PSN and the PCCA at Copenhagen Climate Change Summit

December 22, 2009

Source: UN and PSN   

The keenly anticipated UN Climate Change Conference has closed in Copenhagen this week.  Representatives from 192 countries were in attendance, where PSN and the Population and Climate Change Alliance had a strong presence.

UN sec

Credit: UN Photo


Mixed achievements of the summit

The Conference in Copenhagen failed to reach a deal on reduction targets of industrialized and emerging nations for greenhouse-gas emissions, but succeeded in setting the goal of limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius over the coming years, and secured aid from developed nations to help poor nations cope with the effect of climate change.

PSN and the PCCA at Copenhagen

PSN had a high profile presence at the conference, as part of the Population and Climate Change Alliance (PCCA).

The PCCA had three key inputs to the summit:

  1. An exclusive lunch-meeting for approximately 75 MPs from both the South and the North - with a specific focus on adaption and how voluntary and rights based family planning can help reduce vulnerability in the developing countries most hit by climate change
  2. A lunch-meeting for approximately 50 youth leaders from environmentalist NGOs from the South - with a specific focus on adaption and how voluntary and rights based family planning can help reduce vulnerability in the developing countries most hit by climate change. This meeting will naturally have a focus on how young people can work with this agenda and try to influence policy and decision makers in their own countries
  3. A side event - with a broader focus on the linkages between climate change and reproductive health and rights.

Reaching out to parliamentarians and youth

PSN's Karen Newman was one of the three speakers/ facilitators at both VIP lunch events, giving an introduction to the controversial, complex but critically important links between population dynamics and climate change. 

MSI's Leo Bryant summarized research carried out by MSI, PSN and other colleagues showing that 37 out of 40 of the National Adaptation Programmes of Action (NAPAs) prepared by developing countries as part of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) dialogue specifically mentioned population growth as one of the factors confounding efforts to adapt to climate change.

Negash Teklu from the Ethiopia Consortium for Integration of Population, Health and Environment (PHE), spoke about PHE's project work which specifically addresses these links.

PSN and the Population and Climate Change Alliance

December 20, 2009


PSN is now part of a coalition, the Population and Climate Change Alliance (PCCA), which played an active role advocating for integrated approaches to population issues and climate changes at the recent International Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen earlier this month.

Credit: UN Photo/Mark Garten


The Population and Climate Change Alliance (PCCA)

Born out of a meeting in Geneva in June 2009:

"The point of departure for the PCCA is that the climate change agenda is one of the most decisive one for all future international cooperation - and the linkages with the population-theme are obvious and controversial at the same time. If the progressive SRHR movement doesn't get the arguments around population policies right - others will take over the agenda". 

Members of the alliance include PAI, UNFPA, MSI, IPPF, Sex og Samfund (Danish IPPF member association), and the Inter-European Parliamentary Forum on Population and Development.  

PCCA at Copenhagen Climate Change Summit

PCCA members agreed to develop joint advocacy efforts in order to influence the climate change agenda, and in particular the COP 15 process prior to the Copenhagen Climate Change Summit in October 2009. The goal of this work was to promote the integration of a rights based approach and voluntary family planning in the adaptation programmes to climate change in countries which are most affected.  

PSN and the PCCA had a strong presence at Copenhagen, facilitating meetings with parliamentarians for both the South and North, and with youth leaders from environmental NGOs. 

PSN publishes Population & Climate Change Scoping Paper for DFID

December 1, 2009


PSN, in collaboration with UCL and LSHTM, has published a scoping paper for the UK Department for International Development (DFID) on the links between population and climate change.


Background to the paper

PSN was commissioned by DFID to produce a scoping paper on the links between population dynamics and climate change, in advance of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) Conference in Copenhagen in 2009.

DFID commissioned the paper to alert DFID staff and raise their understanding of the inter-relationship between population dynamics and climate change, and to highlight the cost-effective contribution that investment in sexual and reproductive health and rights can make to economic growth, the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals and to reducing vulnerability to the impacts of climate change.

The paper is a result of collaborative working between colleagues from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), University College London (UCL) and The Population and Sustainability Network (PSN).

Key Messages

The paper is structured around six key messages, setting out background information, key messages, evidence and recommendations for each.

The report's key messages are:

  1. Rapid population growth has a negative impact on human development, provision of basic services, poverty eradication; an effect that is magnified and made more urgent in the context of climate change.
  2. Although the principle cause of climate change is consumption in developed countries, those most vulnerable to the effects of climate change are those living in the developing world. Rapid population growth has a negative Impact on the ability of communities and countries to adapt to climate change, particularly if they are poor.
  3. Climate change induced mass migration is likely to be significant, and must be recognized as a legitimate response to climate change.
  4. Linking population dynamics, particularly population growth with climate change is sensitive; there is a need to forge consensus within the sexual and reproductive health and rights world and beyond on addressing this link in ways that emphasize the need for increased investment in family planning programmes that respect and protect rights, and ensuring that the link is made in ways that do not blame the South (where most population growth is taking place) for climate change which has clearly been caused by the significantly greater per capita consumption in the North.
  5. Despite evident need for family planning services, there is a lack of global funding for & attention to family planning; funding for family planning has been declining over the past 15 years, despite the known contribution of sexual and reproductive health and rights to the achievement of the MDGs.
  6. Population dynamics have not been systematically integrated into climate change science. Research is urgently needed on the extent to which addressing population dynamics, including population growth, migration, urbanisation, ageing, household composition.


The paper concludes that the links between population and climate change, while complex and controversial, are critical. With this in mind it makes a series of recommendations to DFID, which are also of great relevance to wider organisations and policy makers seeking to respond to the challenges posed by climate change.

Key recommendations and policy points include:

  • Rights-based family planning programmes work.
  • Family planning should be publicly and actively supported as part of a climate change response. 
  • Adequate resources will be needed for climate change refugees, and those suffering from pressures on resources resulting from population growth and other factors, for adaptation, particularly in the area of energy, and for dealing with mass migration.
  • Planning must begin for mass-migration caused by climate change.
  • Growth should be encouraged in, development aid allocated to ‘climate-safe’ cities.
  • Core climate change funding should include streams for family planning/reproductive health programmes and activities, particularly in respect of funding available for NAPAs.
  • International funding for family planning programmes must be increased.
  • Research should be supported that will provide the evidence-base for sustainable policy decisions on future development strategies.

Read the paper

UNFPA publishes new report on population and climate change

November 18, 2009


In a new report issued today, the United Nations Population Fund shows how people, especially empowered women, could make an individual difference in the fight against climate change.


Credit: UNFPA

Facing a changing world

The State of World Population 2009: Facing a Changing World: Women, Population and Climate, was launched in London, Washington, D.C., Paris, Bangkok, Johannesburg, Mexico City and more than 120 other capitals worldwide.

UNFPA also released the report's youth supplement, At the Frontier: Young People and Climate Change, featuring profiles of youth already facing the challenges of a warming world.

by Thoraya Ahmed Obaid. Executive Director, UNFPA

When climate negotiators gather in Copenhagen in December for the 15th Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, they will be setting a course that will move the world's governments either forward or merely sideways in tackling one of the most challenging problems human beings have ever faced: how to manage our influence on climate and how to adapt to climate change now and well into the future.

Many of the discussions in the lead-up to Copenhagen revolved around the relative responsibilities of countries for limiting the growth of greenhouse-gas emissions and for funding efforts to shift to low-carbon energy and other technologies.

What's the best approach for reducing carbon emissions? Who should shoulder the financial responsibility for addressing current and future climate change?

These questions are critically important. But also important are fundamental questions about how climate change will affect women, men, boys and girls around the world, and indeed within nations, and how individual behaviour can undermine or contribute to the global effort to address climate change.  The poor, particularly in developing countries, are likely to face the worst effects of a changing climate. The poor are more likely to live in areas vulnerable to floods, storms and rising seas. And they are more likely to depend on agriculture and fishing for a living and therefore risk going hungry or losing their livelihoods when droughts strike, rains become unpredictable and hurricanes move with unprecedented force. And among the poor, women are especially vulnerable.

In addition to the ongoing discussion on technical and financial aspects, the climate debate of the future must be further enriched by taking into account the human dimensions, including gender, that suffuse every facet of the problem. A Copenhagen agreement that helps people to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and adapt to climate change by harnessing the insight and creativity of women and men would launch a genuinely effective long-term global strategy to deal with climate change.

UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, is a development agency that promotes the right of every woman, man and child to enjoy a life of health and equal opportunity and helps reduce poverty. UNFPA helps ensure that every pregnancy is wanted, every birth is safe, every young person is free of HIV and AIDS and every girl and woman is treated with dignity and respect. The causes we champion are also causes that are relevant to climate change.

This 2009 edition of The State of World Population shows that climate change is more than an issue of energy efficiency or industrial carbon emissions; it is also an issue of population dynamics, poverty and gender equity.

Over the years, the international community's approach to population policies has evolved from a top-down focus on demographic change to a people-centred approach based on human rights and informed choice. Voices that invoke "population control" as a response to climate change fail to grasp the complexity of the issue and ignore international consensus. Governments agreed at the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development that human rights and gender equality should guide all population and development-related programmes, including those aimed at protecting the environment. This begins with upholding the right of women and couples to determine the number and spacing of their children, and creating or expanding opportunities and choices for women and girls, allowing them to fully participate in their societies and contribute to economic growth and development.

Climate change is partly the result of an approach to development and economic growth that has proven to be unsustainable. Halting climate change requires a fresh, more equitable and sustainable approach to the way we live, produce and consume. Reining in the runaway greenhouse effect responsible for extreme weather and rising seas may therefore require a new definition of "progress" and a new development paradigm.

The complexity of the challenge of reducing greenhouse-gas emissions and adapting to climate change requires us to look beyond the obvious and to marshal innovative strategies. The most effective solutions to climate change, however, will be those that come from the bottom up, that are based on communities' knowledge of their immediate environment, that empower-not victimize or overburden-those who must adapt to a new world, and that do not create a new dependency relationship between developed and developing countries. The only lasting solution will be one that puts people at its centre.

This report shows that women have the power to mobilize against climate change, but this potential can be realized only through policies that empower them.  It also shows the required support that would allow women to fully contribute to adaptation, mitigation and building resilience to climate change.

By taking a broader, more nuanced approach to climate change that factors in gender and population, the governments of the world, and indeed civil society and we ourselves in the United Nations, will make a valuable contribution to the Copenhagen conference and meaningful action in addressing this long-term challenge.

The full State of the World Population 2009 report is available on the UNFPA website.

PSN debates population growth and global warming on BBC radio

November 3, 2009


Ahead of the 2009 Climate Change conference in Copenhagen, PSNs Karen Newman has taken part in a special BBC Radio 4 Frontiers debate on one of global warmings most contentious issues - population growth. 

Credit: UN Photo/Mark Garten 


A contentious issue

Delegates in Copenhagen will address how to reduce greenhouse gases, blamed for warming the planet. But in focusing on energy production, is there a factor that is being ignored because it is too controversial - the sheer numbers of us on the planet?

The Population Growth and Global Warming debate chaired by Geoff Watts grappled with the complex issues surrounding population and climate change, asking if there is a relationship and what can be done about it?

On the panel were:

  • Karen Newman, Co-ordinator at the Population and Sustainability Network
  • John Guillebaud, Emeritus Professor of Family Planning and Reproductive Health at University College London and PSN Board member
  • David Satterthwaite, Senior Fellow in Human Settlements at the International Institute for Environment and Development.

What is the significance of population?

The debate began by addressing the significant of population for climate change, and whether the links between population and climate change warrant focus, given that all three panellists agreed that consumption and carbon emissions by richer nations is the factor driving climate change.

On this issue Karen explained that the way that PSN talks about population and climate change is not to suggest that population growth in the global South is responsible for climate change, but out of concern that those most vulnerable to the effects of climate change are living in the global South. And many of those countries are identifying population growth as a factor compounding their vulnerability to climate change. Therefore, we must listen to what these developing countries are saying about their need to access family planning programmes, which is not only a valid right in itself, but adaptation will be easier if women are able to have the number of children they want, rather than a larger family because they didn't have access to contraception.

Concerned that talking about population distracts from the critical issue of reducing consumption, David Satterthwaite argued that population and family planning is just one of many development interventions that must be considered as important to increase a community's capacity for adaptation, including health and education provision, which will reduce population growth in return.

Karen agreed that these factors do play a role, but that there needs to be greater emphasis on ensuring that voluntary family planning programmes are in place.

Population: a focus at Copenhagen?

While there was little agreement on the extent to which population should be a focus at the forthcoming summit, the panel did appear to agree that population and family planning is likely to receive little attention at Copenhagan.

While this is likely to be the case, a resounding and important message for any discussions focusing on the links between population and climate change was made by John during the debate, highlighting the importance of a balanced and rights-based approach which acknowledges the complexity of the issues. Advocating a focus on the links between population and climate change does not mean that you are advocating coercive programmes, nor that family planning should be the sole focus for climate change mitigation and adaptation, he explained.

You can listen to the broadcast on the BBC website.

PSN presents at reproductive rights event in Stockholm

October 22, 2009


PSNs Karen Newman has today given a presentation on reproductive rights at the European Commission European Development Day event The Strategy of Silence.

Credit: EDD Stockholm


Debating the strategy of silence

The meeting held at the Swedish Pavillion in Stockholm, Sweden, examined the consequences of how the promotion of sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) is met with silence.

PSN Coordinator Karen Newman spoke about the links between climate change and SRHRs, alongside Kasha Nabagesera from Uganda who discussed LGBT Rights - two areas where SRHR voices are not heard.

Other presentations took place by Åsa Regnér, Secretary General of The Swedish Association for Sexuality Education (RFSU) together with Birgitta Ohlsson (FP) and Hans Lindé (V), two Swedish Parliamentarians from both political wings, about Sweden and the Swedish EU Presidency’s role and responsibility for SRHR.

This European Commission event was organised by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) and the Swedish Association for Sexuality Education (RFSU).

Follow the debate

A clip from the seminar can be viewed via the European Commission website. 

Population and climate change paper published by World Health Organisation

September 18, 2009


An article co-authored by PSNs Louise Carver has been published by the World Health Organisation, calling for increased support for rights-based family planning services as part of climate change adaptation programmes in developing countries.

Credit: UN Photo/John Isaac 


Least-developed countries define the agenda

The article, entitled Climate change and family planning: least-developed countries define the agenda was published in the recent edition of the Bulletin of the World Health Organisation.

The article seeks to address both the neglect to date of the links between rapid population growth and concerns regarding climate change, as well as the lack of attention to the concerns of developing countries themselves.

While some commentators have argued that slowing population growth is necessary to reduce further rises in carbon emissions, others have objected that this would give rise to dehumanizing “population control” programmes in developing countries. Yet the perspective of the developing countries that will be worst affected by climate change has been almost completely ignored by the scientific literature.

Findings from countries affected by climate change

Addressing this deficit, the paper analyses the first 40 National Adaptation Programmes of Action reports submitted by governments of least-developed countries to the Global Environment Facility for funding.

The paper finds that of these documents, 93% identified at least one of three ways in which demographic trends interact with the effects of climate change:

  • faster degradation of the sources of natural resources;
  • increased demand for scarce resources;
  • heightened human vulnerability to extreme weather events.


The findings of the paper suggest that voluntary access to family planning services should be made more available to poor communities in least-developed countries.

The authors are keen to stress the distinction between this approach, which prioritizes the welfare of poor communities affected by climate change, and the argument that population growth should be slowed to limit increases in global carbon emissions.

The paper concludes by calling for increased support for rights-based family planning services, including those integrated with HIV/AIDS services, as an important complementary measure to climate change adaptation programmes in developing countries.

Read the article

The article was a collaborative project, written by Leo Bryan of MSI, PSN’s Louise Carver, Colin Butler of Australian National University and Ababu Anage of Population, Health and Environment Network, Ethiopia.

The article is also available online from the World Health Organisation.

Fifteen years since Cairo...five remaining

September 3, 2009


September 2009 sees the 15 year progress review of implementation of the Programme of Action, produced at the 1994 landmark UN International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD).


Credit: Tom Weller/UNFPA

Third review of progress held in Berlin

This year, the third progress review of implementating of the ICPD Programme of Action (PoA) takes place. To commemorate this landmark, theGlobal Partners in Action: NGO Forum on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Development Invest in Health, Rights and the Future is being held in Berlin 2-4 September, co-hosted bythe  UNFPA and the Government of Germany.

Other NGO events are also taking place in 2009, including the 5th Asia Pacific Conference on Reproducitve and Sexual Health and Rights (APCRSHR) to be held in Beijing, China from 17-20 October 2009.

The ICPD conference was critical in so far as it demonstrated an unprecedented commitment on behalf of governments to human rights including in regard to sexuality.

The PoA clearly defines the concepts of sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRH), including universal access to related services and commodities. It also addresses concerns such as universal access to education, with special attention to closing the gender gap in primary and secondary education, universal access to primary health care, reduction in infant, child and maternal morbidity and mortality, and increased life expectancy. It includes recommendations on gender equality and the empowerment of women, the family, sustainable development, the environment, including climate change and migration.

The PoA established a historic global paradigm shift from a"population control" development approach to one that is people-centered and rights based.

Five years left for ICPD and the MDGs

There are five years to go for both the ICPD and the Millennium Development Goals, 2015 will mark the end of the period for these two action frameworks. While progress has been made in some important areas, now is the time to renew efforts to achieve their targets and goals in the area of sexual and reproductive health and rights.

UK Government Chief Scientist warns of perfect storm from global population growth

August 25, 2009


John Beddington, the UK governments Chief Scientific Advisor, has added his voice to a chorus of recent high profile warnings about the impact of population growth linked with climate change.


Credit: UN Photo/Fred Noy

Predictions for the coming decades

As the world's population grows, competition for food, water and energy will increase. Food prices will rise, more people will go hungry, and migrants will flee the worst-affected regions.

That's the simple idea at the heart of the warning from John Beddington, the UK government's chief scientific adviser, of a possible crisis in 2030.

Specifically, he points to research indicating that by 2030 "a whole series of events come together:"

The world's population will rise from 6bn to 8bn (33%)

  • Demand for food will increase by 50%
  • Demand for water will increase by 30%
  • Demand for energy will increase by 50%

He foresees each problem combining to create a "perfect storm" in which the whole is bigger, and more serious, than the sum of its parts.

Population growth threatens food, water and energy shortages

"Can we cope with the demands in the future on water? Can we provide enough energy? Can we do it, all that, while mitigating and adapting to climate change? And can we do all that in 21 years' time?" he asked the SDUK 09 conference in London, in March.

Some of the problems reinforce each other, in obvious ways. For example, intensive agriculture swallows up large amounts of water and energy.

But Professor Beddington also points to other complicating factors and worrying possibilities.

There is a risk that climate change will have drastic effects on food production - for example by killing off the coral reefs (which about 1bn people depend on as a source of protein) or by either weakening or strengthening monsoon rains.

Also, some scientists are predicting that the Arctic will be ice-free by 2030, he points out, which could accelerate global warming by reducing the amount of the sun's energy that is reflected back out of the atmosphere.

Not only is the world's population predicted to grow (until the middle of the century, at least) but more people are moving to live in cities, Professor Beddington points out. The growth of cities will accelerate the depletion of water resources, which in turn may drive more country dwellers to leave the land.

As people become wealthier in some parts of the world, such as China and India, their diets are changing. They are consuming more meat and dairy products, which take more energy to produce than traditional vegetable diets. Like city dwellers, prosperous people also use more energy to maintain their lifestyle.

The more land is devoted to growing biofuels, in response to climate change, the less can be used for growing food.

China begins moves away from one-child policy

July 27, 2009

SOURCE: Irish Times

Fears of an ageing population means that Chinas biggest city and financial hub, Shanghai, is now highlighting exceptions to the One Child Policy that allow couples to have two children - although only particular kinds of people can apply.



Credit: Xiao Bao

Signs of a policy change

Couples who were both only children, which includes most of the city's newly-weds, are allowed two children. Also, couples are allowed to have two if both partners have PhDs, or are disabled, or come from a rural area, or in some cases if their first child is a girl. There are also exceptions for when a widow or widower, or a divorcee, marries someone childless.

However, not enough families are taking advantage of these rules, especially in wealthy Shanghai. Family planning authorities are going on the offensive to encourage more procreation.

The localised move to reverse the One Child Policy three decades after it was imposed counts as a minor adjustment, however. The policy remains in place in most parts of the country.

The main focus of the One Child Policy has been on the countryside, where farmers traditionally liked to have large families, especially ones with lots of sons.

Middle-class Chinese in the cities, like the middle classes all over the world, have fewer children by choice.

Concerns over ageing

In 2004, Shanghai got rid of a rule that required a gap of at least four years between the births of first and second children.

"Shanghai has about three million people aged 60 or older, 21.6 per cent of the population," said Xie Lingli, head of the city's Family Planning Commission.

"We advocate eligible couples to have two kids because it can help reduce the proportion of ageing people and alleviate a workforce shortage in the future," said Mr Xie.

Under the One Child Policy, imposed in 1979 to stem population growth already running dangerously high in the world's most populous nation, most families were limited to one child.

The spectre of an ageing population hangs heavy over Shanghai, where the proportion of working adults to retirees is high and poses a major burden in the future. By 2050, China will have more than 438 million people over 60, with more than 100 million of them 80 and above.

China will have just 1.6 working-age adults to support every person aged 60 and above, compared with 7.7 in 1975. Government forecasters expect China's population to peak at around 1.5 billion in 2032.