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The World and the UN Must Reduce Population Growth

The United Nations' 17 Sustainable Development Goals imply that there is no longer any need to reduce global population growth, even though it is a serious problem that undermines most of the SDG targets. By adding a further SDG aimed at slowing the increase in population, the world could yet save the UN’s 2030 Agenda.

GOTHENBURG/LONDON – On September 24-25, world leaders will gather at the United Nations in New York to review progress toward the UN’s 2030 Agenda and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals. The SDGs, which aim “to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all,” are commendable, and summarize the kind of world many of us wish to see in 2030. But if this vision is to have any chance of materializing, governments must now add an 18th goal: “Dampen population growth.”

The challenges that humanity faces today stem mainly from overconsumption and overpopulation. Yet policymakers often fail to consider the two factors together, and largely neglect population growth in particular.

The overall human impact on the global environment is the product of population size and average per capita consumption. The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has concluded that population growth and economic (consumption) growth are the two main causes of global warming. Per capita resource consumption and greenhouse-gas emissions are highest in developed economies, while rapid population growth in developing countries contributes to the loss of forests and biodiversity.

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