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An in-demand advisor: the IPBES

Established in 2012, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) has its headquarters in Bonn, where it gathers scientific data and advises policymakers.

Friederike BauerFriederike Bauer, 22.05.2023
Butterflies on knapweed
Butterflies on knapweed © picture alliance/dpa

Of the 8 million species on earth, 1 million are threatened with extinction. Half of all coral reefs have already been lost. These figures come from IPBES, sometimes known as the world biodiversity council. Its official title is the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, and its secretariat is based in Bonn. Yet while its reports and warnings are important, the IPBES is largely unknown among the public at large.

Unlike the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), the IPBES is only just beginning to gain public prominence. Both bodies originated in the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), but their work is free from governmental influence. Their role is to collect and communicate the most recent scientific findings so policymakers can use these as a basis for making decisions and formulating strategies. This means IPBES and IPCC are akin to global scientific advisory boards.

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IPBES was set up in 2012

However, IPBES is much younger than the IPCC. It was set up in 2012, while the IPCC has existed since 1998. The age difference is reflected in the respective weight of each body in political debates. While the dangers of climate change have now been recognised and IPCC reports are eagerly anticipated, the topic of biodiversity is lagging behind in public awareness. Yet it is now clear that we are facing a double crisis that includes two phenomena which mutually reinforce each other, both positively and negatively.

Undisturbed environments help fight climate change

When forests are lost or wetlands dry out, huge quantities of CO2 are released. On the other hand, undisturbed environments can best help to slow global warming. This is why Otto Pörtner, a marine biologist who co-chairs an IPCC working group, is calling for the IPCC and IPBES to focus more strongly on the interactions between biodiversity and climate. “That way we can show what exactly the connections look like, and which measures are advisable,” he says.