A new United Nations report, Global Population Growth and Sustainable Development, part of a series on major demographic trends, says, the rise in per capita income has been more important than population growth in driving increased production and consumption and emissions of greenhouse gases.
“More affluent countries bear the greatest responsibility for moving rapidly to achieve net-zero emissions of greenhouse gases and for implementing strategies to decouple human economic activity from environmental degradation,” adds the report released on Wednesday.
The authors also accept the fact that population growth magnifies the harmful impact of economic processes on the environment. The number of people on the planet more than tripled since 1950 and could reach nearly 11 billion by the end of the century, which examines the links between population growth and the social, economic and environmental dimensions of sustainable development.
The study has found that most of the world’s future population growth will take place in developing countries. It reveals how these countries will require support to reduce future emissions as their economies advance, as well as the necessary technical and financial assistance. Food systems will also have to become more sustainable to both meet growing needs and limit environmental damage.
The rapid rise in population is because people are living longer, due to improvements in public health, nutrition, personal hygiene and medicine. Calling this growth “one of the greatest successes of social and economic development,” the authors held it responsible for the failure to ensure all people have the knowledge, ability and means to determine whether and when they want to have children. Providing access to reproductive health care, particularly for women, can accelerate social and economic development and help to disrupt intergenerational cycles of poverty, the authors said.
The reports advised the countries with relatively high levels of fertility to invest in education and health and promote full employment for all. A resulting decline in fertility could create a “window of opportunity” for accelerated economic growth.