Statement in response to UNFPA 2023 State of World Population report

19 April 2023, immediate use

Executive Director, Robin Maynard says:

The UN’s State of World Population Report opts for the cautious middle ground between “too few” people and “too many”. That’s an oversimplification that serves no one and avoids what most people understand to be obvious: There are too many of us, consuming too much.

The report does acknowledge that the most common population belief among people globally is that it is too high, [1] but then condescendingly dismisses that as reflecting public ignorance, rather than asking, ‘Why do so many people worldwide from different continents and cultures hold that view?’

The answer is not that they have been exposed to “population rhetoric” or don’t understand demographic data, but because they are experiencing real-time erosion of their wellbeing, of the natural environment and its life-supporting systems. Whether that’s through strained public services and loss of green space in affluent countries, or water conflicts and millions stuck in poverty in low-income countries, people can connect the dots.

The UNFPA report side-steps the scientific evidence that population growth, alongside unsustainable economic growth, is a key driver of our climate and biodiversity crises – as per the IPCC’s blunt statement last year that, ‘Globally, GDP per capita and population growth remained the strongest drivers of CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion’. [2] The report also ducks stating that the reason our population now exceeds 8 billion people is a collective and shameful failure in achieving gender equality, poverty alleviation, quality education and contraception access for all.

It is good to see the UN highlighting the rising threat of pro-natal policies, which limit reproductive rights in pursuit of nationalistic, racist or economic goals. Those policies and goals are truly the product of ignorance.

And we’re grateful that the UN cites our pioneering report, Welcome To Gilead, flagging up the rise of rights-restricting pro-natalism in their report. [3]

Concern about our rising population is not a product of ignorance or ideology, but a rational response to the evidence.  Of course, population is not our only challenge, addressing inequity, social and global justice and human rights is essential – but progressive, rights and choice-based population solutions accelerate the achievement of all of those public and individual ‘goods’.



Alistair Currie, Head of Campaigns and Communications


T: +44 (0)208 123 9170


[1] Page 44 of the full report

[2] Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Climate change 2022: mitigation of climate change: “Globally, Gross Domestic Product (GDP)  per capita and population growth remained the strongest drivers of CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion in the last decade (high confidence). Trends since 1990 continued in the years 2010 to 2019 with GDP per capita and population growth increasing emissions by 2.3% and 1.2% yr-1, respectively.” (p217)

[3] Welcome to Gilead: pronatalism and the threat to reproductive rights Population Matters report (2021)

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.

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