The Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), established in 2012 after seven years of negotiations, has the overall objective of “strengthening the science – policy interface for biodiversity and ecosystem services for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, long – term human well – being and sustainable development” (Decision UNEP/IPBES.MI/2/9, Appendix 1).
As an intergovernmental body, IPBES’ explicit audience are the 125 governments which constitute its parties, and who request, review, negotiate and approve its assessments and their summaries for policymakers (SPM). The underlying asumption is that IPBES products, with the benefit of both epistemic and governmental legitimacy, will circulate inside the complex international biodiversity regime (e.g., other multilateral bodies, such as the Convention on Biological Diversity) and percolate towards national administrations, and therefore provide a solid and diversified knowledge base on which to build more efficient biodiversity policies.
However, observations and discussions with IPBES actors suggest that another “theory of action” is at play in IPBES. As is the case for other intergovernmental bodies (e.g., the IPCC), IPBES works are also expected to deliver synthetic, of high academic quality standard, and freely available products, which would help inform the general public. This, in turn, would hope fully help build pressure on policymakers for increased environmental action. One perceived channel for IPBES to increase the visibility of biodiversity issues is the general media, and IPBES is itself monitoring its media impact by compiling its mentions in the press (http://www.ipbes.net/media/media- watch).
This project aims at assessing and discussing this perceived mode of action, and to make proposals for its potential improvement. Indeed, there seem to be at least two limitations in IPBES’ “communication plan” so far. The first one is that, on several levels, IPBES communication still relies on the “deficit 3 model”: the lack of mobilization on biodiversity issues, in this view, comes from a deficit in the public understanding of biodiversity (natural) science. Therefore, press releases that would popularize current knowledge on biodiversity loss and, its direct drivers, would raise awareness and willingness to act in the general public. This tends to leave aside more politicized accounts, addressing the “underlying causes” of biodiversity loss and which take their roots in current public policies, public institutions, economic structures and activities, which need to be directly questioned to achieve a significant decrease in biodiversity loss.