Rhein on Energy and Climate

World population is expected to increase by one third until the middle of the century, from 7.3 to to 9.5 billion. This is bound to have a negative impact on climate change. Population will essentially continue growing in poor countries whose green house gas emissions are presently close to zero.

According to the “Lima Accord” all countries are committed to communicate their plans for reducing emissions before the end of March 2015.

For most African countries it would not make much sense to submit energy-related programmes, as their per capita emissions are minimal – generally far less than one ton. Their optimal contribution to the global fight against climate change should rather consist of lowering their excessive population growth.

Lowering population growth is in their interest. It facilitates necessary investments in health, education and socio-economic infrastructure and helps reducing structurally high unemployment.

It requires little public investment except for girl schools and medical teams for distributing contraceptives or sterilisations. External help, especially from the UN and the EU which has far too long ignored demography, should be available to all governments willing to tackle their population issue. Ethiopia and Rwanda are positive examples of what can be achieved.

The new bottom-up approach to climate change should offer a new opportunity for re-assessing the positive long-term contribution from smaller populations to mitigating climate change.

The UN should therefore invite all countries with fast population growth to also submit population programmes as a valid contribution to minimising climate change.

Eberhard Rhein, Brussels, 30.12. 2014

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