Jonathon Porritt: Britain should have 'zero net immigration' policy
By Charles Clover
Last Updated: 6:01pm BST 06/06/2008
Britain should set an example to the world by reversing its steeply-rising population growth and allowing no more people into the country than leave, the Government's chief “green” adviser has said.
Jonathon Porritt, chairman of the Sustainable Development Commission, said it was entirely possible to be “very progressive” on immigration while still having a policy of “zero net immigration” and no further population growth.
Mr Porritt told an audience at the Cheltenham Science Festival, he would like to see Britain's population on a declining trend, instead of increasing to 65 million in ten years and to 70 million by 2031.
Mr Porritt, who is a patron of the charity, the Optimum Population Trust, warned that globally spending on family planning was “massively” lower than the 8 billion spent on HIV/Aids.
Yet it should be around 12.5 billion to 15 billion if the world was to avoid a population of more than 9 billion or more by 2050.
Mr Porritt warned that in sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East, population trends were increasing “disastrously” because of low spending on family planning.
In Kenya and Ethiopia, spending on family planning was now running at 2 per cent of spending on HIV/Aids. As a result the population of Kenya, which had been thought to be around 40 million by the mid-century was now expected to be 80 million.
“We are guaranteeing an unstoppable flow of problems like HIV and Aids into the future,” he said.
Mr Porritt said there were “complex cultural and religious reasons” why globally family planning had such a low priority.
“I've highlighted the malign combination of a Catholic church which sees contraception as a wicked sin, a religious, ideological approach to family planning in the United States, politically correct and ignorant environmentalists and development economists.”
He said it was “incomprehensible” why environmentalists and development economists would not acknowledge the significance of family planning and population policies.
In fact, if one looked at the amount of carbon it would be possible to emit in 2050, without contributing to dangerous climate change, it was 10 billion tons of carbon, around one ton per person.
The larger the world's population was the more uncomfortable that would be, but if the right policies were adopted 30 years earlier it would be possible to keep the world's population at around 8 billion.
Mr Porritt said people were uneasy talking about family planning as a means of reducing population growth. “Politicians won't touch it because they think it will get them into trouble on immigration policy.”
Others thought “it takes you into China's one child per family and other authoritarian policies.” But he highlighted the example of Iran, where population growth had been halted simply through education, backed by religious leaders.
Around the world, he said, it was a universal truth that the longer girls remained in education, the fewer children they had. Mr Porritt said that the prevailing assumption of UN economists that population growth would fall as the world got richer was out of sync with the need for the human race to live within environmental limits.
“We can't wait for Bangladesh to get rich enough to do something about it. It will be game over for human kind at that point.”
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