Around the world, 3 billion people cook over open fires or on rudimentary stoves. The cooking fuels used by 40 percent of humanity are wood, charcoal, animal dung, crop residues, and coal. As these burn, often inside homes or in areas with limited ventilation, they release plumes of smoke and soot liable for 4.3 million premature deaths each year.
Traditional cooking practices also produce 2 to 5 percent of annual greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. They stem from two sources. First, unsustainable harvesting of fuel drives deforestation and forest degradation. Second, burning fuels during the cooking process emits carbon dioxide, methane, and pollutants from incomplete combustion that include carbon monoxide and black carbon.
A wide range of “improved” cookstove technologies exists, with a wide range of impacts on emissions. Advanced biomass stoves are the most promising. By forcing gases and smoke from incomplete combustion back into the stove’s flame, some cut emissions by an incredible 95 percent, but they are more expensive and can require more advanced pellet or briquette fuels.
The Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, launched by the United Nations Foundation in 2010, is one of many organizations working towards universal adoption of affordable, effective, and durable clean cooking technologies.
Technical summaries for each solution will be available May 1, 2017.