A Case for Climate Change Mitigation Through Family Planning, Female Education

A family planning cente at the Rabia Balkhi Hospital in Kabul, Afghanistan. Women’s education and family planning are more cost-competitive than most low-carbon energy development initiatives, according to a paper by the Center for Global Development. Photo by: Jawad Jalali / United Nations

The U.N. climate change conference in Mexico is only a few weeks away and a number of environment experts are outlining alternatives on how donors can help poor countries mitigate climate change beyond low-carbon energy development. These alternatives include investing in women’s education and family planning programs.

Women’s education and family planning are more cost-competitive than most low-carbon energy development initiatives, including solar, wind or nuclear power, carbon capture and storage and forest conservation, a new paper published by the Center for Global Development suggests.

“We believe that the evidence is strongly consistent with an allocation of some carbon mitigation resources to the population policy options. The case for female education is also strengthened by its contribution to resilience in the face of the climate change that has already become inevitable,” David Wheeler and Dan Hammer write in the paper titled “The Economics of Population Policy for Carbon Emissions Reduction in Developing Countries.”

Wheeler and Hammer use the latest information on emissions and program costs and effectiveness to develop county-specific measures for emission reduction through female education and family planning. They compared the costs they arrived at with the costs of technical emission abatement options assessed in previous studies.

“The population policy options are less costly than almost all of the Nauclér/Enkvist options [in a major study for McKinsey & Co. in 2009] in low-carbon energy and forestry/agriculture, and far less costly than the renewable energy options that are receiving the lion’s share of current attention,” the two share.

Wheeler and Hammer further note that family planning turns out to be more cost-effective in 70 percent of the developing countries used in their sample. But both clarified that there is strong evidence against separating family planning activities and initiatives on female education.

“We find that female education has a significant, positive impact on the productivity of family planning programs,” they explain. “The clear implication is that dividing the population policy budget between family planning and female education will be more productive than allocating it solely to one activity.”

About the author

  • Ivy Mungcal

    As former senior staff writer, Ivy Mungcal contributed to several Devex publications. Her focus is on breaking news, and in particular on global aid reform and trends in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean, and the Americas. Before joining Devex in 2009, Ivy produced specialized content for U.S. and U.K.-based business websites.