IPBES Day 1: Health care for Mother Earth?

by Guy Peer, Society of Conservation Biology (SCB) and Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research

IPBES continues to grow. There are now 115 members, and over 100 listed observers. About thirty new observers were admitted today without discussion, and the Plenary moved smoothly into presentations of the Work Programme, the Conceptual Framework and the Budget.

Now, if you thought that the name IPBES might imply focus on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, the Conceptual Framework may surprise you. IPBES starts with talking about “Nature”, “Mother Earth” and “System of Life”. If we (scientists) consider ecosystems as supporting “Quality of Life” or “human wellbeing”, the Conceptual Framework attempts adds the terms “Living in harmony with nature” and “living in balance with Mother Earth”. Sounds strange? Not if you hear Bolivia’s support of the conceptual framework and its assault on Programme of Work (Hereafter, PoW if you don’t mind).

The point is that being inclusive requires consideration of other schools of thought and other vision of the world. As well explained at the plenary, the MEP has made huge efforts to translate western terms into world-encompassing ones, while trying not to lose pragmatism on the way. The outcome is quite impressive, even if thought-provoking.

Notably, however, as the Conceptual Framework was actually developed only after the PoW, which was written only after the Stakeholder Engagement Strategy, the three simply don’t align well with each other. As Bolivia put it: the Assessments are severely plagued with a western, colonialist, capitalistic approach which views the world through money. True, one has to admit, but the good thing is that this can still be rectified.

Coming to money, though, several colleagues expressed serious concerns. IPBES’s suggested budget for 2014-2018 was set at only 39 million Dollars. For the size of such a Platform this is actually quite cheap. The sum is reachable, and Norway alone agreed to offer 8 million to support. But would it be sufficient? Even if approved and supported, there is simply not enough budget allocated to supporting the engagement of stakeholders – without which, how exactly can IPBES deliver what it should?! Serious issues to discuss in the coming days thus concern the limited funding for stakeholder involvement, the need to link IPBES explicitly to the Aichi targets set by the Convention on Biological Diversity, and the lack of concrete plans on how to secure a bottom up, regionalized structure of IPBES.