As an island nation with limited land area and natural resources, the United Kingdom is under tremendous population pressure.

The UK is one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world and with no end to population growth in sight, pressure on wildlife, housing, public services and resources will continue to grow.

The UK population is growing

The population size of the United Kingdom is now more than 66 million people, which is the biggest it has ever been. In 1950, the population was 50 million: it is projected to be nearly 73m by 2041 (ONS). The UK is on track to be the largest nation in Europe by the second half of this century.

Since 1955 (except in 1976) the number of births in the UK has been higher than the number of deaths. Net migration increased the population by more than 250,000 people per year on average from 2004 to 2016. (ONS)

The UK has the highest teenage birth rate in Western Europe. (Family Planning Association)

Our consumption is unsustainable

An individual Briton produces 70 times more CO2 than a person from Niger. (World Bank)

According to the Global Footprint Network, the UK uses nearly three times the renewable natural resources its land can provide.

More than two-thirds of the land needed to produce the UK’s food and animal feed is abroad: 64% of the related greenhouse gases are emitted on foreign soil. (Journal of the Royal Society)


Our environment and quality of life are paying the price


The UK is one of the most “nature depleted” countries in the world, with more than one in seven species facing extinction and more than half in decline. (State of Nature Report 2016)

The government estimates the UK needs 200,000 new houses a year to meet growing demand. Some experts say 300,000. (Architects Journal)

An extra 750,000 school places will be needed in England by 2025 because of growing population. (Department for Education)

There were just over 16 million total hospital admissions in 2015/16, 28 per cent more than a decade earlier. The UK population grew by a little under 10% in the same period. (NHS Confederation)

The south-east of England ranks 161st out of 180 areas globally in terms of its ability to deliver sufficient water to its population. (Royal Geographical Society)

Population density in Europe is just 34 people/sq km. At 426 people/sq km, England is the most overcrowded large nation in the EU. (UNPD)


The critical present and future impact of population growth requires a coordinated and integrated policy approach by government. The UK should adopt a Sustainable Population Policy to:

  • Accurately determine future population growth in the UK and what factors and policies will affect it
  • Assess the impact of population on other policy fields (such as  climate change targets and public services) and integrate population policy into those areas
  • Set targets for ending population growth and stabilising population at a sustainable level
  • Develop an integrated policy framework to meet these targets, which recognises the importance of also addressing unsustainable consumption, and takes into account effects on other countries caused by any changes in migration policy
  • Ensure the UK takes positive, effective action through aid and intergovernmental activity to support stabilising the global population

Support our campaign

The present and future impact of population growth on the UK affects almost every aspect of national life and the work of government. It therefore requires a coordinated and integrated policy approach. The UK Government and devolved administrations in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales must introduce, through legislation, a UK-wide Sustainable Population Policy that is compassionate and meets legal and moral responsibilities for asylum seekers and refugees.