EMBARGOED UNTIL 10:00, 29 November 2019
Jane Goodall, Chris Packham and giant inflatable baby call for smaller families to fight climate change
Climate strikers in Parliament Square on November 29th will be joined by the biggest campaigner yet – 7m high Big Baby will be bringing the message that having fewer children is one of the most effective steps that people can take in fighting climate change.
Helium-filled Big Baby is being brought to the event by the charity Population Matters, as part of its campaign to highlight the importance of population and family size in driving, and tackling, the climate crisis. The stunt has been backed by Population Matters patron Chris Packham, who says:
"From protecting our forests to changing our diets, as a society and as individuals there are many things we need to do to help avert climate catastrophe. One of those is to have an open, rational conversation about our population and our family sizes. If that takes a giant inflatable baby joining this Friday's climate strike, I'm all for it."
His fellow-patron, Dame Jane Goodall says:
"The climate crisis that now threatens life on Earth as we know it results from a combination of different human activities, including the pollution of land, air and water, our reckless burning of fossil fuels, the destruction of forests, extreme poverty, and the unsustainable life styles of so many of us. And all of this is impacted by the relentless growth of human populations and their livestock. Educating and empowering women and girls and providing family planning information enables more people to choose the size of their families. And choosing to have fewer children is one of the most important choices we can make."
Big Baby’s public debut takes place immediately before the COP25 meeting in Madrid. Carrying a toy aeroplane and wearing a bib saying “Guess my weight in CO2”, Big Baby will inform activists, politicians and the public that, for Brits who can make the choice, having one fewer child is the most effective single action they can take to cut the emissions they are responsible for (1).
Big Baby will also put these figures into perspective. If the giant inflatable was filled with CO2 rather than helium (which is not a greenhouse gas), it would have a mass of just 60kg – meaning it would take nearly two-hundred Big Babies to contain the 11.9 tonnes of CO2-equivalent each British person is responsible for in just one year. (2)
The link between population and climate change has been reinforced in a number of authoritative studies and reports recently. Those include:
- In November 2019, 11,000 scientists endorsed the World Scientists’ Warning of a Climate Emergency. The warning noted that “[e]conomic and population growth are among the most important drivers of increases in CO2 emissions” and called for the global population to be “stabilized—and, ideally, gradually reduced—within a framework that ensures social integrity.” (3)
- Project Drawdown, an international collaborative project involving researchers from 22 countries, ranked the top available mechanisms for cutting carbon emissions, by tonnage of CO2 saved. Educating girls was ranked sixth and family planning ranked seventh - both featured because of their effect in reducing population growth. Combined, they save more carbon than onshore and offshore wind combined. (4)
- The International Panel on Climate Change has identified economic and population growth as “the most important drivers of increases in CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion.” (6)
Population Matters director Robin Maynard says:
“Big Baby is a humorous prompt for people to think seriously about their individual choices. Each and every one of us added to the planet contributes to climate change. If we are to ensure a safe world for future generations to grow up in, we must make responsible choices now - choosing a smaller family is the most effective eco-action any of us can take.
“Of course, there are multiple, additional transformative actions that society, business and politics must take to curb climate change - that’s the message of Friday’s climate strike, which we fully support. Big Baby’s job is to remind people, politicians and the policymakers meeting in Madrid that choosing to have smaller families (especially in the developed world, responsible for the greater proportion of historic and current emissions), is the most effective, available means for taking the heat off our planet and ensuring our long-term wellbeing.”
A growing number of people are making the choice to have smaller families because of their concerns about the environment. In a recent interview with Dame Jane Goodall, Prince Harry said that he and the Duchess of Sussex would have “Two [children], maximum!” (6)
Anna Hughes, a climate campaigner and director of Flight-Free UK,, has chosen to have no children. Anna says:
“In my early 20s I realised that we couldn’t keep expanding our population and expect our finite planet to cope, so I decided not to have children. My friends told me that I would change my mind, but now, in my late 30s, I still haven’t. I do everything I can to reduce my impact on the planet – I don’t fly, I’m vegan, I don’t own a car, I use solar energy – but the most impactful thing I can do is not to have my own children. I don’t see it as a restriction, but a positive choice to act on climate change.”
On the day: Alistair Currie, Head of Campaigns and Communications, Population Matters
T: 0208 123 9170
Big Baby's presence is independent of the climate strike taking place, and was not organised with or by the UK Student Climate Network
- Emissions savings. The Climate Change Committee states that the UK’s consumption emissions were 784 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2e) in 2016, the last year for which accurate figures can be calculated (Reducing UK emissions: 2019 progress report). The UK’s population in 2016 was 65.65 million people (Office for National Statistics, 2019 report), making the current average per capita level of emissions 11.9tCO2e per year. Consumption emissions are higher than the often-used “territorial emissions” which account only for emissions arising on UK soil. Consumption emissions include emissions arising abroad from goods or services imported into the UK, and remove emissions produced here by goods or services exported abroad. Other figures in the graphic are obtained from The climate mitigation gap: education and government recommendations miss the most effective individual actions, Wynes and Nicholas (2017). Environmental Research Letters. The figures used are specific to the UK. The Wynes and Nicholas research originally evaluated the benefits of having one fewer child if the potential emissions of descendants of the child not born were also included. Its figures were entirely illustrative as it assumed unchanging per capita CO2 emissions in future, but it concluded that savings averaged out over generations could be as high as 58.6 tonnes per year for the average individual in the developed world.
- 11.9 MtCO2e is 11,900kg. Divided by 60kg, this is 198.3.
- William J Ripple et al, World Scientists’ Warning of a Climate Emergency, BioScience, biz088, https://doi.org/10.1093/biosci/biz088 The paper has been endorsed by more than 11,000 scientists
- Project Drawdown, 2017, Solutions by rank
- Climate Change 2014 Synthesis Report, International Panel on Climate Change (2014):
- Vogue, September 2019. The prince went on to say “I’ve always thought: this place is borrowed and, surely, being as intelligent as we all are, or as evolved as we all are supposed to be, we should be able to leave something better behind for the next generation.”
Population Matters is a UK-based charity working globally to achieve a sustainable future for people and planet. Our mission is to drive positive, large-scale action through fostering choices that help achieve a sustainable human population and regenerate our environment.
135-137 Station Rd, London e$ 6AG
Registered charity: 1114109