Delegates to the United Nations have given a green light to a plan to establish a new international panel to review the science underpinning policy decisions on biodiversity and ecosystem services. The Intergovernmental Science Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) will be charged with “bridg[ing] the gulf between the wealth of scientific knowledge — documenting accelerating declines and degradation of the natural world — and the decisive government action required to reverse these damaging trends,” according to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

The UNEP foresees the IPBES as an independent panel that will review science and synthesize it into reports for use by policymakers, much like the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). These reports will cover the state, status, and trends of biodiversity and ecosystems, as well as outline policy options for reversing the loss of biodiversity and environmental degradation. Much of this work will involve prioritizing and synthesizing the numerous reports and assessments on biodiversity and ecosystem services conducted by United Nations, research centers, universities, and others.

The IPBES is expected to be formally approved by the United Nations’ environment ministers in February 2011.