Population and climate change in a world of 7 billion

November 7, 2011


To mark the occasion of a world of 7 billion, PSN, today the APPG on Population, Development and Reproductive Health, and the UCL Institute for Global Health held a reception in the UK Houses of Parliament, launching two publications on population dynamics, reproductive health and climate change.

Credit: PSN

A 7 billion world event

On 31 October the world population reached 7 billion, according to UN estimates. PSN and colleagues marked this occasion with a reception in the House of Commons, seeking to increase awareness of the significance of population dynamics and reproductive health and rights to the challenges the world faces in responding to climate change.

Population and Climate Change in a World of 7 Billion was hosted by Baroness Jenny Tonge Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Population, Development and Reproductive Health, with PSN and University College London Institute for Global Health (UCL). The event was attended by over 80 people, including parliamentarians, academics, policy makers and climate change and reproductive health activists.

Speaking at the event were:

  • Baroness Jenny Tonge, APPG Chair
  • Ms. Julia Bunting, Team Leader of the AIDS and Reproductive Health Team, Department for International Development (DFID)
  • Ms. Karen Newman, Co-ordinator, Population and Sustainability Network
  • Prof. Anthony Costello, Co-Director, UCL Institute for Global Health

Launch of two reports



The event launched the following publications:

  • PSN's Report of the International Policy Symposium on Population Dynamics, Reproductive Health and Rights and Climate Change
  • The UCL & Leverhulme Trust Population Footprints Symposium Report

PSN's publication is the report and advocacy toolkit of an International Policy Symposium and Ministerial Dialogue held in March 2010 in London, on the links between population dynamics, reproductive health and climate change.

UCL's publication is the report and policy briefing of a major UCL & Leverhulme Trust Population Footprints Symposium on population dynamics and global carrying capacity, held in London in May 2011. PSN's Sarah Fisher authored the report.

Key messages

Baroness Tonge introduced the speakers and drew attention to a key, shared message from the report: that it is time to move on from the simplistic 'either/or' debate about whether population or consumption are important. She argued that both population and consumption issues are important, and therefore political leadership is needed to ensure the effective intervention necessary to address both these factors in an integrated manner.

Ms. Julia Bunting highlighted "the need to get population and reproductive health into the mainstream." Pointing to the significance of population and women’s reproductive rights and choices to a wide-range of development, environment and economic issues, she emphasized the importance of wider engagement on these issues. For example, with environmentalists and economists, with which the population and reproductive health field shares common ground due to the interactions between population, reproductive health and rights and development issues. Ms. Bunting congratulated PSN and UCL for helping to progress this shared agenda.


Reflecting on the sensitivities and complexities associated with linking population and climate change issues, PSN's Karen Newman pointed out that while some believe the link is too controversial to discuss, developing countries themselves are identifying the ways in which unsustainable population growth is exacerbating their vulnerability to climate change, and are asking for help in responding to these challenges. She argued therefore that; "we must emphasize that you can care about population and care about human rights." In a world where every child coming has the right to be fed and to be healthy, she concluded that at the same time as focusing on that there is also a critical need to find a way of increasing investment in family planning programmes that respect and protect human rights.

Professor Anthony Costello took the opportunity to make a call to politicians for creative thinking on these critical issues. In relation to reproductive health, he highlighted that there is insufficient funding for family planning and maternal and newborn health programmes, which must receive greater focus and be integrated with wider health programmes as part of overseas development assistance. On the issue of climate change, he warned of the "dangerous mismatch between science and public policy" in terms of the level of climate change which it has been agreed by scientists that we must not go beyond, and what is actually going to happen. Given the catastrophic implications of a rise of over 2 degrees Celsius, including for food security and population migration, new solutions and renewed attention is needed, he argued.

Baroness Tonge concluded the speeches by thanking the Leverhulme Trust for their generous sponsorship of the event.

Read the report: The International Policy Symposium on the links between Population Dynamics, Reproductive Health and Rights and Climate Change.

Read the summary report: International Policy Symposium on the links between Population Dynamics, Reproductive Health and Rights and Climate Change.

The UCL Population Footprints Report and a Population Footprints Policy Briefing are available on the Population Footprints website where you can also watch a Population Footprints video.