Scientists upbeat about global biodiversity panel

More than 90 countries have approved the creation of a scientific panel on biodiversity.

Paris: More than 90 countries have approved the creation of a scientific panel on biodiversity, the dream of many scientists around the world.

The panel will peer-review scientific research on biodiversity and ecosystems to ensure governments are receiving top-level information and advice, and are able to act more decisively to reverse various trends in the natural world.

The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, as it has been called provisionally, was "the dream of many scientists", now made reality, said Achim Steiner, UN under-secretary general.

The IPBES "represents a major breakthrough in terms of organizing a global response to the loss of living organisms and forests, freshwaters, coral reefs and other ecosystems," Steiner added.

Steiner is also head of the UN Environment Programme that oversaw the talks in South Korea where the plans were approved on Friday.

Such an expert body on biodiversity has, according to many experts, become vital as the earth is on the brink of a sixth major wave of extinction.

The current rate of species extinction as a result of human activity is more than 100 times faster than the rate of natural extinction, according to the UN.

"We must be fully aware that the disappearance of biodiversity plays a decisive role in development," said Chantal Jouanno, French secretary of state for ecology, "the stakes for the future of humanity" are high, she added.

The IPBES "should enable us to measure our dependence on biodiversity and give us ways of responding," the minister said.

The panel addresses the complexity of monitoring the effect of humans on ecosystems, more difficult than monitoring climate and measuring gas emissions, Lucien Chabasson said, from a Paris-based sustainable development institute.

Until now the United States had been sceptical about subscribing to any agenda on biodiversity, fearing the creation of another bureaucratic monster and worried that it would dictate the national political agenda.

In talks, Brazil had lead a push from southern countries and is a candidate to host the future headquarters of the organisation.

The UN General Assembly in September will have to approve the decision to set up the biodiversity panel.

Bureau Report