Migration – The Environmental Consequences for the UK


December 29, 2010

Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the UK will soar by almost 515 million tonnes over the period from 2008 to 2033 solely as a result of the projected increase in population due to net migration over that period, says a new report out today.

The report from think-tank Migrationwatch on the environmental effects of large scale immigration says that net migration is expected to add seven million to the population between 2008 and 2033. This population growth will increase the UK’s GHG emissions by almost 40 million tonnes of carbon dioxide in the five years to 2015, by over 125 million tonnes by 2020, and by almost 515 million tonnes by 2033.

The Government is committed under the Climate Change Act to reduce UK GHG emissions by 80 per cent by 2050. To achieve this challenging target, annual emissions by 2033 will have to fall by almost 240 million tonnes of carbon compared with their current level. However, the population increase caused by immigration over this period, will add about 33 million tonnes of carbon every year to UK GHG emissions making that commitment even harder and more expensive to achieve.

‘Climate change on its own is an immensely serious issue but the huge projected rise in population over this period – more than two thirds due to immigration - will also have a host of other implications for the quality of life which we, and more particularly, our children and grandchildren will enjoy - or endure - in the coming decades,’ said Sir Andrew Green, Migrationwatch chairman.

‘For example if all the projected increase in population which will result from the continuation of present levels of immigration was to be accommodated in urban areas, we would have to build 60 towns the size of Slough, or 20 cities the size of Leicester, or else urbanise areas equivalent in area to Surrey or Warwickshire,’ he said.

‘It is very clear that the vast majority of the UK population are totally opposed to this outcome.’

Sir Andrew said that England is already one of the most densely populated countries in Europe. Increasing population pressures will disproportionately impact England where population is projected to increase by 18 per cent, leading to densities of 465 persons per square kilometre by 2033.

In the South East of England, by 2033, population densities are projected to increase by 20 per cent, to a level one third higher than those of the Netherlands now with very serious additional pressure on the region’s infrastructure.

‘The effects of such large scale urbanisation would include a loss of wildlife habitats, damage to the UK’s biodiversity and a detrimental impact on the ‘amenity’ that people derive from the rural environment and contact with nature, as well as fundamentally changing the nature and appearance of large parts of the country for ever,’ said Sir Andrew.

‘These are relatively intangible issues - difficult if not impossible to value – but, nonetheless, of great importance to the many people who do not want to see the character of our country changed out of all recognition.’



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