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Cutting international family planning funding: bad news for climate change

February 27, 2011

By Fiorenzo Conte

Population Services International’s blog denounced that the funding for international family planning could be eliminated in the Fiscal Year 2011 appropriations bills, which are now under consideration by the US House of Representative. An expert explained the risks associated with a reduction of family planning worldwide:

“(..) providing contraceptives to women to allow them to choose the timing and number of their pregnancies not only benefits their health as individuals, but it is also a critical tool for lifting families out of the cycle of poverty – which in turn fosters global stability.”


Are women’s welfare and poverty reduction the only good reasons to defend funding for family planning worldwide? Not if you care about climate change. A larger population tends to generate larger emissions of CO2. International family planning slows down the population growth rate and therefore reduces the carbon foot print. A study conducted by two climate change experts at the Centre for Global Development and reported on the blog Owen Abroad presents some striking evidence. The table below calculates what would be the impact on CO2 reduction of an investment of $1 million in each of the intervention. The winner is..family planning and girls’ education

Intervention Tonnes of CO2
saved
Family planning & girls’ education combined 250,000
Family planning alone 222,222
Girls education alone 100,000
Reduce slash and burn of forests 66,667
Pasture management 50,000
Geothermal energy 50,000
Energy efficient buildings 50,000
Pastureland afforestation 40,000
Nuclear energy 40,000
Reforestation of degraded forests 40,000
Plug-in hybrid cars 33,333
Solar 33,333
Power plant biomass co-firing 28,571
Carbon Capture and Storage (new) 28,571
Carbon Capture and Storage (retrofit) 26,316

Even if it is more difficult to discern the impact of specific demographic phenomena – population ageing, change in household size, urbanization – on carbon emission (see here a scientist at the National Centre for Atmospheric Research), a slower population growth and reduced carbon emissions at the global level can, according to the authors of the study, be convincingly put forth as a further argument to advocate funding for international family planning.

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