Thursday, June 18, 2020

IPBES—An Inside Take (the Series)

By Kai Chan, a Coordinating Lead Author for the Global Assessment, Chapter 5.

IPBES (the UN's Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services) is making waves in the arena of environmental science and policy, particularly that dealing with biodiversity conservation, ecosystem services, and the multiple values of nature. It is also somewhat of an enigma, especially for those who haven't participated yet in a formal role.

But if you work in environmental science and policy, you're sure to be confronted by a wide range of questions, including whether you should get involved in an assessment, task force or review process. You might also wonder how it works, how politics enters the process (or if it doesn't), what the assessments are useful for, and how to cite them.
The first IPBES Assessment was on pollination

This series of posts is based on an inside take from someone who has been involved in multiple work packages, starting with the Conceptual Framework, but also including the Global Assessment, and now also the Values Assessment and the (proposed) Transformative Change Assessment.

Let me be clear: this series of posts is not a set of advertisements for IPBES. I entered the Conceptual Framework process highly skeptical but wondering about the questions above, and how much value there is in engaging in this kind of international science-policy process. At the time (the beginning for IPBES), the only way for me to understand what IPBES was about was to get involved. I did, and I was not initially inspired to do more. In fact, I then figured it wasn't worth my while, but at least I knew why. But years later, as you'll learn in these posts, fate conspired to rope me in.

Moreover, I keep questioning deeply whether working with IPBES is the best use of my time (worth the opportunity costs), despite some important successes. Although I've been very frustrated at times (through no fault of the IPBES Secretariat—for whom I have tremendous respect—but rather due to the institutional constraints hard-wired into the organization), I'm increasingly convinced it is.

Here are the posts in chronological order:

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