Tacking Climate Change through Family Planning
Climate change is now more present as a collective societal challenge than ever before. In a June speech to global energy leaders Pope Francis declared a “climate emergency”. In the context of the “Fridays for Future” demonstrations millions of young people are mobilizing for climate change awareness and to demand action preventing further global warming. In countless newspaper articles and television reports a connection is being drawn between record temperatures, rising greenhouse gas emissions and extreme weather events.
Despite the growing public resonance and existential nature of climate change, little attention is brought in this context to population growth. Still the instrumental role played by this factor should not be ignored – a 2010 study by Brian O’Neil suggests that an attainable reduction of global population growth would allow for an up to over 40% reduction in aggregate CO2 emissions by the end of the century. In this way the promotion of voluntary family planning services represents a valuable and cost-efficient opportunity to contribute to global climate goals. After all, an estimated 214 million women are still lacking enough access to contraceptives, and over 89 million unwanted pregnancies occur per year. If all family planning needs were met, population growth could be expected to decline considerably.
Fortunately, this crucial issue is not being ignored on all sides. An exhaustive 2017 study with over 5000 sources lists family planning promotion as one of the ten most important measures for fighting climate change (see Paul Hawken, Eds. – Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming). The German federal government has also taken interest in this notion, as reflected in the Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development’s (BMZ) “Marshall Plan with Africa”. Developed by RFPD German Section Chair, Prof. Franz Josef Radermacher, and colleagues at the Research Institute for Applied Knowledge Processing (FAW/n) in Ulm, this strategy emphasizes the need to support reforestation, sustainable agriculture, synthetic fuels and family planning. In this context, the current RFPD/Rotary Nationwide Family Planning Campaign in Nigeria is seen as a “lighthouse project” that can be replicated in further countries throughout the region.