(14th -16th of April 2011, Vienna)
Selectivities in knowledge Production and Use within the ecological crises: The science-policy interface in Biodiversity Politics.
Significant problems surround efforts to tackle the loss of biodiversity and the degradation of ecosystem services. Implementation of current biodiversity policy has resulted in regulatory discontent, a cycle crisis, and controversy. One factor relating to the conflicting views on the value assigned to biodiversity is its conservation and sustainable use. Current efforts to demonstrate biodiversityâs value rest primarily on the concept of ecosystem services and the benefits for society deriving from biodiversity, assuming that an anthropocentric and economy-based starting point is likely to motivate effective policy-making, integration, and implementation.
The current implementation problems of multilateral policies and the integration of biodiversity into other policy areas are closely linked to the low priority assigned to biodiversity (LePrestre 2002, Dybas 2006). In current discussions about the necessity to strengthen the science-policy interaction for biodiversity and ecosystem services, a fragmented research area, and an insufficient basis of shared interpretations of the problems that need to be dealt with (Loreau et al. 2006; Barbault & LeDuc 2005; UNEP/IPBES/1/1-1/6 2008) challenges the overall governance of biodiversity.
Moreover, a serious communication problem exists between science and policy on global environmental change and requires institutional restructuring and the support and identification of knowledge brokers (Young et al. 2008, Schroeder et al. 2008: 259ff), as well as transferable concepts of value of biodiversity. One challenge is the concept of biodiversity itself, the value attributed to it, and its relationship to ecosystem services. It is important to note that differing definitions yield markedly different policy priorities and strategies. A better handle on biodiversity, which includes the improvement of relevant indicators and the creation of an acceptable prioritisation of the problems, is essential to strengthen the mandate of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and its implementation (Raustiala 1996: 2).
Another direct problem is the communication between science and policy, which is characterizedÂ by weak science-policy interaction on biodiversity and a lack of knowledge brokers to link the two communities (Watson 2005; Vadrot et al. 2010). The establishment of holistic science organisations for biodiversity, including scientific communities and institutes such as the International Union for Conservation of nature (IUCN), Diversitas, and the International Council for Science (ICSU), plays in important role in problem framing and awareness raising, whilst the research area on biodiversity is rather fragmented. Scientific communities in general tend to influence the policy process, in particular as powerful sources for the construction of international environmental regimes (Haas 1992; Rowlands 2001, Gehring & OberthĂźr: 2006).
The importance of enhancing the SPI is supported 1) by the conclusions of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment in 2005 with its alarming results concerning the loss of biodiversity and the call for further research (MA 2005), 2) by the outcome of the conference on âBiodiversity, Science and Governanceâ in Paris in 2005 organized by Jacques Chirac, which resulted in the initiation of a consultation process under the leadership of the International Mechanism of Scientific Expertise on Biodiversity (IMoSEB), 3) by the establishment of an Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) and 4) by the request of the European Platform for Biodiversity Research Strategy (EPBRS) to âdevelop a conceptual and procedural framework for institutions and governance structures to help resolve conflicts that impede the implementation of biodiversity targetsâ (EPBRS 10/2009).
In her presentation at the Conference âSocial Sciences in the ecological crisesâ held in Vienna on the 15th of April Alice Vadrot addresses the role of science-policy interfacing in biodiversity governance. In accordance with the conception of knowledge as power source she analyses the selectivities in knowledge production and use on biodiversity. She starts from the assumption that the biodiversity crisis also relates to scientific and conceptual weaknesses and struggles that take part in framing problem perceptions of and solutions to biodiversity loss and the degradation of ecosystem services.
In her presentation she assesses the correlations between the conceptual and institutional dimension of science-policy interfacing in Biodiversity Governance. The institutional dimension relates to the recently established Intergovernmental Platform for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) that is expected to provide policy-makers with sound scientific knowledge and assessments on biodiversity and that is seen to strengthen the science-policy interface in biodiversity governance. The conceptual dimension refers to the fact that the term biodiversity faces semantic contingency since its increased use in the 1980ies. The establishment of an Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) for Biodiversity seems to address the institutional, as well as the conceptual impairments and consequently contributes to enhanced governance of biodiversity and the implementation of biodiversity policies.
However, the analysis of the discourse on IPBES shows that the establishment of IPBES has a political and strategic dimension as well. Diverging interests and strategic selectivities surround the discussions on the institutional setting of IPBES and the use of the concept of Ecosystem Services. The outcome of the Busan Meeting on the institutional setting of the science-policy interface is the result of a three year consultation process that lead into the exclusion of the objection that the IPCC model does not provide an ideal for IPBES. Alice Vadrot argues that diverging interests and strategies of policy-makers and the scientific community lead into the rather poor framework for IPBES allowing specific knowledge forms, scientific concepts and a linear approach of knowledge production to dominate other relevant expertise and problem framing.
Even though policy-makers and scientists acknowledge the relevance of a pro-active, bottom-up science-policy interface both communities take part in the stabilisation of a poor model for IPBES, due to their interests and strategic selectivities. One remarkable factor is the belief in the objective and neutral character of science providing policy-makers with truth. Another important parameter is the interest in reformulating the relevance of biodiversity governance and science through institutional reconfiguration.
The naive approach to evidence- based policies in the light of the issue of biodiversity that anticipates a high potential for conflicts may be seen as strategic attempt to depoliticize negotiation processes especially within the CBD and to emphasize the economic benefit of nature. Both interpretations support the reproduction of power relations in the area of the use of natural resources.