formation of the science advisory body of the Convention, the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA), which is not independent of the intergovernmental plenary.
So the issue was how to create a new assessment process that would be supported directly by governments yet would be scientifically independent in order to continue to add to the baseline information provided by the results of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. It was concluded that what was needed was an IPCC process for biodiversity assessment. An initiative was launched in 2005 by a conference hosted by the French Government and closely linked to DIVERSITAS. A conference statement formally called for a new assessment process. DIVERSITAS scientists guided the drafting of this document. Following this conference there were consultations around the world for the need for such a new assessment process.
There were three multi-stakeholder and intergovernmental meetings to debate whether such a platform should be formed and how it should be governed. The science community was heavily involved in various preparatory processes. The final meeting was held in Busan, Korea in June 2010 where there was intergovernmental agreement to move forward to the establishment of IPBES (Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services), only 5 years after the initial proposal, which is warp speed in international processes. However, the rules and procedures for operation had to be agreed upon.
On Saturday 21 April, 2012 the representatives of more than 90 Governments established IPBES, with the first IPBES Plenary likely to occur in early 2013. DIVERSITAS was the designated representative of the international scientific community (ICSU) in the negotiations, interacting with a broad coalition of scientific and conservation organizations that strongly pushed for maintaining the primacy of the role of science in the final agreement. That coalition must become even more active as the specifics of the work program and the structures of the executing bodies – both the Secretariat and the Multidisciplinary Expert Panel– are finalized. In conclusion, bottom-up science for policy can work.