Analysing the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services

A Global Environments Summer Academy (GESA) alumni collaboration: In 2014, Dan Suarez, a GESA 2013 alumnus, and Katja Heubach, an alumna from 2011, joined forces to carry out collaborative event ethnography at the second meeting of the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).


Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES) are a controversial approach to environmental protection. As Suarez states in his GEN blog post about the IPBES, proponents argue that ecosystem services provide ‘new arguments, new allies, new resources and a powerful framework for aligning conservation with the priorities of a green economy’. Conversely, critics raise concerns about ecosystem services being a narrow re-conceptualisation of biodiversity conservation that are founded neoliberal values and the commodification of nature and do not take into account non-monetary aspects of nature. The IPBES is, according to Suarez, a ‘prominent crystallization of these past two decades of transnational consensus building around ecosystem services policy discourse’. Suarez describes his research on the IPBES, providing a balanced perspective on its potential problems and the opportunities it may represent.


Heubach’s experience of the IPBES, shared in a ‘response’ blog post, is from working within its framework, as a facilitator for the stakeholder engagement and participation. She describes some of the challenges related to stakeholder engagement and how her team is working to overcome them. Heubach argues that the ecosystem services approach cannot simply be seen as ‘putting a price tag on nature’, but that it includes as wide a diversity of values of nature, which are never purely economic, as there are cultures that engage with it.

We hope that readers will join in the debate about ecosystem services that has been launched with the blog posts!