Family planning best carbon offset, says charity

Posted: 3 December 2009

Family planning is eight times cheaper as a way of tackling global warming than solar power and four times less costly than wind power, according to the sponsors of a radical new carbon offset initiative.

UK-based charity, the Optimum Population Trust (OPT), says its research will give added impetus to calls for the population issue to be to the fore of the global environmental debate ahead of next week's climate summit in Copenhagen.

OPT is launching the PopOffsets project which has the backing of the charity's influential Patrons including naturalist and broadcaster Sir David Attenborough, former diplomat Sir Crispin Tickell, as well as leading environmental campaigners, Jonathon Porritt and Sara Parkin.

A family receives family planning advice at Kivunge Hospital, Zanzibar.
A family receives family planning advice at Kivunge Hospital, Zanzibar.
A family receives family planning advice at Kivunge Hospital, Zanzibar. Photo © Sala Lewis/UNFPA
The project has a dedicated website,, enabling people to offset their carbon footprint by making on-line donations to OPT to support family planning. The impetus for the project was a major OPT research project showing that meeting the otherwise unmet demand for family planning could be the most cost effective means of achieving CO2 reductions.

OPT estimates every £4 spent on family planning saves one tonne of CO2. A similar reduction would require an £8 investment in tree planting, £15 in wind power, £31 in solar energy and £56 in hybrid vehicle technology.

The same broad conclusions have now been given authoritative endorsement by the latest State of World Population Report from the UN Popuolation Fund (UNFPA).

OPT Director Roger Martin said: "It has been acknowledged for many years the current level of human population growth is unsustainable and places acute pressure on global resources. Human activity is exacerbating global warming, and higher population levels inevitably mean higher emissions and more climate change victims.

"PopOffsets is an original and radical initiative that understands this connection and offers a practical and sensible response. For the first time ever individuals, companies and organisations will have the opportunity to offset their carbon voluntarily by supporting projects to provide family planning services where there is currently unmet demand."

The project's sponsors have made it clear they are opposed to any initiatives that advocate any form of coercion, with all potential projects subject to a rigorous checking process - a pre-condition for financial support.

The PopOffsets launch is being timed to highlight the CO2 / population link ahead of the Copenhagen climate change summit which starts next week.

OPT Patron, Professor John Guillebaud said: "Politicians have evaded the population dimension to global warming and now it's vitally importantCopenhagen recognises this crucially important issue. The PopOffsets initiative is evidence this can be done in a sensible, mature, practical andcompassionate way, by empowering people to make sustainable choices."