Population Matters media release

29 April 2021, immediate use

Family planning aid cut betrays women and undermines Prime Minister’s climate change claims

The widely condemned 85% cut to the UK’s contribution to the United Nations Population Fund yesterday (1) will not only cause grave harm to millions of the most vulnerable girls and women, says campaign group Population Matters, but is in contradiction with the Prime Minister’s claim that addressing climate change is “the UK’s foremost international priority”. (2) The charity cites authoritative evidence from Project Drawdown that family planning has a critical role in reducing emissions.

Population Matters director Robin Maynard says:

“The Government’s immoral and inhumane cut in its contribution to UNFPA will bring direct harm, indeed death, to hundreds of thousands of the poorest women and girls in the poorest countries. For this alone, it is unconscionable, but the government is compounding this by failing to recognise it will also bring harm to our planet, leading to greater greenhouse gas emissions, so exacerbating the climate emergency – unjustly impacting on the poorest the most.”

The UNFPA estimates that the UK’s cut in contribution may lead to:

In a rolling international study of climate change solutions, Project Drawdown analyses 80 available, practical policy options for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, ranging from plant-based diets to refrigerant management. Even when factoring in the far lower climate emissions of countries in the Global South, its most recent findings are that:

Empowering women and girls through universal access to education and safe, modern family planning would save 85Gt of emissions by 2050, making it the second most effective solution in limiting warming to 2°C and fifth most effective in limiting warming to 1.5°C. (4)

In addition to yesterday’s cut to UNFPA contributions, it is estimated that foreign aid cuts announced last week will also lead to aid for girls’ education being reduced by up to 25% on 2019/20. (5)

Women’s and girl’s rights activist Malala Yousafzai has endorsed Project Drawdown’s conclusions, recently stating:

“When girls are educated and when they stay in schools, they get married later in their lives, then they have less children and that helps us to reduce the impacts of climate change that the population increase brings.” (6)

Robin Maynard continues:

“The combined effect of education and empowering the millions of women across the world without choice over contraception to have autonomy over their own bodies, is a more effective climate solution than almost all popularly publicised technological solutions, including electric cars, and solar, offshore wind, wave and tidal power. The government’s actions are especially perverse as it prepares to host the global climate talks in Glasgow. Cutting aid for family planning demonstrates the Government’s ignorance of the clear connection between the wellbeing and rights of women and girls globally and tackling climate change.

“This short-sighted and brutal decision also belies COP26 President Alok Sharma’s previous positive statement to the UN emphasising the UK’s commitment to reproductive rights for the poorest. This betrayal is far more damaging and contradictory than the earlier fiasco over the go-ahead to a new coal mine in Cumbria. Hundreds of thousands of lives, not just a few ‘red wall’ votes, will be lost.” (7,8)

CONTACT: Alistair Currie, Head of Campaigns and Communications

T: 0208 123 9170 (24hrs)

E: alistair.currie@populationmatters.org

Notes for editors

  1. UNFPA Statement, 28 April 2021. The cuts are being made on money already committed to the fund.
  2. UK Government, March 2021,  Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy
  3. UNFPA Statement, as above
  4. Project Drawdown (2020)
  5. The Guardian, 22 April 2021   
  6. Comments made at Chatham House event, 12 March 2021
  7. A 2019 study by researchers at the United Nations Population Fund estimated the number of women who wish to avoid pregnancy but are not currently using modern birth control methods at approximately 270 million. Kantorová et al (2020) Estimating progress towards meeting women’s contraceptive needs in 185 countries: A Bayesian hierarchical modelling study, PLOS Medicine.
  8. Statement, 23 September 2019

Population Matters is a UK-based campaigning charity, promoting a sustainable global population through ethical, choice-based means, to improve people’s lives and protect the natural world.


135-137, Station Rd, London E4 6AG

Charity no: 1114109


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