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21-23 MARCH 2017

Final OpenNESS Annual Meeting in Smolenice, Slovakia

OpennESS and OPERAs share the stage to promote IBPES

The Ecosystem Service Community of Scotland hosted a discussion panel focused on The Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). Three IPBES contributing scientists (Drs Allan Watt, Adam Vanbergen and Prof Mark Rounsevell) were joined by Sally Thomas, Head of Land Use and Biodiversity policy team, Scottish Government and Dr Diana Mortimer the co-ordinator of the UK IPBES Stakeholder Hub. Initially each panel member spoke for 10 min to explain their role in relation to IPBES.

Allan Watt, an official UK Observer, explained the history and general aims of IPBES, while Adam Vanbergen explained the process of creating the first assessment which will be released shortly. The 20-months study will produce a report assessing the health of pollinators and their importance to food production. The report was a major focus of the recent IPBES 4 meeting in Kuala Lumpur where the participating governments scrutinised the text prior to its release scheduled for May 2016 (See also: http://www.ipbes.net/article/press-release-pollinators-vital-our-food-su...).

Sally Thomas brought the discussion closer to home by highlighting aspects of the IPBES work which were of value to local policy makers and reasons why the Scottish Government backed the process and contributed financially. She emphasised the value of the knowledge which will be generated in the global IPBES assessments and the need to interpret the findings in  the Scottish context. She also highlighted the need for effective communication and stressed the importance of ensuring the public understood the significance of IPBES assessments because policy in Scotland was driven by the politicians who represented the voting public.

Mark Rounsevell in his capacity as co-chair of IPBES regional assessment of biodiversity and ecosystem services for Europe and Central Asia explained the process the three year assessment will follow. He acknowledged the geographical imbalance in available data and while regretting the lack of funding to create new knowledge (all IPBES assessments are based solely on summarizing existing peer reviewed and grey literature) stressed that they were addressing this imbalance through reporting confidence levels for different parts of the assessment.

Diana Mortimer concluded the formal introductions by explaining the role of the Joint Nature Conservation Committee to provide impartial advice to the government and highlighted the UK IPBES Stakeholder Hub. She gave an insight into the political sensitivity of issues arising in IPBES and the care needed to scrutinise the individual words of the resulting documents.

There followed a lively discussion answering questions which the delegates (academics, business, non-governmental organisation, civil servants) had asked during the registration process and additional questions which arose from the answers. In total over 40 questions were lodged when people registered to attend the event. The most frequently raised issues included: the importance of local knowledge and communication of IPBES results to policy makers and the general public; funding of the assessments and the secretariat and lessons learnt from the IPCC process.

Image: A word cloud of the questions registered at the ESCOM IPBES event 9 March 2016