UN biodiversity panel 'a dream of many scientists'


Proponents hope the new panel will reverse the lack of recognition of biodiversity loss by policymakers around the world

A UN panel similar to the one for climate change has been given the go-ahead by world leaders with an admission they had failed to heed scientific warnings about biodiversity loss

An international panel will be created next year to peer-review scientific research on biodiversity and ecosystems and act as a stronger collective voice to get world governments to act.

The Intergovernmental Science Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) will not undertake its own research but instead will, according to a policy statement, 'identify and prioritise key scientific information for policymakers'.

Announcing the creation of the panel, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) admitted many of the worrying findings about biodiversity loss over recent years had failed to translate into 'meaningful and decisive action' by governments in national policies.

Some scientists, for example, claim that evidence about deoxygenated dead zones in the world’s oceans took too long to reach policy-makers. Likewise, they say stronger arguments about the pros and cons of promoting biofuels could also have been provided quicker.

Biodiversity invisible

One recent study, The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) report, estimated that the steady loss of forests, soils, wetlands, fisheries and diversity was costing the world between £1.2-2.8 trillion a year.

However, despite the findings, study author Pavan Sukhdev says the value of biodiversity remains 'invisible' in government economic accounting.

'We are running down our natural capital stock without understanding the value of what we are losing,' he said.

UNEP secretary general Achim Steiner said he hoped the IPBES panel would be a 'breakthrough' in organising a global response from national governments to biodiversity loss.

A policy statement also confirmed the panel would 'recognise and respect the contribution of indigenous and local knowledge to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity and ecosystems'.

The panel, once it is approved by the UN later this year, will be independent and made up of a cross-section of scientists from around the world. It is expected to start work in 2011.

Useful links

Intergovernmental Science Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services

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