IPBES Transformative Change Assessment

Earlier this year, the IPBES (Intergovernmental Panel for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services) Transformative Change Assessment was launched, and I am excited to be involved as a Coordinating Lead Author of Chapter 1: Transformative Change and a Sustainable World. This is my first time working on an IPBES assessment, and the past couple of months has been a bit of a whirlwind of figuring things out. Next week, I will be in Montpellier along with all the other authors for our first in-person meeting. This blog post is therefore my starting thoughts on the Transformative Change Assessment experience so far…

What is the assessment about?

To learn more about what we are working on, you can see the scoping report here. It outlines the purpose and policy context of the assessment, how it will be done, and what the chapters should cover.

The scoping document defines transformative change as “a fundamental, system-wide reorganization across technological, economic and social factors, including paradigms, goals and values, needed for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, long-term human wellbeing and sustainable development”. The assessment should look across the state of current knowledge, recognizing different worldviews and types of knowledge (including mainstream science and indigenous and local knowledge) in order to assess: different understandings of transformation, visions of a sustainable world, how transformative change occurs, challenges to achieving transformation, options to achieve transformation.

The scope of the assessment is therefore broad, asking us to look at transformation for biodiversity, but recognizing that necessary knowledge may well lie beyond the boundaries of what we currently understand as biodiversity research. Further, it should provide knowledge that is usable for achieving the 2050 Vision for Biodiversity. The intent therefore is that it provides tangible options of how to change and what this looks like.

Who are the experts?

All of the experts are listed here. I am excited to be working with a wonderful mix of people I already know, people whose work I know (and admire), and people who I am encountering for the first time. There are people who I associate strongly with biodiversity topics; these include ecologists, conservation social scientists and political scientists, as well as those who don’t affiliate to a specific discipline. There are also those from other sustainability areas, including a few who are fresh from wrapping up participation in IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change) WGII and WGIII. There are plenty of representatives from outside of academia, and collectively we span the whole globe. This also seems to be the most gender-balanced academic space I have ever been in.

We come from a huge range of ways of knowing, thinking and seeing the world. This sets us up well to meet the transdisciplinary, broad and impactful scope of work we have ahead of us. It also provides us with a great foundation for some interesting thinking and sharing about how we see the world, why, and how that matters for transformational change.

How are we working together?

The report is split into chapters, and each chapter has some coordinating lead authors, some lead authors, review editors, and fellows. Each has a role to play, and there is quite some overlap; what each role entails is here. In brief, the CLAs coordinate the chapter; CLAs and LAs write the chapter working with the fellows, and inviting contributing authors. The review editors identify reviewers for the chapter and help the chapter teams address reviewer comments. We have a time schedule for the different drafts and review processes.

With such a diverse group of people, and a broad scope of work, it would be easy to feel overwhelmed about how this can possibly all work. However, our co-chairs and secretariat support have been wonderful at facilitating productive and friendly spaces. So far, we have been entirely online, with a big kick-off meeting across all authors, and then working in chapter groups to create 0-draft outlines of the scope of our chapter. When we submitted our 0-draft last week, I had a moment of reflection with my fellow Chapter 1 CLAs to note that we felt satisfied with what we had achieved online, with a group of new people, in a very short space of time.

Next week should provide much more space to get to the heart of core issues and push the chapter forwards. I’m starting to get excited as I receive the agenda and ‘logistics pack’ – I can’t wait to see what we produce!

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