Population Matters

What we want

What we want

We recommend specific behaviours and public policies to address unsustainable population growth. Our full positions are summarized below:

People on a train


Along with consumption growth and industrial practices, population growth increases damage to the environment and depletes natural resources. We believe that human numbers should be reduced voluntarily to a sustainable level that enables an acceptable quality of life for all.

A stable and ethical transition to a sustainable population level would take several generations. Given that human activity already exceeds Earth’s capacity to support it at an acceptable consumption level for all, mainly due to overconsumption in the developed world, we should begin without delay.

Development and climate change

Development is a consequence of and contributor to improved reproductive health and women’s empowerment. We support sustainable development.

Population growth increases the number of wealthy carbon emitters and poorer climate change victims and hampers mitigation and adaptation efforts. Meeting the unmet need for family planning services is a cost-effective strategy. We support “contraction and convergence with a population base year” to achieve climate equity, i.e. reducing inequality in carbon emissions per head by allocating to each country a fixed tonnage of carbon emissions based on equal shares.

Elderly couple

Ageing and family size

We reject the case that more young people are required to care for an increasing number of elderly. Those young people would in turn grow old — resulting in a pyramid scheme in which each generation impoverishes the next. Demand for labour instead should be met by enabling employment for untrained, underemployed and older people.

We believe governments should promote responsible parenthood and that subsidies should be limited to the first two children unless the family is living in poverty.


Women’s rights and sexual and reproductive health

Women’s empowerment and gender equality are essential for sexual and reproductive health, economic development and population stabilization. We therefore support programmes to improve the status of women.

Reproductive health reduces poverty, empowers women and stabilizes population. We urge universal access to appropriate family planning services. This includes training for professionals and sex and relationships education.


Migration often results from conflict, poverty, inequality or population and consumption pressures. We call for fair trade terms and increased foreign aid and knowledge transfer to promote sustainable development, global justice and resilience. Such aid should support gender equality and sexual and reproductive health and rights.

While immigration can bring benefit to countries in the form of skills, diversity and culture, each country must limit its dependence on others and seek the optimal balance of consumption and resources. For most countries, achieving sustainability would require decreased consumption, smaller families and, where it is a contributor to population growth, reduced immigration. Immigration policies should respect the rights of asylum-seekers and refugees under international law and must not discriminate against potential immigrants on the basis of gender, race, country-of-origin, religion, sexuality or similar characteristics.


We support the principal recommendation of the Population Panel convened in the United Kingdom in 1973 — that a senior government official be responsible for addressing population-related issues.

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