We came across a post on X that claims that the British government has declared that declining birth rates will help save the planet.
In support of its claim, the post cites an article by The People’s Voice (TPV) that states that the British government is not concerned with falling birth rates, but rather views it as a desirable outcome as lesser children will reduce the country’s carbon footprint.
TPV, an American news publication, has had a history of publishing inaccurate or misleading information while using subversive tactics such as placing a “fact-checked” label at the beginning of its articles, to build a perception of credibility.
Falling birth rates in the UK
The birth rate in the UK has hit its lowest in 20 years in a trend of long-term decline, according to recent statistics published by UK’s Office of National Statistics. The UK saw 605,479 live births in 2022 which was 3.1% lower than the 624,828 live births in 2021.
The TPV article relies on an article by The Telegraph titled “UK birth slump dubbed ‘good for planet’ as number of babies born hits 20-year low” to support its assertion that the British government has declared that falling birth rates are beneficial to the planet.
It did not cite any official press releases or statements by the government in support of its claim. We were also unable to identify any official statements by the government addressing the point that falling birth rates could save the planet. Upon closer look, the statement was actually made by a former government advisor – Professor Sarah Harper CBE.
Professor Harper, the founder and director of the Oxford Institute of Population Ageing, informed The Telegraph that “it’s a good thing that the high-income, high-consuming countries of the world are reducing the number of children that they’re having” and added that declining fertility in rich countries would help to address the “general overconsumption that we have at the moment”, which has a negative impact on the planet.
Carbon Footprints and Overconsumption
Carbon footprint refers to the amount of carbon dioxide emissions as well as other greenhouse gas emissions related to activities of people or entities. This could include emissions from transportation and electricity produced in the process of goods and service consumption. A higher carbon footprint will lead to more climate extremes and harmful effects for the planet.
According to The Telegraph article, research shows that wealthy nations are more inclined to have larger carbon footprints than poorer countries as they can afford to, among other things, travel more and purchase more goods. Carbon emissions from high-income countries were supposedly 29 times higher than low-income countries on a per capita basis in 2020, based on World Bank figures.
With declining birth rates, the shrinking population in wealthy countries could lead to lesser travel and lower levels of consumption of goods and services, that may result in lower emissions and thereby aid in efforts to tackle climate change.
Is the British government unconcerned about falling birth rates?
Although declining birth rates may reduce carbon emissions and help combat climate change, this could still significantly impact a nation in other areas.
According to experts in the UK, falling birth rates would have an impact on a country’s economic growth and public finances and growth potential. Lesser births will reduce the already shrinking working population and lead to greater tax demands on the working population.
While a growing population that fights for the finite resources available on earth could be avoided through falling birth rates, it does not come without its trade-offs that could be equally concerning to a nation. Hence, it seems unlikely that the British government would be unconcerned about declining birth rates.
In the context of the TPV article, without any official statements from the British government to corroborate its assertions, it is likely false that the British government declared that falling birth rates will help save the planet. Instead the article has attributed an opinion by a former government advisor – that declining birth rates could be beneficial to reducing emissions, and thus helpful in fighting climate change – to that of the government.