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Policy brief: How advancing health and education can help reduce greenhouse gases

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Universal education and voluntary family planning are essential human rights that lead to dramatic improvements in gender equality and health. A new policy brief by Drawdown Solutions, a program of Project Drawdown, shows how achieving these basic rights can contribute to reducing the impacts of climate change as well—with greenhouse gas reductions of up to 70 gigatons possible by 2050.

“The UN Sustainable Development Goals call for universal access to quality education and sexual and reproductive health-care services,” says Drawdown Solutions senior director Chad Frischmann, who co-authored Drawdown’s Health and Education Solution: The cascading benefits of access to universal education and voluntary family planning with Amrita Namasivayam, Alisha Graves, and Christina Kwauk. “Achieving these goals can dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions over time at a fraction of the cost of comparable climate solutions, helping to create a healthier planet for future generations at the same time we ensure gender equality and health for the current one.”

Project Drawdown has evaluated the potential of more than 80 practices and technologies to reduce greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Nearly all focus on reducing sources of greenhouse gases and enhancing carbon sinks. The Health and Education solution is unique in that it substantially cuts greenhouse gas emissions by advancing basic human rights.

Among the report’s conclusions:

  • Significantly increasing investment in, and access to, universal education and voluntary family planning is an effective way to ensure inclusive, equitable economic development and boost health outcomes across generations.
  • Improved reproductive health and education have a ripple effect on population over time, which in turn can impact global demand for resources.
  • Adopting Drawdown’s Health and Education solution between now and 2050 could avoid nearly 70 gigatons of greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Without critical investments in education and health, other efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals will be less effective, cost more, and take longer to achieve.
  • Enabling the right to education and family planning for all people is central to empowering communities and enabling their participation in other climate solutions.

“Solutions like universal access to education and voluntary family planning important climate solutions not only because these are the rights of every person, especially girls and women, on the planet, but also because they advance gender equality,” said Kwauk, an education consultant. “Together, these have the added benefit of helping to improve climate resilience and achieving drawdown.”

“Investing in universal education and voluntary family planning services is really a win-win-win, for people, their communities, and the planet,” said Namasivayam, a Project Drawdown research fellow. “We’re talking about the improved overall health of women and their families, economic empowerment, reduced intergenerational poverty, and climate benefits that are positive ripple effects of this increased access and agency."

Learn more and download the report here.

Press Contacts

If you are a journalist and would like to republish Project Drawdown content, please contact