Measurementality’ in biodiversity governance: knowledge, transparency, and the Intergovernmental Science–Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES)

Turnhout, E.; Neves, K.; Lijster, E.B. de


Current policies and practices in biodiversity conservation have been increasingly influenced by neoliberal approaches since the 1990s. The authors focus on the principle of transparency as a self-proclaimed basis of neoliberal environmental governance, and on the role of standardized science-based measurements which it purportedly affords. The authors introduce the term ‘measurementality’ to signify the governance logic that emerges when transparency comes to stand next to effectiveness and efficiency as neoliberal principles and to highlight the connections that are forged between economic, managerial, and technocratic discourses. The example of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) is used to discuss the role of measurementality in global biodiversity governance. The analysis suggests that IPBES aims to coordinate the science–policy interface in order to optimize the generation of user-friendly knowledge of those elements of biodiversity that are considered politically and economically relevant: at the current economic juncture, these being in essence ecosystem services. Based on these findings, the authors proceed by critically reflecting on the ways in which the measurementality logic of IPBES may not only result in an impoverishment of the biodiversity research agenda, but also in an impoverished understanding of biodiversity itself. To conclude, the authors argue that measurementality is part and parcel of the neoliberal paradigm in which science produces the raw materials for subsequent control and exchange and that, as a result, the intersection of science, discourse, policy, and economics within these governance systems requires sustained critical scrutiny.