We Won’t Meet Global Climate Goals Without a Lot More Funding for Clean Cooking
In one of the first of many climate commitments taking place at COP26 in Glasgow, over 100 countries have pledged to help end and reverse deforestation and land degradation by 2030. This admirable goal – like other climate goals – cannot be met if we leave behind the 2.6 billion people who rely on polluting fuels, largely biomass, and stoves to prepare meals.
Clean cooking continues to be an overlooked climate solution, despite its ability to reduce forest degradation, mitigate CO2e and black carbon emissions, and help achieve numerous other Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Over 400 million people have received access to clean cooking solutions over the last decade, but new research from the International Institute of Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) and Climate Analytics highlights that we remain far off track in achieving universal access by 2030.
The study, published in Nature Energy, modeled what global clean cooking access is likely to look like by 2050 depending on the decisions we make now. Exploring potential socioeconomic, demographic, and policy scenarios, researchers found that universal access to clean cooking will not be achieved by 2030, and likely not even 2050, if current trends continue.
This finding jeopardizes the achievement of at least 10 SDGs where cooking, household air pollution, and women’s empowerment play a key role.
To achieve clean cooking for all, an annual investment of $4.5 billion is required, which is below the yearly $0.2 trillion cost of environmental degradation caused by reliance on polluting cooking fuels and technologies. Investments to scale up clean cooking do not only result in immediate, measurable emissions reductions but also help protect our forest’s resources and ensure a sustainable clean energy transition.
“There is an opportunity and need to tap into pandemic recovery and climate funds to target the poorest populations and regions globally. These funds and the value of losses suffered by those lacking access all dwarf estimates of investment needs for universal clean cooking access,” emphasizes Dr. Shonali Pachauri.
The regions most disproportionately affected by the detrimental health and social impacts of polluting cooking fuels and technologies – such as sub-Saharan Africa – are most at risk of not being able to afford transitioning to clean cooking. The economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic could further strain low-income and impoverished families by reducing the available funds households must spend on clean fuels.
Ambitious climate mitigation policies alone are not enough. Instead, the researchers argue that targeted policies and funding related to energy access and poverty alleviation must also be implemented. Without the strategic pairing of all three solutions, access to clean cooking will continue to be obstructed as fuels such as liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) become more expensive and less affordable.
Despite being a fossil fuel, LPG offers immediate climate and environmental benefits when compared to polluting open fires or inefficient stoves fueled by kerosene, biomass, and coal. An equitable, just, and inclusive sustainable energy transition needs to consider fuels like LPG until renewable energy cooking solutions become affordable and accessible to lower-income and rural communities.
“There is an urgent need to accelerate efforts to achieve SDG7.1, as at the current pace, the goal of universal access to clean cooking by 2030 is unachievable and perhaps out of reach for some nations in sub-Saharan Africa even by 2050,” said Dr. Shonali Pachauri, the lead author of the study. “Our analysis shows that without additional support policies, clean cooking could become unaffordable for about 470 million people by 2030 if a post-pandemic recovery is slow, and for about 200 million people by 2030 under ambitious climate mitigation action that could result in price increases for fossil-based clean burning cooking stoves.”