Move over IPCC … here comes IPBES

If nothing else, the UN is very prolific when it comes to spawning acronymic agencies of doom and gloom. Not known for practicing what it preaches – particularly when it comes to matters environmental – in recent weeks we have seen two high profile, high carbon-footprint (low productivity) conferences under the auspices of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP – dedicated to the creation of increasingly scary stories since 1972).

No sooner had the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) picked itself up after (predictably flopping in) Tianjin, China, than it was onwards and upwards to Pachauri’s ‘hell no, I won’t go show’ at Busan, Korea, aka the “Thirty-Second Session of the IPCC“. Then they took a breather (although I’m not sure where) before heading to Nagoya, Japan for yet another UNEP sponsored meeting.

Oct. 18th marked the opening of a 2 week Convention on Biodiversity (CBD) summit, aka 10th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the CBD. According to advance billing:

‘We Are Destroying Life on Earth,’ UN Conference Claims


Delegates from nearly 200 countries are being asked to agree to new 2020 targets after governments largely failed to meet a 2010 target of achieving a significant reduction in biological diversity losses, a goal set at the last biodiversity conference in 2002. And one of the same issues that led to failure the first time around could jeopardize this meeting: money.

Developing nations say more funding is needed from developed countries to share the effort in saving nature. Much of the world’s remaining biological diversity is in developing nations such as Brazil, Indonesia and in central Africa.

Seems to me, we’ve heard this song before! In case you missed it, btw, CBD had made a “breakthrough” in June:

Breakthrough in International Year of Biodiversity: Green Light to New Gold Standard Science Policy Body

To Bridge the Gap Between Research and Urgent Need for Responses to Biodiversity and Ecosystem Service Losses

Busan/Nairobi (sic), 11 June 2010 – History was made, Friday, in the South Korean port city of Busan, when governments gave the green light to an Intergovernmental Science Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).

The independent platform will in many ways mirror the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which has assisted in catalyzing world-wide understanding and governmental action on global warming.

The new body will bridge the gulf between the wealth of scientific knowledge -documenting accelerating declines and degradation of the natural world – and the decisive government action required to reverse these damaging trends.

Its various roles will include carrying out high quality peer reviews of the wealth of science on biodiversity and ecosystem services emerging from research institutes across the globe in order to provide gold standard reports to governments.

These reports will not only cover the state, status and trends of biodiversity and ecosystems, but will also outline transformational policy options and responses to bring about real change in their fortunes.

An IPBES will achieve this in part by prioritizing, making sense of and bringing consistency to the welter of reports and assessments conducted by United Nations bodies; research centres, universities and others as they relate to biodiversity and ecosystem services.
[…][emphasis added-hro]

Hmmm … yet another “gold standard” body – and modeled on the IPCC, a body whose considerable shortcomings have recently been documented, if not yet addressed.

The CBD has been busy as a hive of bees; “inspired” by the Stern Report it has now produced and launched: (drumroll please):

The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB)
Nagoya, Japan, 20 October 2010– The economic importance of the world’s natural assets is now firmly on the political radar as a result of an international assessment showcasing the enormous economic value of forests, freshwater, soils and coral reefs, as well as the social and economic costs of their loss, was the conclusion of The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) report launched today by TEEB study leader, Pavan Sukhdev.

“TEEB has documented not only the multi-trillion dollar importance to the global economy of the natural world, but the kinds of policy-shifts and smart market mechanisms that can embed fresh thinking in a world beset by a rising raft of multiple challenges. The good news is that many communities and countries are already seeing the potential of incorporating the value of nature into decision-making,” said Mr. Sukhdev, a banker who heads up the Green Economy Initiative of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

He was speaking at the launch of the two-year study, which has involved hundreds of experts from around the world, at the Convention on Biological Diversity’s 10th Conference of Parties meeting (CBD COP10) in Nagoya.

The TEEB study calls for wider recognition of nature’s contribution to human livelihoods, health, security, and culture by decision-makers at all levels (local to national and business to citizens). It promotes the demonstration, and where appropriate, the capture of the economic values of nature’s services through an array of policy instruments and mechanisms.

I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, but I have skimmed it. Interesting to note, though, that “study leader”, Pavan Sukhdev is:

A career banker […] on a sabbatical from the Bank for two years to conduct his environmental projects, TEEB and the Green Economy Initiative. He continues to be on the Board of Deutsche Banks Global Markets Centre Mumbai (GMC Mumbai), a company he founded and then chaired. GMC Mumbai, a dedicated global hub for global markets “front-office off-shoring” activity, was a market first of its kind which Pavan had set up for Deutsche Bank in February 2006.

Until July 2008, he was the Head of Deutsche Bank’s Global Markets Business in India, including its Fixed Income and Equities divisions and GMC Mumbai. From 2006 to 2008, he led the build-out of Deutsche Banks Global Markets presence in India into a veritable powerhouse, spanning capital markets origination, trading and sales, a fixed income primary dealership, a market-leading equities institutional brokerage, a newly formed Non-banking Finance Company and also GMC Mumbai.

Hmmm … Deutsche Bank … Oh, yes I’ve heard of that one. Ross McKitrick recently responded [12/13/2012 link updated -hro] to some misinformation they had included in “a report that aims to rebut major skeptic arguments on global warming”. But I digress …

I’m not sure I need to read TEEB, considering the following:

Remarks by Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) at the opening of the summit:
Biodiversity and ecosystems have in recent years rapidly rocketed up the international agenda.

They have become – and quite rightly become – issues on a par with the other major challenges for this generation: climate change being the most obvious.

Human-kinds ability to impact the natural systems underpinning lives and livelihoods has gone from the local to the global and is reaching far and wide.

Equally humanity’s scientific and technological ability to measure, assess and chronicle those impacts is today unprecedented.

This year’s Global Biodiversity Outlook-3, prepared in close collaboration with UNEP’s World Conservation Monitoring Centre, points to ‘tipping points’ fast emerging – changes for example in freshwater systems that soon may be irreversible.

The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment of 2005 concluded that 60 per cent of the services provided by the world’s ecosystems that support human well being are now either degraded or heading that way.

Changes in biodiversity as a result of human activities were more rapid in the past 50 years that at any time in human history, it concludes.

The report, the output of more than 1,300 scientists from more than 90 countries supported by UNEP, the Global Environment Facility and many other partners, underlined that rather than exercising the brake the world continues to choose the accelerator.

This is hurtling us all on a collision course towards an extremely sobering destiny. [emphases added -hro]

Next chorus, next verse … a little bit louder and a little bit worse:

Statement by the Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity at the Opening Session of the Tenth Meeting of the Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity

This is indeed a defining moment in the history of mankind.

As Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki stated “The problem of Nature is the problem of human life”. However, today human life is a problem for Nature. Assembled at this historical Aichi-Nagoya biodiversity summit, we the 16,000 participants assembled today from all over the world, representing the 193 Parties and their partners, are called upon to address the unprecedented loss of biodiversity seriously compounded by global warming. To do so, let us have the courage to look in the eyes of our children and admit that we have failed, individually and collectively, to fulfil the Johannesburg promise made to them by the 110 Heads of State and Government to substantially reduce the loss of biodiversity by 2010. Let us look in the eyes of our children and admit that we continue to lose biodiversity at an unprecedented rate, thus mortgaging their future.

The 170 fourth national reports received by Parties to-date confirm that we continue to lose biodiversity at an unprecedented rate. The third edition of the Global Biodiversity Outlook demonstrates that, today, the rate of loss of biodiversity is up to one thousand times higher than the background and historical rate of extinction. The report predicts that if we allow the current trends to continue we shall soon reach a tipping point with irreversible and irreparable damage to the capacity of the planet to continue sustaining life on Earth. The report warns that the status of biodiversity for the next million years will be determined by the action or inaction, of one specie, we human being of mankind in the coming decades. [emphases added -hro]

I do hate to ask inconvenient questions, but … in light of the above, why does the world need the IPBES, a new kid on the alarmism block? In my skimming of TEEB (“MAINSTREAMING THE ECONOMICS OF NATURE A SYNTHESIS OF THE APPROACH, CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS OF TEEB“), I noticed mention of “biodiversity offsets or other schemes to mitigate and/or compensate” (e.g. p. 22). Would these “offsets” and “other schemes” be anything like, oh, I dunno … carbon “offsets” and “carbon trading”?

UPDATE: 01/19/2013 As Alex Cull has noted (see comment below):

here’s an FT article from yesterday (18th Jan 2013), describing the creation of GEMs (GCMs but to do with “ecosystem” rather than “climate”):

“The original GEM’s creators at Microsoft Research Cambridge unveiled the model in the journal Nature, ahead of next week’s inaugural plenary meeting in Bonn of the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, a new body affiliated with the UN.”

Out with the old, in with the new!


14 thoughts on “Move over IPCC … here comes IPBES

  1. Fascinating Hillary – it all has an eerie familiarity about it, doesn’t it?

    Thanks for alerting everyone. I knew either Ocean Acidification or biodiversity was going to be the next tactic. I’ll run with a thread on my own blog, and link back here.



    • Not only is it “eerie”, it’s a familiarity that increasingly breeds contempt, don’t you think?! (at least amongst those with a vestige of critical thinking skills!)

      As for “ocean acidification” … I do recall seeing a few such trial balloons, but it didn’t seem to catch on (although I’m sure we can count on one or other of the IP’s to decide that a conference of experts is required! In the meantime, it seems to be (at least temporarily) subsumed under TEEB (p.14):

      “The threats to coral reefs due to climate change and ocean acidification, as well as local pressures such as pollution and overfishing, therefore have major economic implications. When considering non-marginal values or the value of a →biome as a whole, monetary values are less meaningful and other indicators may be more revealing, such as the fact that half a billion people depend on coral reefs for their livelihoods.”

      I’ll look fwd to reading your take on this, Ozboy … and TIA for the link back … I’ll brace myself for the traffic ;-)

      Hilary (with 1 <L> if you don’t mind!)

    • I’m fairly sure James Delingpole will run with it soon, too. THEN you’ll see some traffic, trust me!

      One “L” it is ;-)


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