A woman prepares food on an improved cookstove in her home in the Indian state of Gujarat.
Manpreet Romana for the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves

A woman prepares food on an improved cookstove in her home in the Indian state of Gujarat. The cookstove is made of lightweight metal with a metal alloy combustion chamber. This technology maximizes the lifetime of the stove, quality control, safety, and heat transfer, while minimizing emissions.

Improved Clean Cookstoves

Reduce SourcesBuildingsShift Energy Sources
CO2 Equivalent
Reduced / Sequestered
Billion $US
Net First Cost
(To Implement Solution)
Trillion $US
Lifetime Net
Operational Savings
Improved clean cookstoves can address the pollution from burning wood or biomass in traditional stoves. Using various technologies, they reduce emissions and protect human health.

Solution Summary*

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.

* excerpted from the book, Drawdown

As of 2018, clean cookstoves were used by over 53% of families in developing regions with the rest using open wood or charcoal fires for cooking, with concomitant health and environmental effects. If policies for promoting clean cooking worldwide are aggressively implemented, guided by the UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) of universal access to clean energy, reductions in emissions can amount to 31–73 gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalents at a net cost of US$136–291 billion. These stoves do raise cooking operating costs however by US$2.0–4.2 trillion over the stove lifetimes considering that many families collect firewood for free or buy cheap fuels today. These results include the reduction of black carbon, the second more impactful climate pollutant, by 8–20 gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalents. The additional benefits to the health of millions of households are not calculated here.

Note: August 2021 corrections appear in boldface.