1. The undersigned organisations recognise the following facts:
a) Past population growth from one billion in 1800 to 2.5 billion in 1950 to 6.8 billion today, together with rising resource consumption per head, has already: caused climate change, increased pollution, raised sea levels and expanded deserts.
b) This growth has been largely ‘funded’ by rapidly depleting natural capital (resources such as fossil fuels, minerals, groundwater, soil fertility, forests, fisheries, biodiversity) rather than sustainable natural income. Global food supply is heavily dependent on cheap and abundant oil and water, both of which are rapidly becoming more scarce and costly.
c) The Earth’s capacity is physically finite. Global sustainability requires sustainable economies operating within environmental limits of natural income.
d) Each additional person increases total human impact on the natural environment and decreases natural resources per head; so that all environmental (and many economic and social) problems are easier to solve with fewer people, and harder (and ultimately impossible) with more.
e) Environmental degradation including climate change and resource depletion is steadily reducing the number of people the Earth can indefinitely sustain.
f) Resource-intensive industrialisation, urbanisation and first world consumption patterns are further reducing the ultimate carrying capacity of the Earth.
g) Development (measured as GDP growth per person) is GDP growth less population growth; and so is hampered in the poorest countries by high birth rates, compounded by resource dilution and growing environmental damage.
h) Global population, increasing by 78 million per year (9,000 per hour), is projected to grow to 9.2 billion by 2050. The additional 2.4 billion, even in low-carbon countries, equates to two more ‘carbon USAs’.
i) Indefinite population growth being physically impossible, it must stop at some point: either sooner through fewer births by contraception and humane, pro-active population policy; or later through more deaths by famine, disease, war, and environmental collapse; or some combination of these.
j) The optimum population (best quality of life for all) is clearly much smaller than the maximum (bare survival).
Conclusion: Current population growth is both undesirable and unsustainable.
2. We recommend that:
The United Nations and intergovernmental organisations, governments, and non-governmental environment and development bodies should:
a) Recognise and acknowledge the factual truth of these statements.
b) Support, fund or ensure universal access to family planning information and services worldwide, as agreed at the 1994 Cairo Conference and in Millennium Development Goal 5 for 2015.
c) Support, fund or ensure the education and empowerment of women, enabling them to control their own fertility.
d) Adopt non-coercive policies to stabilise or reduce populations at or to sustainable levels, including planning for an ageing population.
e) Take firm measures, especially in high-consuming regions, to promote the reduction of per capita resource depletion and environmental degradation.
Optimum Population Trust UK; Population Institute USA; Population Institute of Canada, Sustainable Population Australia;