#07 Family Planning

This article explores family planning as a climate change solution. It is based on Project Drawdown, which was a 2017 initiative that mapped the top 100 most effective solutions to reverse global warming.


This is another example of what I really liked about Project Drawdown. I liked the diversity of solutions and the way that purely technological solutions are inter mingled with socio-economic solutions.

Family planning is a very touchy subject. A lot of people skirt around the issue, saying that it is a personal preference and has no place in discussions around climate change. Unfortunately, as we can see by family planning’s inclusion as the 7th most effective climate change solution, that would be a terrible mistake.

The authors begin with the following statement that:

“Securing the fundamental right to voluntary, high-quality family planning services around the world would have powerful positive impacts on the health, welfare, and life expectancy of both women and their children.”

 And that:

Family planning can also have ripple effects on drawing down greenhouse gas emissions.

Let’s look into the numbers that allowed family panning to be ranked as the 7th most effective climate change solution. Family planning could reduce CO2 emissions by 59.6 gigatons. The authors did not provide cost data for this solution as they considered it to be inappropriate to monetise a human right.

What is clear though, is that the magnitude of these solutions is starting to scale up. From solution 20, which was nuclear that could reduce CO2 emissions by 16.6 gigatons, to solution 8 which was solar farms that could reduce CO2 by 36.9. We are now talking about solutions that are 3.5 and 1.6 times more effective.

The authors go on to explain that:

When family planning focuses on healthcare provision and meeting women’s expressed needs, empowerment, equality, and well-being are the goal; benefits to the planet are side effects.”

Interestingly, the authors also point to: “growing evidence suggests that family planning has the additional benefit of building resilience – helping communities and countries better cope with and adapt to inevitable changes brought by global warming.

The authors close with the following important statement:

Currently, family planning programs receive just 1 percent of all overseas development assistance. That number could double, with low-income countries aiming to match it – a moral move that happens to have meaning for the planet.”

What you need to know

This article looked into family planning as a climate change solution. It was based on the analysis of Project Drawdown, which was a 2017 initiative that mapped the top 100 most effective climate change solutions.

What is clear is that there is a significant opportunity to adequately fund family planning worldwide. This is not only the right thing to do from a socio-economic standpoint. But it would have the side benefit of preventing massive amounts of carbon from being released into the atmosphere.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below or reach out to me on social media. What do you think of family planning as a climate change solution?

Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby


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