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New offset project’s message: More condoms = less carbon

CondomPaying to plant trees on the other side of the world is one way to offset your carbon emissions, but a UK-based organisation says it’s got a better idea: investing in family planning, it says, is both a cheaper and more effective way to start curbing carbon now.

Such so-called PopOffsets, launched by the Optimum Population Trust, aim to help cut the world’s carbon footprint by letting people make online donations to support birth control.

Earlier this fall, the Optimum Population Trust released a report that found family planning is eight times cheaper as a way of tackling global warming than solar power, and four times less costly than wind power.

The PopOffsets project has the backing of some big names, including naturalist and broadcaster Sir David Attenborough, former diplomat Sir Crispin Tickell, as well as well known environmental campaigners like Jonathon Porritt and Sara Parkin.

The Optimum Population Trust estimates that every £4 spent on family planning saves one tonne of CO2. A similar reduction would require an £8 investment in tree planting, £15 in wind power, £31 in solar energy and £56 in hybrid vehicle technology.

The same broad conclusions have now been given authoritative endorsement by the UN Population Fund report.

“It has been acknowledged for many years the current level of human population growth is unsustainable and places acute pressure on global resources,” said Roger Martin, director of the Optimum Population Trust. “Human activity is exacerbating global warming, and higher population levels inevitably mean higher emissions and more climate change victims.”

Martin continued, “PopOffsets is an original and radical initiative that understands this connection and offers a practical and sensible response. For the first time ever individuals, companies and organisations will have the opportunity to offset their carbon voluntarily by supporting projects to provide family planning services where there is currently unmet demand.”

The project’s sponsors have made it clear they are opposed to any initiatives that advocate any form of coercion, with all potential projects subject to a rigorous checking process that is a pre-condition for financial support.

The PopOffsets launch was timed to highlight the link between carbon dioxide and population ahead of the Copenhagen climate change summit, which starts next week. The  campaign launch includes a targeted mailing graphically illustrating the core PopOffsets  message to UK government ministers and politicians, policy makers and key influencers.

“Politicians have evaded the population dimension to global warming and now it’s vitally important Copenhagen recognises this crucially important issue,” said John Guillebaud, a patron of the Optimum Population Trust. “The PopOffsets initiative is evidence this can be done in a sensible, mature, practical and compassionate way, by empowering people to make sustainable choices.”

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