New SDG7 Tracking Report Highlights Progress, Challenges for Clean Cooking Access
The latest “Tracking SDG7 Energy Progress 2023” report revealed that the current pace of progress is far too slow to achieve universal energy access by 2030. And despite marked advancements, including that more than 1.5 billion people have gained clean cooking access since 2010, clean cooking remains off track, with 2.3 billion people living each day without access to clean, modern cooking fuels and technologies.
Without a dramatic increase in investment and action, the report predicts that 1.9 billion people will still be without access to clean cooking in 2030, with nearly six out of ten of those without access living in Sub-Saharan Africa. According to the report, polluting cooking fuels and technologies will continue to claim millions of lives each year while perpetuating gender inequity, deforestation, and negative climate impacts unless efforts are rapidly scaled up.
The report showed that health costs alone from lack of clean cooking are estimated at US $1.4 trillion per year. Women are particularly affected, and their loss of productivity amounts to US $0.8 trillion every year. When adding environmental costs, the price tag totals US $2.4 trillion a year, far greater than the cost of transitioning to universal modern energy cooking services (US $148–156 billion annually over the next 10 years, for a total of US $1.5 trillion).
The report also found that new evidence on the climate, health, and social benefits of transitioning to clean cooking strengthens the argument for universal clean cooking as a way to accelerate the energy transition. In addition, integrating clean cooking into broader energy planning, improving affordability, and devising better delivery mechanisms are some of the key policy levers to drive clean cooking access. If such efforts are paired with sustained financing at an adequate level, the report noted, “the world can get back on track to making clean cooking a reality for all.”
Some of the additional findings of the report include:
Signs of Progress
The report showcases some positive developments in clean cooking access, demonstrating that current efforts, while drastically underfunded, are helping to address this pressing issue:
- Increased Global Awareness and Commitment: There is growing recognition among governments, international organizations, and stakeholders regarding the importance of clean cooking solutions. This heightened awareness has led to improved policy frameworks and increased investments in clean cooking technologies and infrastructure.
- Transition to Clean Cooking Solutions: Many countries, such as Kenya and India, have made significant progress in transitioning from traditional cooking methods to cleaner and more efficient technologies. The adoption of clean cooking solutions, such as improved cookstoves and biogas systems, has helped reduce household air pollution, improve health outcomes, and decrease carbon emissions.
- Urban Clean Cooking Access: Urban areas have witnessed notable improvements in clean cooking access due to better infrastructure and higher levels of economic development. In these areas, cleaner fuels, such as liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and electricity, are more accessible and affordable, reducing reliance on traditional biomass fuels. Additionally, the urban-rural divide in clean cooking access is narrowing, but a significant gap remains.
Despite positive advancements, several challenges continue to impede progress towards universal clean cooking access:
- Financing and Investment Gaps: Insufficient financial resources and limited access to financing continue to hinder the scale-up of clean cooking solutions. The report highlights the need for increased investments, innovative financing mechanisms, and public-private partnerships to overcome these barriers and ensure sustainable funding for clean cooking initiatives.
- Women’s Empowerment: The burden of cooking and collecting fuel falls primarily on women and girls in many societies. This not only perpetuates gender inequalities but also exposes women to health risks associated with household air pollution. Addressing gender dynamics and empowering women in decision-making processes are crucial for achieving equitable clean cooking access.
To accelerate progress in clean cooking access, the report identifies several key strategies and initiatives:
- A Cost-Effective Climate and Development Solution: Clean cooking can and should be an integral part of countries’ Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), the commitments countries make under the Paris Agreement to mitigate climate change and achieve Net Zero by 2050. Additionally, clean cooking must be fully integrated in strategies to achieve Sustainable Development Goals 7, 9, and 13, as none of these goals can be achieved without expanded clean cooking access.
- Policy Support and Capacity Building: Governments and policymakers need to prioritize clean cooking access and develop supportive policies, regulatory frameworks, and standards. Capacity-building programs, awareness campaigns, and technical assistance can enhance the knowledge and skills necessary for the adoption and maintenance of clean cooking technologies.
- Clean Fuel Subsidies and Incentives: Subsidies and incentives can play a crucial role in making clean fuels and technologies more affordable and accessible, particularly in rural areas. Targeted subsidies and innovative financing models can help bridge the affordability gap and incentivize the transition to clean cooking solutions.
- Joining the Public and Private Sectors: Collaboration between governments, international organizations, and private sector entities can drive innovation, investment, and market development for clean cooking solutions. Public-private partnerships can help leverage expertise, resources, and knowledge to scale up clean cooking initiatives and accelerate progress.