México City, 13 October 2010 - By the year 2050, the world’s population will have grown by 50%, mostly concentrated in urban areas. By that same year, we will also need to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 50% in order to keep climate change in check. “I call this the 50-50-50 challenge” said Cynthia Scharf, representative of the Secretary General’s Global Sustainability Panel and Climate Change Support Team, in her opening remarks last Wednesday.

Ms. Scharf was one of several high profile panelists who made opening statements at a conference on Population Dynamics and Climate Change II: Building for Adaptation, convened by United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA), International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) and El Colegio de Mèxico, Center for Demographic, Urban and Environment Studies (CEDUA) in México City. Other panelists reiterated these same challenges, arguing for the need to integrate population dynamics and demographic information with climate change adaptation.

The opening ceremony kicked off a three-day event (13 to 15 October) that incorporated presentations from academics, policy makers and practitioners exploring the importance of population dynamics for climate change.

The concept of population dynamics goes beyond population size and growth rate. Population-related information includes fertility rates, migration patterns, spatial distribution, age structure, household size and composition, race and ethnicity, and gender. Understanding population dynamics can provide a more detailed and disaggregated picture of stakeholder groups, since many communities and constituents are not homogenous, particularly when it comes to vulnerability to climate change.

A pre-meeting framework paper entitled Populating Adaptation: Incorporating Demographic Dynamics in Climate Change Adaptation Policy and Practice (by Daniel Schensul, UNFPA and David Dodman, IIED) makes the case that “without better consideration of the limitations of current understandings of vulnerability and adaptation, and the incorporation of an understanding of population dynamics in addressing these limitations, adaptation policies and programmes will increasingly fall short of their intended outcomes.”

This point is particularly relevant to the Africa Adaptation Programme (AAP), a flagship programme of UNDP with funding from Japan. The AAP supports 20 countries in Africa in the development of their capability to design and implement holistic climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction programmes that are aligned with national development priorities. Understanding vulnerability of national populations, and the potential shifts in future populations, is essential for developing targeted policies and capacities to develop resilience.

“Population dynamics is definitively an important aspect decision makers in Africa need to take into account in order to make informed decisions in relation to climate changes,” said AAP Knowledge Management Specialist, Jose Levy, who gave a presentation on AAP during the meeting. “However, translation of these needs into concrete actions still needs to be organized,” he said.

In outlining the case for the importance of population dynamics in climate change adaptation, the framework paper, Populating Adaptation, presented three arguments. First, population projections can provide reliable scenarios with regards to the size and composition of the population in the future, with important implications for climate policy. Second, population issues are closely linked to economic and social development, affecting formal and informal economic development, access to social safety nets and services, needs in education, dependency ratios and other key components of development which all provide indirect opportunities for adaptation. Third, some population dynamics provide a direct foundation for adaptation actions, such as migration and gender.


According to the framework paper, “Incorporating population dynamics into adaptation can help in understanding who is most vulnerable, why, and how to target policies to decrease that vulnerability.”

In order to design the concrete actions needed to illustrate these linkages, Mr. Levy described the AAP as presenting an important opportunity, and identified several possible entry points for integrating population dynamics and climate change adaptation work under the AAP. These suggestions included advocacy for building linkages between population dynamics and climate change, access to information and population data to support policy development, focusing interventions on socio‐economic issues related to population, and guidance on integrating population issues into policies and strategies.

“The AAP provides an excellent opportunity and a port of entry for integration of population dynamics issues and dissemination of key messages in 20 African countries where the AAP is already operating,” said Mr. Levy.

“Population is one of the critical elements influencing our efforts towards sustainable human development,” says Veerle Vandeweerd, Director of UNDP’s Environment and Energy Group. “UNDP hopes to strengthen its collaboration with the U.N. Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA) and its partners, particularly around the AAP, in order to build the evidence for the importance of linking population dynamics and climate change adaptation on the ground,” she says.

For more information on the Africa Adaptation Programme, please contact Mihoko Kumamoto at: <a href="mailto:Mihoko.kumamoto@undp.org ">Mihoko.kumamoto@undp.org </a> at the United Nations Development Programme in New York or Ian Rector at: <a href="mailto:ian.rector@undp.org">ian.rector@undp.org</a> in Dakar, or visit