World Watch Institute
Worldwatch Institute

  • Worldwatch Institute Europe Closes, Worldwatch in DC Continues Work


    After five years of crafting environmental strategies for European decision-makers, Worldwatch Institute Europe closes its doors. Worldwatch Institute in the United States continues its work.

    Copenhagen—Following a five-year run of communicating sustainability concepts to European decision-makers and the public to accelerate the movement toward an environmentally sustainable society, the Worldwatcth Institute Europe (WWIE) has ceased operations at the end of January, the Institute’s Board of Directors announced.

    The organization’s affiliated organization in the United States, the Washington-based Worldwatch Institute, is unaffected by this decision. Worldwatch will continue its work on sustainability, which reaches a European audience along with others around the world. The two organizations are independent financially and legally but otherwise affiliated, with past and current Worldwatch executives on WWIE’s board. Worldwatch Europe, founded in 2011, is registered as a Danish non-profit organization, while the Worldwatch Institute in Washington was registered in the United States in 1974.

    The WWIE Board expressed approval with the European Institute’s accomplishments and thanked the many staffers and volunteered who carried its work forward over the years. Despite a number of grant-supported projects completed, income fell short of needs to sustain ongoing research in recent years, the Board said. The Institute will close with no outstanding debt. Followers of its work are encouraged to continue to follow the work of Worldwatch in the United States via its website,

    “Many people were involved in building and running WWIE. Most of them worked for no or only a humble salary. Everyone worked for many hours to meet their own high standards,” says Dan Boding-Jensen, Chairman of the Board of directors. “Thanks for sharing the ambition of empowering European decision makers to create an environmentally sustainable society that meets human needs.”

    WWIE achieved many results, among which the most important was influencing new areas such as the living city, the circular economy, and involving children in reintroducing nature in the urban living environment.

    A special thanks to partners, including the Velux Foundation, Norden, Europanævnet, the Danish Environmental Protection Agency, and the Cowi Foundation, for funding many of our projects. Finally, thank you to the Worldwatch Institute staff and board in the United States for their technical support, advice, and enthusiastic support over the years.

    We invite you to continue following Worldwatch’s work by subscribing to the Worldwatch Institute (US) newsletter or following our work on Facebook and Twitter.

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    About the Worldwatch Institute: Worldwatch is an independent research organization based in Washington, D.C. that works on energy, resource, and environmental issues. The Institute's State of the World report is published annually in multiple languages (

  • MEDIA ADVISORY: Worldwatch Presents Findings Assessing Evidence Linking Family Planning and Environmental Sustainability
    Worldwatch Presents Findings Assessing Evidence Linking Family Planning and Environmental Sustainability
    Media Contact:
    Gaelle Gourmelon
    Phone: +1 (202) 745-8092 x 510
    The Wilson Center is hosting the Worldwatch Institute's Robert Engelman as he presents the findings of the Family Planning and Environmental Sustainability Assessment (FPESA). The FPESA team has found that there is an active search for a greater understanding of the link between family planning and the environment by a diverse field of researchers, women and men from developed and developing countries alike. There is not yet a "smoking gun" that definitively proves family planning is critical for environmental sustainability, but there is mounting evidence for the link.
    Wednesday, June 29, 2016 from 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm. Reception to follow.
    Robert Engelman | Senior Fellow, Worldwatch Institute
    Alaka Basu | Senior Fellow, UN Foundation
    Cat Lazaroff | Managing Program Director, Resource Media
    Wilson Center
    Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center
    One Woodrow Wilson Plaza
    1300 Pennsylvania, Ave., NW
    Washington, D.C. 20004
    There is a growing support within the environmental and reproductive health communities for the idea that expanding access to family planning services contributes to environmental sustainability, but how strong is the evidence? A team of researchers from around the world led by the Worldwatch Institute's Robert Engelman has tackled this question to find out what we know for sure and where further research will be valuable.
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    Notes to Editors: To schedule interviews or to obtain a complimentary electronic copy of Family Planning and Environmental Sustainability: Assessing the Science, please contact Gaelle Gourmelon at or (202) 745-8092 x 510.


  • Evidence Links Family Planning with Improved Environmental Outcomes
    Media Contact:
    Gaelle Gourmelon
    Phone: +1 (202) 745-8092 x 510
    Washington, D.C.---- A collaborative international assessment of hundreds of peer-reviewed scientific papers published since 2005 finds significant, albeit indirect, evidence that access to voluntary family planning can contribute to an environmentally sustainable world (
    Among more than 900 peer-reviewed scientific papers published since 2005, the Family Planning and Environmental Sustainability Assessment (FPESA), a project of the Worldwatch Institute, found data and researchers' conclusions suggesting that:
    • Major reductions in unintended pregnancies---- now accounting for two out of five pregnancies worldwide---- would lower birth rates in high-consuming and low-consuming countries alike.
    • Achieving a low trajectory of world population growth could reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the first half of the 21stcentury to an extent comparable to eliminating all deforestation.
    • Greater use of family planning would facilitate more participation by women in economic activity and in civil society, which could improve environmental outcomes locally and globally.
    "Linking environmental benefits to family planning can be controversial, since the use of family planning is---- and should always be---- a private choice that people make for their own reasons," noted Robert Engelman, former President of the Worldwatch Institute, who directed the FPESA project. "Yet demonstrated synergies between the two might help advance both environmental sustainability and access to family planning for those who want it. Our objective has been to see what the scientific literature has to say about the connection and to assess the evidence base."
    Through collaborative evaluation of 939 papers, identified through expert interviews and database searches, the FPESA project collectively ranked 112 papers as "certainly relevant" to the hypothesis that family planning benefits the environment, with another 302 ranked as "probably relevant." (Relevant papers might either support or undermine the hypothesis.) The bulk of the "certainly relevant" papers lend support to the hypothesis, with a few papers somewhat undermining it but none directly countering it. A conceptual framework guiding the evaluation included both slower population growth and the empowerment of women as pathways through which family planning might contribute positively to environmental sustainability.
    The project team and a network of international researchers collaborating in the assessment share a commitment to the human rights foundation of family planning as a choice for couples and individuals alone in deciding if and when to have a child. The group identified no research suggesting that a weakening of this foundation would make any contribution to sustainability.
    A comprehensive report on the project's findings to date---- Family Planning and Environmental Sustainability: Assessing the Science---- will be launched on June 29 at the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars in Washington, D.C. The report includes an annotated bibliography and assessments of the 50 papers that are most compelling and relevant to the hypothesis.
    No research discipline directly explores the hypothesis that family planning contributes to environmental sustainability. Not surprisingly, scientific papers making this connection proved to be scarce. A high proportion of the reviewed papers that were found to be relevant to the hypothesis, however, assert or demonstrate an influence of population size, growth, or resource demands on the environment. A smaller proportion of the reviewed papers lend credence to the idea that women who are able to make their own reproductive choices are more likely to contribute to environmental sustainability through consumption choices or participation in politics and civil society.
    The assessment also explored a secondary hypothesis: that research interest in the family planning--environmental sustainability linkage is widespread among women and men in developing as well as developed countries.
    "That hypothesis, we feel, is fully confirmed," Engelman said, based on the diversity of the project's network of research assessors and on the high proportions of relevant paper authors who are women and/or are from developing countries. "Given high levels of interest in the potential contribution of family planning to the environment, and the importance of the linkage for both sustainability and reproductive health and rights, more research---- and funding for it---- is critically needed, especially for young researchers and those in developing countries."
    The assessment team consists of Engelman, now a Senior Fellow at Worldwatch, and Research Assistant Yeneneh Girma Terefe, along with several consultants and an active network of 16 research assessors. Seven assessors are women, while 13 work in or are from developing countries. Articles by some consultants and assessors are included in the report. The consultants were Vicky Markham, Kenneth R. Weiss, and Sam Sellers. Network assessors were Edward Amankwah, Alaka Basu, Wanangwa Chimwaza-Manda, Samuel Nii Ardrey Codjoe, Javiera Fanta, Bhola R. Gurjar, Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka, Hafiz T.A. Khan, Zena Lyaga, Wilkister Nyaora Moturi, Casianes Olilo, Margaret Perkins, Muhammad Abdur Rahaman, Sam Sellers, Dirk Van Braeckel, and Samson Wasao.
    For additional findings from the project and assessments of specific papers,
    * * *
    About FPESA
    The Family Planning and Environmental Sustainability Assessment (FPESA), a project of the Worldwatch Institute, is surveying the field of health and environmental research for well-documented and evaluated data shedding light on how the use of family planning might relate to climate change mitigation and adaptation, sustainable water supply and food production, the maintenance of biological diversity, the future of forests and fisheries, and more. Learn more at
    About Worldwatch
    Founded in 1974 by farmer and economist Lester Brown, the Worldwatch Institute was the first independent research institute devoted to the analysis of global environmental concerns. Worldwatch quickly became recognized by opinion leaders around the world for its accessible, fact-based analysis of critical global issues. Over 40 years later, Worldwatch continues to develop innovative solutions to intractable problems, emphasizing a blend of government leadership, private sector enterprise, and citizen action that can make a sustainable future a reality. Learn more at
    Gaelle Gourmelon | Worldwatch Institute | +1 (202) 745-8092 x 510 |
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  • Hundreds of Cities Commit to Combating Emissions

    PRESS RELEASE | Contact GAELLE GOURMELON | For release: Tuesday, June 7, 2016

    Notes to Editors: To schedule interviews or to obtain a review copy of Can a City Be Sustainable?, please contact Gaelle Gourmelon at

    Through bold climate commitments, 228 cities around the world are taking the lead on climate action 
    Washington, D.C.-----Over 200 cities have set greenhouse gas reduction goals or targets. Action in these cities, which represent a combined population of 439 million people, could propel countries to meet their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs)—the national greenhouse gas reduction pledges embodied in the Paris Agreement. According to Can a City Be Sustainable?, the latest edition of the annual State of the World series from the Worldwatch Institute, cities and their inhabitants are playing a lead role in achieving global climate action goals (

    “The challenge over the next several decades is an enormous one,” write Michael Renner and Tom Prugh, contributing authors and co-directors of the report. “This requires not change around the edges, but a fundamental restructuring of how cities operate, how much they consume in resources and how much waste they produce, what they look like, and how they are structured.”

    Growing numbers of cities have pledged themselves to climate commitments and sustainability goals. The C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group has expanded to over 80 cities. The Compact of Mayors, launched at the 2014 United Nations Climate Summit, is the largest coalition of city leaders addressing climate change. ICLEI–Local Governments for Sustainability works with more than 1,000 cities around the world.

    Cities today host more than half of the earth’s human beings and represent about 70 percent of global energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. If trends continue, urban populations are expected to increase to 6 billion by 2045, at which point two-thirds of all people will live in urban environments. “If current trends in urbanization continue unabated, urban energy use will more than triple, compared to 2005 levels, by 2050,” write Renner and Prugh.

    It is no surprise that cities collectively account for a large share of greenhouse gas emissions, because they concentrate economic activity. But cities vary widely in their per capita emissions. Rotterdam in the Netherlands, for example, emitted 29.8 tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent per capita in 2005, whereas Paris emitted just 5.2 tons per capita. Many variables, such as climate, urban form, and primary energy source, affect a city’s level of emissions. Economic factors, such as the wealth and income of residents and the level and structure of economic activity, also play a major role.

    “Only demand-side policies that succeed in sharply reducing energy consumption in transport, buildings, waste handling, and agriculture can address the urgent need to decarbonize energy,” write Renner and Prugh. “It is cities that must step up to the front lines of that battle.”

    In conjunction with policy changes, cities’ success will depend on having both comprehensive data and financial support. Current protocols, such as one developed by the World Resources Institute, C40 Cities, and ICLEI, can be used to measure or estimate greenhouse gas emissions in cities worldwide. Financing sustainability in cities may be easier in some cities than in others. Among the C40 cities, only three-quarters have budgetary control over property or municipal taxes. In poorer cities, multilateral development banks and a variety of donors may play an important role.

    Worldwatch Institute’s Can a City Be Sustainable? (State of the World) examines the core principles of sustainable urbanism and profiles cities that are putting them into practice.

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    About the Worldwatch Institute: Worldwatch is an independent research organization based in Washington, D.C. that works on energy, resource, and environmental issues. The Institute's State of the World report is published annually in multiple languages (


  • Cities Hold the Key to a Livable Future

    PRESS RELEASE | Contact GAELLE GOURMELON | For release: Tuesday, May 10, 2016

    Notes to Editors: To schedule interviews or to obtain a review copy of Can a City Be Sustainable?, please contact Gaelle Gourmelon at

    Worldwatch Institute’s Vital Signs exposes latest global peaks of production and consumption, as well as associated impacts

    Washington, D.C.-----Today, nearly 3.9 billion people-----half of the world's population-----live in urban areas. By 2050 that number is expected to nearly double. According to Can a City Be Sustainable? (State of the World), the latest edition of the annual series from the Worldwatch Institute, there is no question cities will continue to grow; the only debate is over how ( 

    "Cities are at a crossroads, confronting historic challenges posed by rising populations, accelerating climate change, increasing inequity, and-----all too often-----faltering livability," writes Eduardo da Costa Paes, Mayor of Rio de Janeiro.

    Cities have voracious appetites for energy, accounting for about three-quarters of the world's direct final energy use in 2005-----far more than their 49 percent share of global population that year. Cities today must also deal with growing stress on raw material supplies. Extraction of metals, minerals, and fuels is increasingly complex now that the easiest sources have been tapped. A city's food system-----the production, processing, distribution, consumption, and waste of its food-----has impacts that extend to a city's host region and country, and often to other countries as well.

    "As rural migrants to cities adopt city-based lifestyles, they tend to use more resources as their incomes rise and as their diets shift from starchy staples to a greater share of animal products and processed foods," writes Tom Prugh, author and co-director of the report. This, in turn, puts natural systems-----either in the migrants' own countries or in other countries that export products or their inputs-----under strain.

    However, cities today are also in an exciting position to take leadership on the effort to build sustainable economies. 

    "People care about their cities and often are motivated to protect and improve their urban homes," says Gary Gardner, author and co-director of State of the World. "Cities can harness that passion to help advance a sustainability agenda, perhaps more easily than national governments or corporations can."

    Perhaps the biggest single step that cities can take toward a sustainable future is to create economies that greatly reduce materials use, (re)circulate most materials, and rely largely on renewable energy. "Green infrastructure"-----the use of natural areas to provide economic services-----can also help cities avoid building costly new water management facilities, can recharge aquifers, and can provide flood protection. Ensuring that decision-making is transparent and participatory ensures that no community is left behind. 

    "Building on the new hope created by the breakthrough agreement on climate action achieved in Paris last December, cities stand ready to engage their citizens in building a sustainable future," writes Mayor Paes. 
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    About the Worldwatch Institute: Worldwatch is an independent research organization based in Washington, D.C. that works on energy, resource, and environmental issues. The Institute's State of the World report is published annually in multiple languages (
    About Island Press: Founded in 1984, Island Press works to stimulate, shape, and communicate the information that is essential for solving environmental problems. Island Press is driving change by moving ideas from the printed page to public discourse and practice. Island Press’s emphasis is, and will continue to be, on transforming objective information into understanding and action (



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