‘The link between population growth and climate change is incontrovertible.’
The crisis of climate change is here. We have already exceeded one degree over pre-industrial temperatures and are anticipating a rise of three degrees by the end of the century. Angela Merkel, looking at the floods in Germany, said: ‘There is no word in our language to describe the horror of what is around me.’ Politicians have not been able to summon up creative and imaginative resources, even though millions of people in the poorest parts of the world have been facing this for twenty years. We have little time to decarbonise our economy, heal the world we have influenced, and find a different way of creating and distributing wealth.
We cannot let the increase go beyond two degrees. Scientists warn about irreversible tipping points, particularly in terms of sea level rise. This is a function of our economy and also of the number of people on earth rising to 9.5 or 10 billion by 2100. Population Matters sees the need to reduce consumption and population to bring about a just transition.
$100 billion has been promised to emerging economies, to help them reduce emissions and adapt to damage already done, but progress has been so slow that the poorest may not co-operate at COP26. We have an obligation to transfer that money.
Hence the anger when Boris Johnson decided to cut the aid budget from 0.7% to 0.5% of GDP. It will result in a cut of 85 per cent of support for the UNPF, leading to 250,000 additional maternal and child deaths, 4.3 million extra unsafe abortions and 14.6 million unintended pregnancies.
That over 50 per cent of women cannot make their own decisions about whether to have sex, to use contraception, or to seek help, should outrage us all. Hundreds of millions of women do not own their own bodies; their lives are governed by others. It is an annihilation of the human spirit. Population Matters has always linked climate change and biodiversity issues with those of population, sex and reproductive health care, and to the right of women to manage their own fertility. Many fear that this concern implies coercion. Links in the past to eugenics are undeniable, but invocation of that history to suppress conversation is extraordinary and cruel.
We need to put emphasis on policies that face these massive issues. Many impeccable organisations have emphasised the link between population, growing at 83 million yearly, and threats to the climate, biodiversity and food production. The link between population growth and climate change is incontrovertible, and our commitment to making a just transition to a low carbon economy has to be negotiated in an inclusive way. We need to reflect these principles and values in every aspect of our campaigning.
Jonathan is the president of Population Matters. His talk at Yearly Meeting Gathering has been summarised by Roger Plenty of Quaker Concern Over Population.