A global science assessment panel for biodiversity, modelled on the International Panel on Climate Change, was launched in Panama City earlier this month (21 April).
The Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystems (IPBES) was agreed to in June 2010 by more than 230 government representatives from more than 80 countries.
Its aim is to influence global policy by providing policymakers with scientific assessments on a range of issues affecting environmental sustainability.
Specific themes will be decided on in 2013 at the panel's first plenary meeting, but work on reviewing existing assessments — such as 2005's global Millennium Ecosystem Assessment — will begin immediately.
Anne Larigauderie, executive director of Paris-based international biodiversity research programme DIVERSITAS, told Nature News: "Our community sees this as an extremely important step in order not to waste any time until the first plenary meets".
The panel will be hosted in Bonn, Germany, which beat competition from countries including Korea and India, and promised funding for capacity building in developing nations.
Its annual budget, estimated to be between US$5–13 million, is yet to be confirmed, but a trust fund will be established to receive voluntary contributions.
Also still in negotiations is the selection of scientists to sit on the panel — organisations such as DIVERSITAS will be invited to make nominations.
Irina Bokova, director-general of UNESCO (the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation), said: "I hope that this body will allow biodiversity to be better taken into account in sustainable-development strategies, as the IPCC has for climate change over the past 20 years".