An article from PSN and the Population and Climate Change Alliance (PCCA) has been published today at the Rio+20 informal-informal negotiations taking place in New York, calling for a key focus on population and reproductive rights on the Rio+20 agenda.
'Informal-informal' negotiations are taking place at the UN this week on the outcome document of the Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development being held in June.
The article Population, Reproductive Rights and Planetary Boundaries: Critical Links and Opportunities by PSN’s Sarah Fisher features in an edition of the stakeholder magazine Outreach produced for day three of the negotiations on the theme of Planetary Boundaries.
Drawing upon the PCCA’s campaign to ensure a focus on population and reproductive health and rights at Rio+20, the article argues that; "Achieving universal reproductive health and rights offers a win-win strategy that would reduce pressure on each of the critical boundaries while driving progress towards the social boundaries we must reach if sustainable development is to deliver for all."
The planetary boundaries approach identifies nine critical environmental processes and thresholds that must be respected if we are to prevent irreversible environmental change at continental to global scales. Building on this approach, Oxfam has introduced the concept of ‘social boundaries,’ highlighting that; “just as there is an environmental ceiling, above which lies unacceptable environmental degradation, so too there is a social foundation, below which lies unacceptable human deprivations.”
Population and reproductive rights are critical but neglected links in the debate over potential policies to help ensure we respect both the planetary and social boundaries that offer a safe and just operating space for humanity.
Responding to this situation, the article highlights that whether it is increasing change of land use, freshwater use, climate change or any of the other nine critical thresholds identified by the planetary boundaries approach, population growth is a common denominator because pressures on ecosystems stem from human demands for food, water, energy, land etc.
Acknowledging that unfair and inequitable consumption must also be addressed, the article calls for an end to the simplistic belief that the cause and solution lies in either 'population' or 'consumption.' Instead we must embrace the full range of strategies available, and if population is absent from the debate the effectiveness of other interventions will be significantly compromised.
Drawing attention to the significant unmet need that exists for contraception, at Rio+20 global leaders are called upon to commit to increased investment in voluntary sexual and reproductive health programmes that respect and protect rights. For at the same time as easing pressures on planetary boundaries, achieving universal reproductive health and rights would drive progress towards health, gender equality, poverty alleviation and other important goals for the social boundaries that are critical to securing sustainable development.
Another PCCA article Advancing reproductive rights: a win-win for women and sustainability, was published in Outreach at the Rio+20 2nd intersessional meeting at the UN in December 2011.
Further information about the PCCA's Rio+20 work is available here.
The article has also been published on the website of the Planetary Boundaries Initiative; a unique multi-disciplinary collaboration that aims for global action on governance to ensure that humanity does not stress critical Earth-system processes known as Planetary Boundaries beyond the Earth’s tipping points.