Clean Cooking

In an era of blockchain technology, autonomous vehicles, and DNA sequencing, it is startling to recognize that 2.4 billion people still lack access to modern energy for cooking. In sub-Saharan Africa, 90% of the population or 900 million people, rely on open fires and inefficient, polluting cookstoves. Investing in clean cooking is key to achieving global climate and development goals and to advancing nature-based solutions. In 2020, the World Bank suggested that one of the global priorities must be to dramatically scale up public and private financing for affordable clean cooking solutions to the mass

Cooking with open fires and inefficient biomass stoves has negative impacts on many levels, with the World Bank estimating in a 2020 report that US$2.4 trillion per year of negative externalities are associated with traditional cooking methods globally: $1.4 trillion related to health impact, $800 billion related gender impact, and $200 billion related to climate impact.

Impact on health:

The lack of access to clean and modern cooking energy is the key contributor to harmful indoor air pollution. It is estimated to contribute to more than 3.2 million premature deaths each year globally as a risk factor for diseases including pneumonia, ischemic heart disease, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. In Sub-Saharan Africa, it is estimated to be responsible for 600,000 premature deaths.

Impact on gender equity:

Women and girls are disproportionately impacted, particularly from a health perspective, due to their spending up to six hours per day on fuel collection, cooking, and stove cleaning. Traditional cooking methods are deeply intertwined with gender dynamics and gender inequality, particularly in the Global South.

Impact on the environment:

Traditional cooking methods emit large amounts of potent climate pollutants and represent 20-45% of Africa’s total greenhouse gas emissions. Furthermore, the majority of forest loss in Africa (52%) is due to firewood collection and charcoal production, with resulting significant negative impacts on carbon sequestration and biodiversity

For these reasons and many others, a transition to clean cooking solutions in Africa and across the developing world can have a profound impact on people, planet, and the economy.

According to the Clean Cooking Alliance:

“Every year, cooking with solid fuels produces as much climate harming emissions as the airline industry, including more than half of human-generated emissions of black carbon, which is 1,500 times more impactful on global warming than CO2. Until we advance global access to clean cooking, all of our climate mitigation measures, including nature-based solutions, are at risk.”

“Clean cooking is one of the most important, cost-effective tools we have to reduce carbon emissions, improve public health and conserve the environment. Scaling up clean cooking solutions can help reduce direct emissions, avoid emissions from forest degradation, enable carbon removal, protect biodiversity, improve air quality, support sustainable economic growth, and improve food security. It’s time we invest in clean cooking as a nature-based climate solution.”

Wanjira Mathai, Kenyan environmentalist, activist, Vice President and Regional Director for Africa at the World Resources Institute (2021) has said:

“Changing the way that families cook their food each day will slow climate change, drive gender equality, reduce poverty, and provide enormous health benefits.”