Vol. 4 No. 1 (2019): Biodiversity
Peer Reviewed Articles

The potential environmental impacts of EU immigration policy: future population numbers, greenhouse gas emissions and biodiversity preservation

Philip Cafaro
Colorado State University
Frank Götmark
University of Gothenburg
This image of the cover of this issue of The Journal of Population and Sustainability has the title in block letters on a grey-green background.

Published 2019-12-01


  • immigration,
  • population,
  • European Union,
  • carbon emissions,
  • biodiversity protection

How to Cite

Cafaro, Philip, and Frank Götmark. 2019. “The Potential Environmental Impacts of EU Immigration Policy: Future Population Numbers, Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Biodiversity Preservation”. The Journal of Population and Sustainability 4 (1):71–101. https://doi.org/10.3197/jps.2019.4.1.71.


This article clarifies the potential environmental impacts of more or less expansive EU immigration policies. First, we project the demographic impacts of different immigration policy scenarios on future population numbers, finding that relatively small annual differences in immigration levels lead to large differences in future population numbers, both nationally and region-wide. Second, we analyze the potential impacts of future population numbers on two key environmental goals: reducing the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions and preserving its biodiversity. We find that in both cases, smaller populations make success in these endeavors more likely – though only in conjunction with comprehensive policy changes which lock in the environmental benefits of smaller populations. Reducing immigration in order to stabilize or reduce populations thus can help EU nations create ecologically sustainable societies, while increasing immigration will tend to move them further away from this goal.


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