Building a common action agenda for coping with climate change and biodiversity and ecosystem services degradation
Established in 1988 by the UN General Assembly, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change seeks to provide with regular meta-analysis on the current state of scientific knowledge on climate change to the 195 signing members of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Since then and until 2019, the IPCC has published five Assessment Reports. The first Assessment Report was issued in 1990, followed by others in 1995, 2 years before the adoption of the Kyoto Protocol; in 2001 which focused on adaptation; in 2007 when the IPCC received the Nobel Prize; and in 2014 before the negotiations that led to the Paris Agreement. Currently the IPCC is under its Sixth Assessment Report cycle. The expected report will be published in 2021—2022. Besides the Methodology Reports that provide practical guidelines for the preparation of GHG inventories under the UNFCCC, the IPCC has also published 14 Special Reports on key issues such as the “Global Warming of 1.5°C” (IPCC 2018). It has also sponsored a group of experts for delineating a “Research and Action Agenda on Cities and Climate Change Science” (Prieur-Richard et al. 2018).
For all such reports, thousands of scientists around the globe volunteered within a process that has pushed forward the co-generation of information tor policymaking. The IPCC does not conduct research in its own, it evaluates the existing scientific literature and certain gray literature in order to identify the strength of scientific agreement and where further research is needed. The co-generation of meta-analysis is supported on the articulation of scientists at a global scale for working in a multidisciplinary manner, even sometimes reaching interdisciplinarity, which in turn has enabled a positive environment for promoting other inter- and transdis- ciplinary efforts beyond the IPCC structure and its assessing outcomes. This is a major step that has changed science—policy interface at the international level, while impacting scientific practices at different scales. IPCC impact on scientific publications and science has undoubtedly increased with each Assessment and Special Report, as scientometric analyses show (Vasileiadou et al. 2011).
In general, it is assumed that there is a high rigor in the IPCC review process, despite the fact that there is indeed room for improvement, for example in what respects to a better coordination among working groups (Schiermeier 2010), and a desirable reduction of both physical and economic bias and of scientific fields separation which is a part and consequence of the division of the IPCC assessing work in three working groups (scientific basis of climate system and climate change; vulnerability of socioeconomic and natural systems; and mitigation of climate change) (Bjurstrom and Polk 2011).
The IPCC has received critiques and additional recommendations. From errors in the 5th Assessment Report (Schiermeier 2010); the lack of Global North and Global South balanced participation (Delgado 2018; Vasileiadou et al. 2011)); the limited expertise on indigenous knowledge, understanding and experience (Ford et al. 2016); and gender-related issues within the IPCC (Gay-Antaki and Liverman 2018); to a diversity of aspects on procedures, governance and management, conflict of interest policy and communications strategies (InterAcademy Council 2010).
It has also confronted a diversity of pressures from both governments delegations and the private sector. On one hand, the first ones demand relevant, complete, accurate but non- prescriptive assessments due to the interest of some signatories of the UNFCCC for keeping non-binding targets, indeed a reason to point out that the apparent “policy-neutrality” may be extremely misleading (Havstad and Brown 2017b). Furthermore, such neutrality, based on a questionable assumption of a model science that accepts that scientific practice does not requires epistemic value-laden judgments, implies that decisions on standards ot evidence can be deferred “by simply communicating the evidence plus its attendant probabilities and leaving it tor others to choose the ‘correct’ evidential standards” (Havstad and Brown 2017a).
On the other hand, the private sector either seeks to undermine the credibility and legitimacy of the IPCC (like the Global Climate Coalition or the Information Council for Environment have intended), or insists on keeping regulations at the national level while playing an important role during the final stage ot their preparation through the conventional process of commenting, but also by the means ot a direct dialogue in order to ensure that the private sector viewpoints and, in some cases, proactive actions, are somehow incorporated (this do not refers to any alleged conflict of interests due to business-related associations ot the IPCC (The Economist
2010) ). In fact, the 5th Assessment Report positively subscribes that the private sector has an indispensable role to play in addressing climate change, and therefore foresees it necessary' to enable appropriate environments for business action (IPCC 2014b). Organized civil society also participates in such a process, but it is usually limited to certain international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that are usually linked to international institutions, mainly the United Nations (UN) and the World Bank. Grass root movements are thus excluded, constraining their action to the national and local contexts, which, as said, can be seen as a way to reduce their eventual impact in international politics (Newell 2012; Williams 2001).
With a similar goal as the IPCC, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) was established in 2012 for strengthening science—policy interface for biodiversity’ and ecosystem services for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, long-term well-being and sustainable development. With over 130 member states, the IPBES works in four areas: assessments, policy support, building capacity' and knowledge, and communications and outreach. It publishes global, regional or sub-regional assessments on biodiversity' and ecosystem services, in addition to thematic reports. The IPBES Global Assessment, published in May 2019, follows almost a decade and a half after the only global report on the issue, the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, published in 2005.
IPBES’s tour regional reports were published in 2018 for Africa, America, Asia Pacific, Europe and Central Asia, along with the Land Degradation and Restoration report. Such reports came after the publication of the first thematic assessment on Pollination and Food Production (2016) and the methodological assessment report on Scenarios and Models of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (2016).
Based on the work of volunteer scientists, IPBES assesses current scientific knowledge useful for decision-making, as the IPCC does, but it also reviews information about practices based on indigenous and local knowledge through a technical support unit on the issue, hosted by' UNESCO; the latter, along with capacity' building and policy support, are indeed major differences with the IPCC (Brooks et al. 2014). IPBES’s work involves — as observers — NGOs organizations, conventions and civil society groups. Several memorandums ot cooperation have been signed as well with key partners such as the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, the Convention to Combat Desertification, Future Earth and the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
The IPCC and IPBES’s experiences are without doubt valuable experiences tor enhancing science—policy interface while moving forward a more robust scientific multidisciplinary knowledge at an international scale. However, certain key' aspects have to be considered, such as how scientific networks not communities, are themselves engaged in policy, but mostly, into politics; how such networks are conformed unevenly; and how the powerful groups within it dominate certain agendas and the way they' are framed, including the proposed solutions or actions. It is in that sense that transparency and openness play' a determining and increasing role in the success of experiences similar to IPCC and IPBES, but moreover, on the degree to which the main findings actually influence policy and decision making (Vasileiadou et al. 2011; Vohland et al.
2011) . In that sense, the 2030 Agenda tor Sustainable Development still has work to do (Coopman et al. 2016; ISC 2017). See Box 47.1.
Box 47.1 Transformational pathways, SDGs and the production of knowledge
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is assumed as an integrated effort composed of 17 goals or SDGs. Each SDG has set a variety of targets related to one or more dimensions of the mainstream understanding of sustainable development. As such targets can generate positive, competing or clear-cut negative interactions with each other. A better understanding on how those interactions may impact the concrete advancement of the 2030 Agenda is indubitably desired. Multidisciplinary approaches are thus being used to identify the elements that mutually support each other, but also those that generate trade-offs (Coopman et al. 2016; Kanie 2017; ISC 2017). Ideally, inter- and transdisciplinary approaches would push further the implementation and the outcomes of SDGs as they may allow to question the very foundations from which the Agenda departs, particularly in relation to sustainability framing. Since the 2030 Agenda, as said, is based on a mainstream understanding of sustainability (i.e., sustainable development), tensions between different SDG targets are thus to be expected, particularly among those intended to promote economic growth, sustainability and social justice. Considering the above, the 2030 Agenda therefore confronts two challenges. On one hand, enhancing SDG's interactions on the basis of a more robust understanding on how nexuses, cobenefits and trade-offs may variate depending on the scales and the political, socioeconomic and cultural contexts. On the other, reframing the Agenda itself on the basis of a more critical approach, a broader social participation and even by embracing co-production processes of knowledge for decision-making in which the figure of the expert is still relevant but certainly not enough due to the reflexive and context-dependent nature of sustainability and the meaning of "good life." In this context it is to be noticed that the Global South faces particular challenges, not just because most of the expected population and the expansion of the built environment may be experienced there, but also due to the correlation and persistence of diverse issues such as of poverty, inequality, lack of public services, low levels of education, economic and technological dependencies, limited funding and credit, constrained capacity building, poor accountability and corruption. Actions to be taken can thus not be transplanted from place to place, a fact that demands a reconsideration of how governance is understood and implemented. In order for the Agenda to be meaningful for both the North and the Global South, and for it to have a real transformational power, a "transformational way of thinking" is required to enable a "coproduced transformative governance", namely, innovative top-down and bottom-up modes of participation and decision making. The identification of main gaps or misalignments at the local level and across spatial scales, as well as the search for potential conduits for resolution within a reasonable timeframe of action, will be a first relevant step towards a transformative governance and transformative actions that involve governments (at all levels), economic units, different types of institutions (including universities) and lay people, or all inhabitants that may be either affected in a business as usual scenario or benefit from a tangible and profound transformation of the relationship between human beings and nature.
Il’E&E has followed but also adopted dissimilar positions in relation to the above, moving from a conventional reading to a more critical one. Yet, even when 1PE&E scholarship has contributed to such a debate, it is for the most part still trapped in disciplinary and multidisciplinary practices that constrains its full potential. If interdisciplinarity is understood as a way of producing novel, comprehensive and complex knowledge on the basis of refraining the mainstream research questions and narratives, and it transdisciplinarity means introducing as well different kinds of knowledge and practices, including the co-production of knowledge, critical 1PE&E approaches may particularly benefit as succinctly explored in the following section.