Muthiah: Time is Right, Time is Now for Clean Cookstoves
Washington Post Story Overlooks Many Facts, Wrongly Concludes Timing is Wrong for Worldwide Cookstove Movement
Washington, DC (April 19, 2012) – Radha Muthiah, Executive Director of the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, issued the following statement today in response to Brian Palmer’s April 17th Washington Post story, ‘Too many Cookstoves spoil the effort to cut indoor pollution’:
“Despite the misleading title, the Post article correctly identifies the scourge of cooking on open fires and rudimentary cookstoves as a global health problem that demands urgent attention, highlighting World Health Organization data that shows indoor air pollution kills 2 million people every year.
“Regrettably, the article seems to indicate that clean cookstoves do not deliver measurable health impacts and therefore concludes that ‘we are not yet ready to distribute clean cookstoves worldwide.’
“Nothing could be further from the truth. On the contrary, the timing for clean cookstoves is right, and the time is now.
“The reporter’s misinformed conclusion, which has implications globally, was reached by looking at a few studies, including a very specific research project entitled Up in Smoke that focuses on improved cookstoves in 44 Indian villages. Some of the results of this particular study demonstrate that certain improved stoves did not significantly reduce indoor air pollution, specifically, black carbon.
“What that particular study also points out, which is not mentioned in the Post article, is that certain stove types (advanced stoves) actually performed well, and could do even better if users were properly trained and stoves were further adapted to meet local needs. There are also other considerable benefits provided by improved stoves on which the study did not focus.
“The journalist says that ‘public health is a tricky business,’ and indeed, public health successes are not achieved overnight. Research and development are critical to any kind of innovation, including clean cookstoves, and as a sector innovates, progress is made over time. Therefore, a ‘do nothing now and wait until the perfect solution is found’ approach – which the article seems to posit – is misguided at best and dangerous at worst.
“The Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, on the other hand, is supporting, engaging in, and promoting sector-wide research, as laid out in the cookstove sector roadmap report, Igniting Change: A Strategy for Universal Adoption of Clean Cookstoves and Fuels. This unprecedented gathering of 350 global experts outlined a three-pronged approach to scaling up toward the Alliance’s own goal of 100 million households adopting clean cooking technologies by 2020, and universal adoption by 2030: enhancing demand, strengthening supply, and fostering an enabling environment. Conducting rigorous research is a major component of creating the environment necessary for increased awareness, funding, and action. The Alliance has already begun funding key research projects, as well as issued a request for applications related to decreasing stove-related injuries and deaths among young children.
“The bottom line is that wide-ranging, peer-reviewed research is critical to the Alliance’s strategy and to its more than 300 global partners.
“The Alliance’s mission is to foster sustainable markets for technologies that people want, can afford, and will ultimately use. It is unfortunate that a misleading headline and a narrowly focused article have the potential to create the wrong impression and cause a setback to a sector poised to deliver lasting, beneficial, innovative change to one of the oldest and most intimate of human traditions: cooking a meal for oneself and one’s family.
About the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves:
The Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves is an innovative public-private partnership led by the United Nations Foundation to save lives, improve livelihoods, empower women, and combat climate change by creating a thriving global market for clean and efficient household cooking solutions. The Alliance’s 100 by ‘20 goal calls for 100 million households to adopt clean and efficient cookstoves and fuels by 2020. The Alliance is working with its public, private and non-profit partners to help overcome the market barriers that currently impede the production, deployment, and use of clean cookstoves in developing countries. Visit www.www.cleancookstoves.org for more information.
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