Today’s news headlines are flooded with statements about climate change and its impacts, thanks to a new report issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The take-away? Climate change is here and already impacting the world’s poorest and most vulnerable communities.
But what you may not have read—what most of the coverage left out—is that the IPCC also identifies how people can reduce their vulnerability and adapt to these impacts. And family planning is a part of that story.
The IPCC is the world’s leading government and scientific community, which reviews existing climate science and informs the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). As part of this work, the IPCC periodically publishes reports which assess the current the state of knowledge about climate change and its potential impacts.
The IPCC’s Fourth Assessment report was published in 2007. The Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) is now being released by the thematic areas of the IPCC’s three working groups, and is expected to influence next year’s negotiations on a new global climate treaty. Working Group I released their contribution, “The Physical Science Basis,” in September 2013. Last night, government representatives and scientists met in Yokohama, Japan to finalize Working Group II’s contribution to the Fifth Assessment Report, “Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability.” This report, for the first time ever, recognized the social dimensions of climate change adaptation – including population dynamics and the importance of family planning.
The acknowledgement of the links between population dynamics, family planning, and climate change by the world’s leading scientific voice on the issue is a monumental event. With strong science to back them up, we hope that political leaders will apply these concepts in their national policies and programs.
At PAI, we have a long history of exploring the links between population, the environment, health, and family planning. We have fought hard to build the evidence base, and PAI’s research on how population issues are addressed in National Adaptation Programmes of Action (NAPAs) was cited in the latest IPCC report. But, the work does not stop there. We need to continue to highlight these links and advocate for integrated policies and programs at the national level.
A team of PAI staff just returned from Malawi, where the news of the IPCC report was turned into action. PAI and its partner, LEAD, brought together civil society, ministry officials, and journalists to discuss opportunities for the integration of family planning into climate adaptation programs and policies in Malawi. As a result, government officials promised strong language on the links between climate change, population, family planning, and reproductive health in Malawi’s UNFCC position paper for the upcoming COP20 meeting in Peru. They also agreed to share a draft of the position paper with civil society before finalizing it. Journalists covered the IPPC report on national radio in order to build awareness about the links between the environment, population, health, and family planning in Malawi.
Women live integrated lives and they need integrated solutions. We hope other countries will follow Malawi’s lead and translate the IPCC report into action.