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India on track to overtake China as world’s most populous country: UN

People photographed in Bengaluru, Karnataka, India. According to the United Nations, over 1.4 billion people live in India.

Peter Adams | stone | Getty Images

India is on track to overtake China as the world’s most populous country next year, according to a UN report released on Monday.

The report by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs’ Population Division says that China and India were each home to over 1.4 billion people in 2022.

“India is expected to overtake China as the world’s most populous country by 2023,” the UN said. The 2011 Government of India census put the country’s population at more than 1.2 billion.

“The world population will increase from an estimated 2.5 billion people in 1950 to 8.0 billion by mid-November 2022,” according to the UN report.

Looking ahead, the United Nations said its latest projections showed the world population could reach about 8.5 billion in 2030 and 10.4 billion in 2100.

Last year, the UN said the “average fertility” of the world’s population was 2.3 births per woman over a lifetime.

That compares to about 5 births per woman in 1950, according to Monday’s report. “Global fertility is projected to fall further to 2.1 births per woman by 2050,” it said.

The UN report was released on World Population Day. In a statement, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the day was “an opportunity to celebrate our diversity, recognize our common humanity and marvel at advances in health that have extended lifespans and dramatically reduced maternal and infant mortality rates.”

“At the same time, it’s a reminder of our shared responsibility to care for our planet and a moment to reflect where we’re still falling short of our commitments to one another,” Guterres said.

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With a huge population and a large economy, India’s resource needs will become increasingly urgent in the coming years. On Monday, Reuters, citing information from Refinitiv and trade sources, said the country’s coal imports hit “a record high” in June.

The agreement reached at the COP26 climate summit in November 2021 encountered stumbling blocks related to the coal phase-out, fossil fuel subsidies and financial support for low-income countries.

India and China, both among the world’s largest coal-burners, insisted on a last-minute change in fossil fuel language in the Glasgow Climate Pact – from a “phase-out” from coal to a “phase-out”. After initial objections, the opposing countries finally gave in.

— CNBC’s Sam Meredith contributed to this report.