People and the planet

People and the planetPeople and the planet report

26 April 2012

Working Group member Dr Eliya Zulu, Executive Director, African Institute for Development Policy and President, Union for African Population Studies

Rapid and widespread changes in the world’s human population, coupled with unprecedented levels of consumption present profound challenges to human health and wellbeing, and the natural environment. This report gives an overview of how global population and consumption are linked, and the implications for a finite planet.

Key recommendations

Key recommendations include:

  1. The international community must bring the 1.3 billion people living on less than $1.25 per day out of absolute poverty, and reduce the inequality that persists in the world today. This will require focused efforts in key policy areas including economic development, education, family planning and health.
  2. The most developed and the emerging economies must stabilise and then reduce material consumption levels through: dramatic improvements in resource use efficiency, including: reducing waste; investment in sustainable resources, technologies and infrastructures; and systematically decoupling economic activity from environmental impact.
  3. Reproductive health and voluntary family planning programmes urgently require political leadership and financial commitment, both nationally and internationally. This is needed to continue the downward trajectory of fertility rates, especially in countries where the unmet need for contraception is high.
  4. Population and the environment should not be considered as two separate issues. Demographic changes, and the influences on them, should be factored into economic and environmental debate and planning at international meetings, such as the Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development and subsequent meetings.

Working Group chair Sir John Sulston FRS, Chair of the Institute for Science, Ethics & Innovation, University of Manchester.

Other recommendations made in the report focus on:

  • the potential for urbanisation to reduce material consumption
  • removing barriers to achieve high-quality primary and secondary education for all
  • undertaking more research into the interactions between consumption, demographic change and environmental impact
  • implementing comprehensive wealth measures
  • developing new socio-economic systems.
People Planet


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People and the planet

Final report and carbon scenarios data
published April 2012

Evidence gathering
closed February 2011

Project details, Terms of reference and Working Group
announced in July 2010