Biodiversity gets its vuvuzela

After my last post on the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) SBSTTA meeting, I received a useful question about how we might find a common voice around the complex issues posed by conserving biodiversity. That may indeed be one of the biggest stumbling blocks to conserving our natural resources – it’s simply hard to know who to listen to! For the government representatives and other world leaders expected to make useful decisions on how to protect biodiversity, the cacophony of voices coming from scientists can be especially tricky to deal with. As a scientist who is asked to talk to non-scientists every day, I have learned to feel their pain.

In the field of climate change, the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) has been the loud booming vuvuzela[1] for science that has taken climate change from a scientific debate to a set of agreed facts that the world’s governments can understand and begin acting upon (fingers crossed for progress at the current climate meeting in Bonn). For biodiversity however, there has been no common voice for science, and so policy decisions and action have suffered due to a lack of clear messages.

But that excuse is about to disappear. Over the last few years, the world’s governments have been discussing the establishment of a body inspired by the IPCC to establish a dialogue between science and policy that could draw upon the many assessments of biodiversity status and trends, from national to global scales, to build a common picture that no one can ignore. The delicately-named Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) has been the topic of discussion at an international meeting held this week’s in Busan, South Korea. Today, the world’s governments agreed to try and establish IPBES as quickly as possible.

So what does this mean? It means we will now have a way to synthesize and draw on the various efforts aimed at assessing and tracking biodiversity status – like the Millennium Ecosystem Assessments (MEA) and IUCN Red List – which will hopefully remove one more obstacle to the game-changing action we need. IPBES will draw on existing efforts to create a common resource that policy-makers can understand and use. It will also play an important role, directly and indirectly, in building capacity for strengthening and integrating science and policy in many countries.

But as the IPCC has shown, having all the coordinated science in the world only gets you so far. In order to make a difference, we still need strong inspired action by our leaders. And that is where your individual voice can be critical in choosing the right leaders and rallying for the protection of our global biodiversity.

Conrad Savy is a biodiversity analyst in CI’s Science + Knowledge division.

[1] If, as we celebrate the first World Cup in Africa, you still don’t know what a vuvuzela is, I’d hang my head in shame. Ayoba!


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