Population Matters

The UK’s 2020 renewable heat and transport target

The UK’s 2020 renewable heat and transport target

The UK government should actively promote population stabilisation to achieve its sustainability goals in the long termThe UK consumes less energy today than it did in 1970, in spite of its population increasing by more than nine million people. While this improvement in energy consumption is remarkable, it is not sufficient. The Energy and Climate Change Committee acknowledges this, and seeks to examine how the decarbonisation of heat and transport can be improved in the long term and what challenges must be taken into consideration.

Our submission shows that the UK has so far predominantly focused on improving energy efficiency and the creation of cleaner energy. Whilst this is both commendable and necessary, it can however never fully solve the problem of increasing emissions. Globally, the Kaya equation is used to calculate the impact of carbon emissions on our environment. Energy efficiency and carbon intensity are only two out of four variables that determine the outcome of this calculation. We argue that the government completely overlooks the importance of the value ‘population size’.

The UK’s population has grown significantly in the past few decades, and it is predicted that it may increase to 70 million residents by 2027. Naturally, such growth will make it difficult to lower carbon emissions even when technology improves dramatically. Consequently, the government should actively promote population stabilisation, domestically and internationally, to achieve its sustainability goals in the long term.

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