United States joins alliance to promote clean cooking in developing countries

Indian men sell dung cakes that are commonly used as cooking fuel in rural India (in this AP photo). Cookstoves that use dung and other biomass as fuel give off toxic smoke and are believed to contribute to climate change.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced Tuesday an impressive collaboration at the Clinton Global Initiative that brings together U.S. agencies and the United Nations Foundation to form the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves. The aim is to bring 100 million households around the world clean and efficient stoves and fuel by 2020.

CAP’s Arpita Bhattacharyya and Andrew Light have the story in this cross-post.

The new alliance takes a significant step toward preventing the estimated 2 million premature deaths caused by cooking smoke every year while encouraging the deployment of basic low-carbon energy infrastructure and addressing women’s security issues in poor communities around the world. This initiative also adds to the U.S. commitment to contribute a fair share to the $30 billion “fast-start” funding promised at last year’s U.N. climate summit in Copenhagen to help developing countries adapt to global warming and mitigate their emissions from 2010 to 2012.

Traditional cookstoves in developing nations rely on biomass, including wood, dung, and coal. They produce unfiltered toxic smoke that harms the nearly 3 billion people who have no alternatives for cooking fuel. According to the World Health Organization these unintentionally toxic cookstoves affect women and children the most because they are primarily responsible for cooking and gathering fuel, often having to walk far distances in dangerous barren areas to scrape together the minimal amounts of fuel available.

Biomass cooking also accounts for 20 percent of the world’s emissions of black carbon, which some scientists believe is the second largest contributor to climate change after carbon dioxide. The alliance’s intention is to develop clean cookstoves and shift fuel sources to low-carbon or no-carbon alternatives for millions with the communal support and expertise of agencies and organizations around the world.

The $50.82 million pledge by U.S. agencies comes from the Department of State, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Department of Energy, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Centers for Disease Control, and the Environmental Protection Agency. The variety of agencies reveals the complexity of an undertaking aimed at tackling a problem spanning the climate-health nexus.

These agencies, along with cooperation from international nonprofits, foundations, U.N. agencies, governments, local NGOs, women’s groups, and corporate leaders, create an alliance with a unique blend of diplomacy, technology, research, advocacy, and economic opportunity.

The alliance will draw on the expertise of each stakeholder to create market-based solutions that will simultaneously reduce health problems, provide security for women, and lessen the impact of traditional stoves on the environment. The initial goal is to provide stoves to 100 million homes but the broader aim is to establish a sustainable market for clean cookstoves and cleaner fuel that would provide new economic opportunities for sustainable communities.

Collaborators, including Morgan Stanley and Royal Dutch Shell Plc’s Shell Foundation, back a revolving loan fund for financing development of advanced stoves and fuels. The key will be to create local development and deployment infrastructures so that communities needing cookstoves will eventually have their own local market for producing, selling, and fixing stoves and providing clean fuel that lasts far beyond the alliance’s reach. The foundation the alliance builds can be transformative in developing local low-carbon economies throughout the world, with the hope that women lead the charge in these markets.

As background to this initiative, the United States committed between $1 billion and $1.3 billion in fiscal year 2010 in climate-related appropriations depending on how one counts the allocations. This was the government’s first payment toward $30 billion in fast-start financing committed to last year in Copenhagen by developed countries to developing countries to encourage the latter to move in the right direction on carbon mitigation and protecting their vulnerable populations.

The government’s requests for FY 2011 are $1.4 billion to $1.9 billion, and the total expected by the end of the fast-start period in 2012 is between $4 billion and $5.2 billion. The international community is closely scrutinizing all contributions by all countries to this global fund to make sure these funds truly are over and above existing development commitments and aimed at solving climate-related problems. Yesterday’s announcement demonstrates at least one clear example of a focused commitment by the United States that may satisfy this scrutiny. It is a new and credible pledge to both carbon mitigation and climate adaptation in the developing world.

The question is: Will this fund alone be enough? Most likely not, but $50 million is a good start. Different estimates of these programs range from $3.00 per unit to $20.00, which will make the initial outlay of funds insufficient to meet the goal of 100 million distributed stoves. What’s more important now, though, is getting the program off the ground and making sure that pledged commitments are followed up by an open and transparent system that gets the stoves on the ground quickly and ensures they’re effective. In the medium to long term the alliance partners aspire to committing an additional $250,000 each per year to ensure a consistent funding stream for the initiative.

The Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves is a great example of how low-carbon technologies can simultaneously reduce health problems from pollutants, spur economic growth, create markets, and lower carbon emissions from unsustainable energy sources. Hopefully it serves as a model for how multiple parties can join forces to find solutions that work for everyone. The challenge now is to scale examples like this up to meet the needs of those who must develop in a carbon-constrained world.

Arpita Bhattacharyya is an intern and Andrew Light is a Senior Fellow on the Energy and Climate team at American Progress. This is cross-posted at the Center for American Progress Energy and Environment website.

13 Responses to United States joins alliance to promote clean cooking in developing countries

  1. Mark says:

    went to the site, there is no description of a clean cook stove.

    thanks for the article.

    [JR: Try here.]

  2. mike roddy says:

    We have to be careful that low carbon does not become propane, a new profit center for the fossil fuel companies, now subsidized by governments. They made this pitch on other blogs. Solar cookers in the tropics, made from durable materials, are the best solution.

  3. darth says:

    This seems much more a health and quality of life issue than a climate issue. If these people switch to gas stoves will it be fossil fuel gas or bio-gas?

    Is the argument that given the reduction in black carbon this is still a win for the climate even if they switch to propane or nat. gas fuels?

  4. This is a repost of my comment from yesterday, if permitted. In comment #2 above, mike roddy points out the benefits of solar cookers, which I certainly support, too. My main point is that appropriate technologies focus on the use of local materials and local fuels, not fossil fuels from far away. I acknowledge that for population centers, burning anything can be a health problem. In the tropics, solar cookers are a good urban alternative made from locally available materials. Culturally, positive draft stoves fit into current town-scale and rural lifestyles and reduce biomass consumption by 50 to 67%. Biomass can be a sustainable and local solution.

    Now the repost; Re the Clean-Burning Cookstoves:

    I am concerned that this effort seems to be promoting gas stoves. High-efficiency gas stoves are an improvement over low-efficiency gas stoves. That’s fine and I agree.

    Converting people from open fires in the kitchen as depicted in the material on the website for the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves is also good. However, the catch is that people using the stoves promoted by this organization will become dependent on fossil fuel natural gas from distant lands. Sometimes this may be the best option.

    I would like to call attention to an alternative -positive draft stoves with chimney all made of local materials- that uses half to one-third the amount of wood or biomass as the traditional open fire stoves and keeps the indoor environment nearly as clean as the gas stoves. There is greatly reduced need to forage for wood. In Latin America, the stoves are called Estufa Lorena (stove of mud and sand), but they can be made of sun-dried bricks. They require training local technicians to build, but other than that, all materials are local and the stove can be repaired by the family that uses it. This is a UN manual in Spanish:
    (see page 22 of the document for the brick version, page 29 for the mud version). As long as the holes in the stove are all covered, the positive draft will carry the smoke through the chimney and to the outside. The greater efficiency of 2/3 to 1/2 less biomass used means less smoke is generated in total. The use of biomass can be done sustainably in most rural and town settings. This solution may not be good for cities.

    For those who don’t read Spanish, here is a Peace Corps volunteer describing the experience of building an estufa lorena for the first time: This description is not technical enough to build one yourself, but it gives the sense of the process and the need to train technicians.

    I learned about these stoves in Guatemala from a Mennonite Central Committee worker, who was promoting this solution there. Appropriate technology is all about inventing solutions that use local materials and skills. The UN manual from 1999 in Spanish is an excellent example.

  5. Mark says:


    what a strange creature man is when……

    “The new alliance takes a significant step toward preventing the estimated 2 million premature deaths caused by cooking smoke ”

    can be a problem.

  6. Colorado Bob says:

    mike roddy @ 2

    Solar cooking has some big drawbacks ….
    If it’s cloudy you don’t eat hot food.
    It’s slow IE , you don’t eat a hot breakfast at 7:00 AM.

    My solar oven :

  7. Colorado Bob says:

    Solar cooking has some big drawbacks ….

    That being said , it has some very worthwhile assets. This is a Rotary project that bakes bread on a village size scale :

    Villager Sun Oven :

  8. Colorado Bob says:

    Another extreme rain event last night :

    About 85 miles west in Owatonna, Minn., flooding along Maple Creek forced the evacuation of fewer than 10 homes, Steele County emergency management director Mike Johnson said. More than 6 inches of rain had fallen in the area by Thursday morning.

    Heavy rain pounded the southern part of the state overnight, dropping up to 9 inches in some places, forcing some school closures and threatening to overwhelm some water treatment plants.

  9. dyuane says:

    I think clean cooking is great. We need to do it in the US as well the developing countries.

  10. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    I’m sorry, but the phrase, ‘Collaborators,including Morgan Stanley and Royal Dutch Shell..’gives the game away, at least for this cynic. The financial grifters and the fossil fuel carbon emitters care for one thing alone-profit maximisation. A little PR in pursuit of a better ‘corporate image’ behind which to hide business-as-usual environmental destruction and financial kleptomania doesn’t impress me. I’ve seen scores of these ‘initiatives’ by the West and its ruling business elites, pushed by the Western media propaganda system, that then fail to deliver, a failure that the media propagandists cover up, excuse or ignore. I hope that I’m wrong, but I doubt it.

  11. Michael Tucker says:

    The caption says that the dung cakes are being sold to “villagers in New Dehli” (is that the alternative spelling – I’m not sure). New Delhi might have citizens who call themselves villagers if they have just recently arrived but New Delhi is the capital of India. New Delhi is a part of the larger metropolitan area of Delhi, the second largest city in India. So many of the citizens who live in the densely populated second largest city of India use dung for cooking. That is shocking but they also use kerosene for lighting. This is the situation in India’s capital city.

    India is an emerging nation that is also trying to increase its electrical production to supply its massively expanding population. Is it any wonder why they still use coal? Not only do they burn dung for fuel in New Delhi but they do not have regular freshwater delivery or regularly available electricity. Yet India is a nuclear power! India cannot supply enough freshwater and electricity because they have decided to use much of that water for agriculture. Yet they still depend on imports to feed their hungry citizens. India still requires international support to survive, cannot keep up with supplying basic needs to their citizens, and will require massive help whenever food becomes scarce or prices balloon.

    It is wonderful that we are doing so much to support this desperately fragile nation and I think it is unreasonable to think that they will also be able to switch to clean energy choices without a great deal more from the international community.

  12. ChinHsien says:

    Opportunity cost is always a must to be considered.

    The dung and other biomass are actually sun dried before they are used as solid fuel. This prevents them remain in humid area and slowly release methane.

    From the GHG emission concern, it is definitely a better choice than fossil fuel gas cooker.

    Solar oven is good in sunny days. Biomass is good as storable energy carrier that can be used in cloudy / rainny days.

    Looking into safety concern. If these natural materials are actually easily obtained from their own livestoks’ (or even their own) dung, nearby dried woods. It is pretty quite a good exercise to collect these biomass and further dry them under the sun. In fact, there should be an optimum population density that allow the people there to live sustainably with local resources, together with good community services (e.g. healthcare, police, education etc).

    Looking into the health concern. If the population density is at its optimum. The shit / urine could even be good fertilizer (if infrastructure is also well built), other than dirty staffs give bacteria / virus the chance to spread dicease. Similarly to using biomass as solid fuel, what they need is good local infrastructure to burn these biomass with minimum smoke being released. Not to replace them with fossil fuel gas.

  13. Alas this looks like bolloks to me:
    1) Smoke is often necessary to keep the roof from rotting. (Somewhere Andy Revkin told a story that a chimney installation program turned out a failure for that reason.) Ditto for tipi tarp.
    2) No mention of clean carbon negative wood gas stoves (producing biochar). See e.g. That hints at an utter failure of comprehension.