10 Key Co-benefits of Clean Cooking for Climate, Nature, and Communities
It is increasingly recognized that safeguarding nature is critical to addressing climate change and protecting billions of the most vulnerable people around the world. Yet, as governments, donors and investors look for ways to protect and restore nature, they often overlook one of the most accessible and impactful solutions: clean cooking.In the lead up to COP27, the Clean Cooking Alliance’s latest report Accelerating Clean Cooking as a Nature-based Climate Solution is a call to action for governments, investment decision-makers, conservation organizations, and the private sector to scale clean cooking as a nature-based climate solution which can deliver immediate and lasting benefits to people and planet.
Aligning clean cooking with climate and nature finance and integrating into broader conservation and restoration activities can yield multiple benefits for climate, local biodiversity and ecosystem recovery, regenerative livelihoods, clean air and community health, and female empowerment.
Here are 10 key co-benefits clean cooking delivers for the climate, nature, and communities:
1. Reducing direct emissions of climate pollutants. Globally, domestic cooking emissions contribute 1.9–2.3% of global GHG emissions and up to 25% of the annual anthropogenic black carbon emissions.[i],[ii] Highly efficient stoves can reduce fuel use by 30–60%, cutting both carbon dioxide and black carbon emissions.[iii] For example, in India, the organization Seva Mandir is working with rural and tribal populations in the Udaipur and Rajsamand districts of southern Rajasthan state to replace inefficient traditional cookstoves for 19,500 households with improved stoves. The reduction in fuelwood requirements will reduce 2.35 tCO2e per family each year, preventing 42,956 tCO2 emissions annually — a total of 429,556 tCO2e over 10 years.[iv]
2. Avoiding emissions from forest degradation. Switching from traditional three-stone open fires to clean cookstoves can reduce or remove the pressure on local terrestrial and mangrove forests. As fewer live trees are cut down, more permanent regrowth of woodland and forests occurs. Many high-efficiency stoves allow the burning of small diameter wood — branches, twigs, and crop residue — that reduces the need to source larger pieces of wood from deeper in the forest.[v] In terms of charcoal, estimates range from 5 to 10 tons of wood to produce just 1 ton of charcoal depending on the type of kiln used.[vi],[vii] In Zambia, which has one of the highest deforestation rates globally, the Global Environment Facility is funding a community-based natural resources management program in and around Kafue National Park and West Lunga National Park. As part of the program, 5,000 households have been provided with improved cookstoves in central, western, and northwestern Zambia to reduce forest loss and designated firewood collection zones.[viii]
3. Enabling carbons removals by supporting regeneration and reforestation. Reducing forest extraction can generate passive regeneration of forest ecosystems at lower cost-benefit ratios and less disturbance to existing ecosystems.[ix] Active restoration can enable the restoration of agroforestry and forest systems at a larger scale. In Uganda, where over 400,000 hectares of trees are cut down for charcoal production annually, Divine Bamboo and Kijani Forestry and other companies are developing nursery hubs and agroforestry solutions for more sustainable charcoal production. Kijani Forest has also developed a more efficient kiln and production techniques to produce 80% more charcoal from the same amount of biomass than through traditional methods.[x] In Malawi, C-Quest Capital has combined stove programs with the development of sustainably managed woodlots to produce alternative woodfuels. It estimates that switching 1,000 households from charcoal to direct burning of stick wood produced by active restoration and sustainably managed woodlots can lead to an additional 1,000–2,000 tCO2e sequestered annually in above- and below-ground carbon, net of the wood harvested for fuel.[xi]
4. Reducing the threats to biodiversity. Over time, the reduction of forest extraction and reduced pressure have been proven to lead to both an increase in forest biomass and higher levels of diversity and abundance of seedlings of indigenous tree species.[xii] For wildlife conservation, habitat loss is often the primary driver of species loss, and encroachment into conservation parks or habitats can lead to conflict with wildlife.[xiii] In China, the bamboo forests in Sichuan province are a critical habitat for pandas and also serve as the main source of firewood for local communities. Since 2013, Swiss supermarket Coop, WWF, and South Pole have partnered to reduce the levels of deforestation threatening the local panda population. More than 2,800 efficient wood stoves have been built for ethnic minority communities in Liangshan, next to Mamize National Park. Initial upfront project financing from Coop enabled the Mamize project to become the first WWF voluntary carbon project fully paid for through carbon offsets.[xiv] The stoves have cut fuelwood use by 50%, saving approximately 624 hectares of forest each year and avoiding 45,000 tCO2e annually.[xv]
5. Improving clean air and reducing negative health impacts of air pollution. Globally, exposure to smoke from cooking fires causes an estimated 3.2 million premature deaths each year and remains one of the predominant causes of pollution-related disease and death in Africa.[xvi] For example, in Tanzania, where 96% of the population relies on unclean fuels, household air pollution is the one of the largest risk factors for death and disability.[xvii] Globally, 16% of ambient air pollution comes from household air pollution.[xviii] Switching from three-stone open fires to well-designed cookstoves reduces smoke exposure to PM2.5 and other toxic elements. In addition to reducing premature death — including those of 450,000 children under age 5, mainly in Africa and Asia — switching to cooking solutions rated at ISO 19867-1:2018 tiers 4 or 5 for PM2.5 emissions reduced rates of respiratory infections, ischemic heart disease, stroke, and cancer.[xix] Recent research suggest that nearly 0.77 million deaths could be avoidable by eliminating solid biofuel combustion that is primarily used for residential heating and cooking.[xx] Building on the work of the Berkeley Air Institute, Gold Standard has released a first-of-its-kind methodology to quantify the health benefits from implementation of technologies that reduce household air pollution from clean cooking and heating technologies using Averted Disability Adjusted Life Years (ADALYs) as the key indicator.[xxi]
6. Increasing women’s time and safety while reducing drudgery. Globally, women conduct 91% of the work to obtain fuel and cook, while women and children account for over 60% of all premature deaths from household air pollution. [xxii],[xxiii] The risks extend to spinal, nerve, and muscle damage while cooking, as well as the risk of rape, abuse, injury, and animal attacks while collecting wood.[xxiv] Women and girls can spend up to 10 hours a week on fuel collection and four hours a day cooking over traditional stoves — effectively keeping them from higher-value, income-generating activities and perpetuating gender inequality and economic poverty while trapping them in a life of drudgery. In Kenya, one study showed a reduction of seven hours per week in time spent collecting fuel after switching to an improved stove, freeing up women’s time and energy to pursue economically productive tasks.[xxv] The Clean Cooking Alliance and Duke University are developing a framework to allow clean cooking interventions to monetize these benefits. A results-based finance instrument, the emPOWERment bond, will produce actionable guidance to quantify, verify, and monetize gendered time-use and productivity benefits of improved biomass cookstove initiatives.[xxvi]
7. Enabling sustainable rural livelihoods. Time savings from improved cooking practices can potentially be used for leisure or income-generating activities.[xxvii] For example, some organizations have supported women to diversify income by planting managed woodlots for the supply of stick wood bundles, pellets, or briquettes to replace charcoal in rural and urban markets. Agroforestry and village woodlots can support fuel switching to sustainable crop residues, other natural wastes, and small-diameter farm wood, enabling local production of fast-growing, high-yield wood for fuel.[xxviii] In India, the Global Himalayan Expedition is working with myclimate in the Garo Hills in Meghalaya to provide 10,000 households with access to more efficient cookstoves that use up to 60% less fuel and require 50% less cooking time. The project aims to generate 25,000 tonnes of wood fuel savings annually, as well as enable communities to free up time and resources to develop sustainable and homestay tourism for the nearby national parks.[xxix]
8. Supporting sustainable economic growth. Accelerating access to clean cooking can support local employment and economic growth. The household purchase of a US$40 Jikokoa (a Burn-designed stove) has been found to generate more than US$1,000 in economic return for society.[xxx] Burn has also established an industrial manufacturing facility in Ruiru, Kenya, that employs more than 400 people and more than 200 other people across operations in sales, marketing, distribution, and monitoring. It plans to set up another manufacturing facility in Ghana.[xxxi] Koko Networks, which manufactures stoves in India and sells them and the fuel in Kenya, has employed 1,100 across its operations.[xxxii] In Uganda, the Danish cookstove company Pesitho is investing in local product assembly through locally owned and managed cooperatives as well as local sales, distribution, and post-sale networks for the product to improve trust and uptake of the ECOCA solar cookstove. Pesitho is also developing Paycom technology to improve accessibility for people with low incomes or those who lack access to financial services.[xxxiii]
9. Improving food security. A transition to clean cooking solutions can improve food security by reducing land degradation from fuelwood harvest, increasing the amount of time and money available to grow alternative, higher-value, and nutrient-dense foods such as maize, potatoes, and beans, and by improving the nutrient retention of cooked foods.[xxxiv] In Madagascar, more than 90% of the energy for cooking comes from local wood. Climate change impacts and ecosystem degradation in the forests and mangroves of the protected areas of Menabe Antimena, Kirindy-Mite, Amoron’i Onilahy, and Tsimanampetsotse have forced local farmers and fisherfolk to turn to charcoal activities and further degrade the system. WWF is working along the fuelwood value chain to install 62,350 efficient cookstoves, improve the management of almost 20,000 hectares of forest, and reforest almost 3,000 hectares for fuelwood production. Agroforestry systems with vegetable crops will also be developed to improve food security and income generation for communities.[xxxv] In Bangladesh, the Bangladesh Biochar Initiative is using top-lit updraft gasifier stoves to make biochar as a byproduct of cooking to both transition rural households to clean cookstoves and improve soil organic matter to increase crop yields.[xxxvi]
10. Enhancing community cohesion and peace building. There are over 102 million forcibly displaced people, the vast majority of whom do not have access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern sources of energy.[xxxvii] The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, estimate that more than four out of five forcibly displaced people worldwide use woodfuel for cooking and heating, making it the main driver of forest degradation and deforestation in these areas.[xxxviii] For example, in Yumbe, Uganda, women in the Bidibidi Refugee Camp have to spend on average two to three hours each day collecting fuelwood. This has exacerbated unsustainable consumption of local natural resources and increased tensions between host and refugee communities. Mercy Corps partnered with Pesitho to set up a local assembly station at the settlement, which has generated employment opportunities for both host communities and refugees.[xxxix]
For a list of references, please click here.