UNFPA Reports New Population Pressures on Development and Environment
7 November 2001 The world's six billion people are using more of the
earth's resources than ever before, according to a new report by the United
Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), and unless significant action is taken, the
damage to the environment will only increase as the world's population
continues to grow.
With a global population that is growing by 75 million people a year - all in
developing countries - it is projected that by 2050, the world will have 9.3
billion people. The population of the world's poorest countries will triple
over that time, from 668 million people at present to 1.86 billion in 2050.
But increasing affluence, especially in developed countries, has led to a sharp
rise in consumption. Carbon dioxide emissions in developed countries have
skyrocketed by 100 times during the last century, and UNFPA estimates that a
child born today in an industrialized country will add more to consumption and
pollution over his or her lifetime than 30 to 50 children born in developing
countries. At the same time, an increasing population in developing countries
will require a major increase in food production and will lead to the further
overuse of already fragile lands.
While an increasing population does not necessarily mean increasing damage to
the environment, and slower population growth offers no guarantee of
environmental protection, Thoraya Obaid, Executive Director of UNFPA, said that
"poverty and rapid population growth are a deadly combination." As a
result, she said, "We are therefore advocating action to improve clean and
efficient technology and make it available to developing countries. We are also
advocating balanced and integrated population policies."
The UNFPA State of the World Population 2001 report, "Footprints and
Milestones: Population and Environmental Change," is pegged to next year's
World Summit on Sustainable Development, which will take place in Johannesburg
ten years after the Rio Earth Summit. Obaid said the purpose of the report was
to look at the actual impact of human activity on the planet, and to target
As things stand right now, the report points out, some 2 billion people already
lack food security, and water supplies and agricultural lands are under
increasing pressure. While the world's population has tripled over the past 70
years, water use has risen six-fold during that time. In a world where unclean
water and poor sanitation presently kill over 12 million people each year and
air pollution kills nearly 3 million, UNFPA estimates that by 2050, 4.2 billion
people will be living in countries that cannot meet people's daily basic needs.
To address these concerns, Obaid called for more resources, along with
political will and "the tenacity to stay the course." Specific
actions that are practical and affordable, she said, include the empowerment of
women, universal education and primary health care, including high-quality
reproductive health services.
The report calls next year's Johannesburg Summit an opportunity to incorporate
an integrated social agenda-including education for all and universal access to
reproductive health care and family planning-into initiatives to promote
See http://www.unfpa.org/swp/2001/english/index.html for full
text of report.
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Department of Economic and
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24 August 2006