Breakthrough in the contact group on the pollinator assessment

[From the floors]

Malte Timpte – NeFo, Museum für Naturkunde Berlin - Leibniz Institute for Evolution and Biodiversity Science

After two late-night sessions and a little delayed, Bob Watson, chair of the contact group dealing with the Summary for Policy Makers (SPM) of the assessment report on pollination was able to send the document to the plenary for final approval.

The contact group 1 at IPBES-4 was facing a novel process. It was the first time in the history of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services that the member states had to discuss and agree on every sentence of a final IPBES assessment report respectively the Summary for Policy Makers (SPM). The 830 page long full report including all the research results and references to other knowledge sources was not up for discussion.

All involved actors seemed to be a little nervous and the IPBES bodies and the chair of the contact group tried to handle it carefully.

Only member states and registered IPBES observers were allowed to read the draft summary report before and during the plenary, since for all members states agreeable text still had to be finalized. The contact group session started therefore with the announcement of the rules of procedure. Reporting from the group was not allowed to enable a line-by-line discussion by member states. Whenever a member state asked for amendments in the SPM and these text changes were not objected by another member state, the coordinating lead authors (CLAs) of the report were asked to assess if the changes were still in line with the scientific findings in the technical report. Even if governments stated that their objective was to improve the readability of the summary, proposed changes sometimes did not reflect the state of knowledge on the described issue.

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Dr. Josef Settele, UFZ, one of the coordinating lead authors of the pollinaton assessment, on stage in the contact group discussing the SPM, to respond on text amendment request by governments.
Dr. Josef Settele, UFZ, one of the coordinating lead authors of the pollinaton assessment, on stage in the contact group discussing the SPM, to respond on text amendment request by governments.
D.Schmeller, UFZ

The SPM includes 20 key messages and background material and every finding leading to a key message was assessed on the level of confidence. A finding could be rated "Well established", "Established but incomplete", "Unresolved" or "Inconclusive", depending on considered data and studies and how many of them  come to the same conclusion. An inconclusive finding is based on a small number of studies.

Content of the SPM can first be released when the document has been approved by the member states in plenary, however some of the intense discussions dealt with the paragraphs on the potential impact of GMOs on pollinators, the use of pesticides and the linkage of cultural and biological diversity and the recognition of other value approaches than ecosystem services.

Serveral contradicting perspectives on the respective findings were raised, but the chair was able to facilitate a process were all member states in consultation with coordinated lead authors finally agreed on the formulation of the background text and the related key messages. The plenary session for the approval of the Summary for Policy Makers of the thematic assessment of pollinators, pollination and food production is scheduled for 10:00h local time on Friday, 26 February 2016.