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Population Matters statement on UN World Population Prospects report 2019

Population Matters media release

17 June 2019, immediate use

Population Matters statement on UN World Population Prospects report 2019

Population Matters director Robin Maynard says:

“These figures represent the good, the bad and the ugly. The good: declining fertility and increasing longevity, reflecting improved quality of life for most of us, and at least the distant prospect of a flattening of population growth. The bad: astronomical population growth in the regions least able to cope, and the challenges of supporting a greater proportion of old people. And the ugly: billions more people putting intense pressure on a finite Earth, which already has overexploited natural resources, vanishing biodiversity and a dangerously warming climate.  Our numbers and impact on the planet are already too great, and billions more people to consume, make greenhouse gases and pollute threaten to undo all the good we can do in terms of reducing our impact in other ways.

“It’s very welcome to see a slight downwards adjustment in population projections [from 2017’s projections] but these figures nail the myth that population is going to decline soon – there’s only a one-in-four chance of that happening by the end of the century. Even these small gains are under threat. Family planning programmes in the world’s poorest countries are failing to meet their targets, while religious and political ideologues oppose birth control and choice over abortion, and promote pro-natal policies that threaten to undo the progress we’ve made.

“We must end our addiction to growth. Ageing populations are a challenge, but far from an insuperable one if we devote the resources necessary. Environmental catastrophe is a looming, credible and existential threat that requires us to take every ethical, practical measure at our disposal to ensure we have a habitable planet. If we don’t, nature could make its own intervention and our numbers could crash through the worst of all possible means.  

“These projections do offer hope: small changes in family size translate into a difference of several billion people by the end of the century – just half a child less per couple would see our population peak well before 2100 before declining to 7.3 bn. We have the time (just) and means to manage our population humanely and ethically such that future generations can live in balance and harmony with the natural world and the ecosystems upon which our wellbeing depends. That means family planning, education, women’s empowerment, ending poverty and promoting small families. Where people don’t have the choice to have a smaller family, they must have it – where they do have the choice, it’s vital they exercise it –especially in rich, high consuming countries where our environmental impact is so great. These projections represent too little progress, and without the right actions now, it will be too late to change them. That’s why the world needs an international policy framework on the overriding, upstream factor of population, as there is for the downstream issue of climate change.”



Alistair Currie, Head of Campaigns and Communications, Population Matters T: 0208 123 9170 E:

Notes for editors

The projections

United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs World Population Prospects 2019 

New projections are released every two years. The projections include a range of possible populations until 2100, with the medium projection being the most commonly used.  The 2019 medium global population projections are lower than those in the 2017 release:

  • 2050 9.7bn (9.8bn in the 2017 projections). This is 26% more than our current population of 7.7bn
  • 2100: 10.9bn (11.2bn in 2017 projections). This is 41% higher than our current population.

Prior to 2019, each successive projection has been revised upwards since 2002.

In regard to when the global population will peak, the accompanying 2019 World Population Prospects Highlights document states “Later in the century, although a continued increase of the global population is considered the most likely outcome, there is roughly a 27 per cent chance that the world’s population could stabilize or even begin to decrease sometime before 2100.” (p6)

The projections also include population projections figures illustrating the effects of global average fertility of half-a-child more than the medium projection, or half-a-child less.

  • Half-a-child less 8.9 bn by 2050 and 7.3 bn people by 2100 (lower than our current population)
  • Half-a-child more: 10.6 bn by 2050 and 15.6 bn by 2100.

Natural resources overexploitation

The Global Footprint Network calculates that we are currently using the renewable resources of 1.7 Earths and unless things change, will require three by 2050.

 Family planning

The Family Planning 2020 Partnership (FP2020) is the international project launched in 2012 to increase family planning uptake in the world’s poorest countries. The number of women who have taken up modern contraception has increased by 46 million since then but to meet its target of 120 million more women by 2020, another 74 million women would have to start using birth control in the next two years. FP2020 acknowledges that this target is now almost impossible to meet.


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