PSN takes on the role of PCCA Secretariat

June 23, 2010


PSN has recently taken on the task of co-ordinating the Population and Climate Change Alliance (PCCA).


Credit: 2005 Mar Lar, Courtesy of Photoshare


The Population and Climate Change Alliance (PCCA)

PCCA was created in 2009 by a number of civil society organisations working on sexual and reproductive health and rights and on the linkages between population and climate change issues.

The initial members of this alliance were the Population and Sustainability Network, Marie Stopes International, Population Action International, European Parliamentary Forum, The Danish Family Planning Association (Sex & Samfund) and  the International Planned Parenthood Federation.

PCCA at Copenhagen

The members agreed to develop joint advocacy efforts in order to influence the climate change agenda, and in particular the International Climate Change Conference that took place in Copenhagen in December 2009 (COP 15). The agreed goals for the alliance's joint advocacy work is to ensure the integration of a rights based approach and voluntary family planning in the adaptation programmes to climate change in countries which are most affected.

The PCCA held two successful VIP lunch events at the Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen; one for youth leaders, and one for parliamentarians. 

Future activities

Since that time, the PCCA, which has now grown to encompass additional NGOs, including the Ethiopian Population, Health and Environment Consortium, has been planning in order to identify additional opportunities for profiling the links between population dynamics and climate change. 

World fails to meet 2010 biodiversity targets

June 15, 2010

SOURCE: Science Journal & WorldWatch Institute

Leaders have failed to deliver on a pledge to reduce the rate of biodiversity loss by 2010, scientists say.


Credit: CBD

'Alarming declines in biodiversity'

In a study published in Science (09 May 2010), researchers said governments had instead presided over alarming declines in biodiversity.
The pledge to reduce the rate of loss was made in the 2002 Convention on Biological Diversity and the research is the first to gauge progress towards the goal.

"Our analysis shows that governments have failed to deliver on the commitments they made in 2002. Biodiversity is still being lost as fast as ever, and we have made little headway in reducing the pressures on species, habitats and ecosystems," said Dr Stuart Butchart of the United Nations Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre and BirdLife International, and the paper's lead author.

The research was based on more than 30 indicators, including changes in species' populations and risk of extinction, habitat extent and community composition.

The researchers also included the Ecological Footprint, which measures the aggregate demand that human activities, through consumption of resources and emission of carbon dioxide, place on ecosystems and species.

They found no evidence of a significant reduction in the rate of decline of biodiversity and noted that the pressures facing biodiversity continued to increase. 

"A better understanding of the connections between the Ecological Footprint and biodiversity loss is fundamental to slowing, halting and reversing the ongoing declines in these ecosystems and in populations of wild species," said Dr Alessandro Galli, senior scientist for Global Footprint Network and co-author of the study.

Among the drivers of threats to biodiversity are human demands for food, water, energy and materials, Gallia said. The threats include climate change, pollution, habitat loss, as well as over-exploitation of resources and species. 

"Since 1970, we have reduced animal populations by 30%, the area of mangroves and sea grasses by 20% and the coverage of living corals by 40%," said the United Nations Environment Programme's chief scientist Professor Joseph Alcamo.

"These losses are clearly unsustainable, since biodiversity makes a key contribution to human well-being and sustainable development."

More species added to the threatened species list

Species classified by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as "threatened" increased by 2.1 percent in 2009, as 365 species were added to the organization's Red List of Threatened Species. Since 1996, a total of 47,677 species have been evaluated by the IUCN, and 17,291 of these are now considered threatened-a full 36 percent.

Currently, 30 percent of amphibians, 21 percent of mammals, and 12 percent of bird species are listed as threatened with extinction.

PSN co-authors population and climate change paper

June 10, 2010


An article co-authored by PSNs Karen Newman on the links between population dynamics and climate change has been published in the Journal of Public Health. 

Credit: UN Photo/A Rozberg 


A major global health threat

The article, entitled Population dynamics and climate change: what are the links? warns that climate change is likely to present the biggest global health threat of the 21st century.

World population is projected to reach 9.1 billion by 2050, with most of this growth in developing countries. While the principal cause of climate change is high consumption in the developed countries, its impact will be greatest on people in the developing world.

Population – climate change links

Climate change and population can be linked through adaptation (reducing vulnerability to the adverse effects of climate change) and, more controversially, through mitigation (reducing the greenhouse gases that cause climate change), the article explains.

The contribution of low-income, high-fertility countries to global carbon emissions has been negligible to date, but is increasing with the economic development that they need to reduce poverty. Rapid population growth endangers human development, provision of basic services and poverty eradication and weakens the capacity of poor communities to adapt to climate change.

Significant mass migration is likely to occur in response to climate change and should be regarded as a legitimate response to the effects of climate change.

A sensitive but critical issue

While acknowledging that linking population dynamics with climate change is a sensitive issue, the author’s advocate for family planning programmes that respect and protect human rights, which they state can bring a remarkable range of benefits.

The article concludes that population dynamics have not been integrated systematically into climate change science, and that the contribution of population growth, migration, urbanisation, ageing and household composition to mitigation and adaptation programmes needs urgent investigation.

Read the article: Population dynamics and climate change: what are the links? 

The article, published in the latest edition of the Journal of Public Health, was a collaborative project, written by Judith Stephenson of UCL, PSN’s Karen Newman, and Susannah Mayhew of LSHTM and PSN Board Member.

PSN signs letters opposing Global Gag Rule

April 21, 2010


On 20 April, PSN joined hundreds of organisations from around the world in signing letters opposing the US Global Gag Rule. 

UN Photo/Louise Gubb 


The letters were sent to Representative Nita Lowey and Senator Patrick Leahy, calling on them to take action to prohibit the future imposition of the dangerous Global Gag Rule on health and family planning providers working overseas.

Referring to the harmful effects of the Global Gag Rule on family planning
providers and the women who rely on these services, the letter states;

"Now is the time to enact legislation that makes clear that no foreign health care provider can be disqualified from U.S. assistance simply because it provides a health care service with its own private funds that is legal
both within its own country and here in the United States, or because it engages in political debate about abortion policy within its own country. We encourage you to include it in the appropriations bill this year."

Save the Children calls for action to stabilize world population growth

March 15, 2010

SOURCE: Save the Children

Save the Children has published a policy brief on population, highlighting how rapid growth in the worlds population is increasing the risk of poverty, political instability and climate change.


Credit: 2008 Lisa Basalla, Courtesy of Photoshare

Population growth concerns

The policy briefing published this month warns that in 1950, the world's population was 2.5 billion; today it stands at 6.8 billion.

Increasing risk of poverty, political instability and climate change are just some of the risks the briefing explains are exacebated by rapid population growth.

This policy brief looks at:

  • Population trends
  • The impact of rapid population growth on development
  • The link with political stability and climate change
  • Blaming the poor?
  • The benefits of reduced fertility and slower population growth
  • What we're calling for.......

Calls for action

In the briefing, Save the Children call for "concerted action to slow and stabilise the world's population growth."

It's predicted that the world's population will stabilise at around 9.1 billion in 2050. Almost all of this increase will occur in developing countries.

Rapid population growth and high fertility rates correlate closely with high levels of maternal and child mortality, and poverty.

To help support this demographic transition in poorer countries, and to slow and stabilise population growth, the briefing cals for concerted action from donors, international development agencies and developing country governments.

The Population Policy Brief is available from the Save the Children website.

PSN co-hosts a Population and Climate Change Symposium

March 2, 2010


PSN co-hosted the first symposium of its kind to address the links between population dynamics, sexual and reproductive health and rights and climate change, in London on March 1st. 

Credit: Richard Huggard/ Commat


Setting out the links

With the need to take forward the Copenhagen agenda and to mark the 10th anniversary of the Millennium Development Goals later this year, this important event brought together policy-makers from Africa, including four government ministers from sub-Saharan Africa, and UK parliamentarians.

PSN was proud to partner the British Medical Association, the Commonwealth Medical Trust  and the Partners in Population and Development Africa Regional Office in hosting the symposium.

Symposium aims

The purpose of the symposium was to:

  • discuss the links between securing sexual and reproductive health and rights for all
  • tackle the challenges presented by climate change
  • generate consensus on the critical actions needed to address them effectively.


The Symposium consisted of technical and political sessions giving parliamentarians, academics, civil society organizations and climate change and sexual and reproductive health and rights activists an opportunity to generate consensus on the important links between population dynamics, sexual and reproductive health and rights and climate change.

A Keynote panel began the day, setting out the links between population dynamics, sexual and reproductive health and rights and climate change in a post-Copenhagen world, and why are they important. This panel included Jonathon Porritt, Professor Anthony Costello (UCL), Dr Paul Wilkinson (London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine) and Dr Vivienne Nathanson (BMA).

Late morning the floor was given to papers devoted to practical matters on local adaptations and "what works on the ground" given by Dr Jotham Musinguzi (Regional Director,  Partners in Population and Development, Africa Regional Office), Siri Tellier (UNFPA), Karen Hardee (PAI), Negash Teklu (PHE Consortium, Ethiopia) and Dr Vic Mohan (Blue Ventures).

The early afternoon session "Political Options for Progress" was chaired by John Vidal, Environment Editor of The Guardian. This session brought together three government ministers from Africa sharing information and responding to questions  climate change, population dynamics and reproductive health and rights issues from the perspectives of their own countries: 

  • Hon Prof Peter Anyang Nyong'o, Minister of Medical Services, Kenya.
  • Hon Prof. David Mwakyusa, Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Tanzania.
  • Ephraim Kamuntu, Minister of State for Finance/Planning, Uganda.

UK MPs from the major UK political parties, including Andrew Mitchell, Shadow Secretary of State for International Development, responded and outlined their policies on population dynamics and climate change.

The concluding and wrap-up session included speakers Gill Greer (Director-General, IPPF), PSN's Karen Newman, Dr Jotham Musinguzi, Professor Malcolm Potts of University of California, Berkeley and Dr Susannah Mayhew of LSHTM, reviewing the key priorities for linking population dynamics to climate change.

Key emerging messages

Karen Newman of PSN concluded the symposium, acknowledging that the relationship between climate change and population is complex, controversial and critical. Key messages from the day included:

  • valuable consensus generated at the Symposium on the importance of a rights-based approach to tackling the links between population dynamics and climate change;
  • the need to secure additional funding for family planning services that respect and protect rights;
  • the need for climate change adaptation funding streams to be flexible enough to recognize family planning as part of effective adaptation strategies;
  • the need for political leadership to ensure that issues related to population growth are addressed in tandem with efforts to reduce consumption. 

Reports and further information

More information can be found on the  Climate Change Symposium Website.

Read the report of the International Policy Symposium on Population Dynamics and Climate Change.

Read the summary report on the connection between population dynamics, reproductive health and rights and climate change.

PSN on BBC Radio Four Women's Hour

February 5, 2010


PSNs Karen Newman was invited onto Radio Four Womens Hour on 5 February, together with Fred Pearce, to discuss his new book, Peoplequake: Mass Migration, Ageing Nations and the Coming Population Crash, recently featured in the Guardian.   

Credit: 2009 Joydeb Chakraborty, Courtesy of Photoshare


Karen eloquently argued for increased and continuing access to family planning, particularly amongst the world's poorest and most vulnerable populations, despite fears about demographic shifts creating labour shortages and other social problems.

For those who missed it, it is accessible via BBC iPlayer, starting at 24.50 mins in, here on the BBC website.


After Copenhagen: Where next?

January 14, 2010

SOURCE:  Guardian; PSN; Schumacher College

One month after the Copenhagen climate summit, its achievements are being appraised.  Whilst progress in tackling emissions was disappointing, PSN had  some success in highlighting the links between population and climate change.


Credit: UNFCCC

John Vidal writes in The Guardian  

As the dust settles on the stormy Danish meeting, environment ministers from the so-called Basic countries - Brazil, South Africa, India and China - will meet on January 24 in New Delhi. No formal agenda has been set, but observers expect the emerging geopolitical alliance between the four large developing countries who brokered the final "deal" with the US in Denmark will define a common position on emission reductions and climate aid money, and seek ways to convince other countries to sign up to the Copenhagen accord that emerged last month.

Fewer than 30 countries out of the 192 who are signed up to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which organised Copenhagen, have indicated that they will sign. Many are known to be deeply unhappy with the $100bn pledged for climate aid and the decision not to make deeper cuts in emissions. Under UN laws, consensus is required for a binding agreement to be made.

Countries have until January 31 to sign up to the accord and provide the UN with information on the specific commitments and actions they plan to take to reduce emissions. But there is growing confusion over the legal standing of the agreement reached in Copenhagen and many countries may not be in a position to sign because they have yet to consult their parliaments.

Meanwhile, Bolivia, one of a handful of poor countries which openly opposed the deal in Copenhagen, has invited countries and non-governmental groups which want a much stronger climate deal to the World Conference of the People on Climate Change.

The conference, to be held in Cochabamba in Bolivia from April 20-22, is expected to attract heads of state from the loose alliance of socialist "Alba" countries, including Venezuela and Cuba. ALBA, the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America countries, was set up to provide an alternative to the US-led free trade area of the Americas.

Bolivia this week urged leaders of the world's indigenous ethnic groups and scientists to come. "The invitation is to heads of state but chiefly to civil society. We think that social movements and non government groups, people not at decision level, have an important role in climate talks," said Maria Souviron, Bolivian ambassador in London.

The meeting, which is intended to cement ties between the seven Alba countries, is also expected to persue the idea of an international court for environmental crimes, as well as the radical idea of "mother earth rights". This would give all entities, from man to endangered animal species, an equal right to life.

"Our objective is to save humanity and not just half of humanity," said Morales in a speech at Copenhagen. "We are here to save mother earth. Our objective is to reduce climate change to [under] 1C. [Above this] many islands will disappear and Africa will suffer a holocaust ... the real cause of climate change is the capitalist system. If we want to save the earth then we must end that economic model."

Forthcoming PSN climate change symposium

PSN will host a major climate change symposium on the 1-2 March in London to further explore the links, with speakers and participants from both the developed world, and from the less developed southern countries which face the biggest and most urgent challenges of climate change.

Post-Copenhagen course

The Schumacher College will also be hosting a course in early March in the UK, entitled After Copenhagen:  Opportunities and Challenges.  Details are on their website.