Avoiding Emissions And Improving Public Health With Cleaner Cookstoves
There are a variety of different creative ways that people are finding to reduce their carbon footprints. For many parts of the world, cooking is still a very inefficient process as it’s done on an open fire. Finding cleaner ways to cook food is an important step in reaching net-zero.
In some parts of the world, there is still limited access to electricity and infrastructure, so the people who live there need to have a fire running constantly, for cooking food, purifying water and heating their living spaces.
This is unhealthy for people to be around all the time, and it’s also bad for the environment, because they emit carbon and they require trees to be cut down for wood.
In the 2006 report “Fuel for Life: Household Energy and Health,” The World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that living in these conditions and breathing in smoke all day is equivalent to smoking two packs of cigarettes per day. Approximately one third of the planet, or 2.4 billion people, are currently living in these conditions.
The report also highlighted that “Biomass cooking causes about two-thirds of black carbon emissions in South Asia.”
To help save lives, free up time, and reduce emissions — there is an ongoing effort to distribute cookstoves to parts of the world that need them. In many cases, it is also possible for those who donate cookstoves to earn carbon credits for the emissions they are helping to avoid. However, these projects need to be approached carefully if they are going to truly make a difference, Project Proponents need to understand the unique needs of the communities they are serving.
There are some historical examples of when the projects have provided cookstoves that were not suited to the local environment, and they either quickly broke or were not used, so this is not an effort that can be made in a half-hearted way. Furthermore, the local communities should have input so the stoves can be tailored to their needs.
It is important to note that cookstoves are a method of carbon avoidance, as opposed to carbon sequestration, which removes carbon from the atmosphere, instead of avoiding emissions. The incentives and additionality accounting structures can be difficult to appropriately navigate, which are some of the main challenges.
Nonetheless, the effort to distribute cleaner cookstoves has coincided with a significant reduction in emissions through cooking.
According to a recent WHO report “the number of people mainly using polluting fuels for cooking declined from more than half of the global population in 1990 to 36% in 2020.”