Energy2050 COP 21 side event on population decline and climate change in the 21st century – at the UN climate change conference in Paris

Population decline and climate change in the 21st century: Achieving a ‘depopulation dividend’ in the Asia-Pacific region

Date: 10 December 2015 Time: 10:30 – 12:00 CET
Location: Japan Pavilion, COP21
Partners: The University of Sheffield, UK; Tohoku University, Japan; University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany



  • Chair: Matthew Billson, Energy 2050, The University of Sheffield, UK
  • Dr Peter Matanle, School of East Asian Studies, The University of Sheffield, UK
  • Dr. Jusen Asuka, Tohoku University, Japan
  • Dr. Paul J. Scalise, IN-EAST School of Advanced Studies, University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany

In 2008 Japan became the first Asia-Pacific country to experience population decline. It will continue to shrink for at least the next 30 years. In the 2020s and 30s South Korea and China will also start to shrink. Many sub-national regions within growing countries such as New Zealand are also declining, presaging a possible transition towards national-scale shrinkage. Depopulation is potentially good news, for example in mitigating climate change, but it may also cause negative outcomes for affected communities. Our panel will address:

  • How can Japan’s experience be instructive for other Asia-Pacific countries as their populations decline?
  • Can Japan lead the Asia-Pacific region in achieving a 21st century ‘depopulation dividend’, whereby the potential for social and environmental gains from population decline can be harnessed for a more sustainable future?
  • Is there evidence from Japan to suggest that depopulation is helping to achieve the energy transition?
  • Or does the evidence contradict optimistic assumptions about the relationship between, for example, population growth and shrinkage, and resource consumption?