It’s easy to forget, while moaning about what to cook tonight, that the daily routine of simply turning a few dials on the oven, putting on the TV, and waiting for dinner to be ready, isn’t one that most people in the world can enjoy.
In fact, for over 38% of the world’s population everyday cooking comes with an inherent risk. Household air pollution from the use of inefficient stoves and the burning of unclean fuel for cooking is responsible for around 4 million deaths a year, with women and children most at risk [World Bank, 2018]. To put this into perspective, deaths related to household air pollution total more than the deaths related to malaria, tuberculosis, and HIV/AIDS combined, making it the second-largest overall health risk for women and girls, and fifth largest health risk for men worldwide [WHO, 2016].
Universal clean cooking is a key component of SDG 7- access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all by 2030. However, progress is currently not on track, with access to clean cooking fuels and technologies lagging furthest behind. In fact, the number of people that lack access to clean cooking has sat steady at 2.8 billion since 2000 (accounting for population growth), and according to current projections over 2.3 billion people will still use unsafe cooking solutions in 2030 [World Bank, 2018].
The truth of the matter is that access to clean cooking not only contributes to access to modern and clean energy (SDG 7) and improved health (SDG 3), but its impacts can be felt keenly in 10 out of the 17 global goals including gender equality (SDG 5), climate action (SDG 13) and the elimination of poverty (SDG 1). In other words- without a shift towards universal clean cooking solutions, achievement of most SDGs will also be affected.
The impacts on gender equality, in particular, are key to enabling inclusive progress towards the SDGs. The responsibility of collecting fuel, feeding stoves, and cooking falls disproportionately on women and girls- and therefore the associated risks do too. Without clean cooking solutions, women on average spend 1.4 hours collecting firewood, and 4 hours cooking each day, meaning that they have little time to take part in any other activities [IEA, 2017].
The solution? Recent meetings on the matter, such as the 2018 SE4All Conference, underlined the need for an inclusive, holistic approach involving multi-stakeholder collaboration, emphasising that the importance of a shift to clean cooking shouldn’t be overlooked. While there is no ‘silver bullet’ answer, it is also clear that women need to be at the centre of ensuring the shift is lasting and effective.
However, major barriers to progress still need to be overcome – including the upfront cost associated with improved cooking solutions, and delivering solutions in rural areas. Clean cookstove projects, like those implemented by Co2balance, therefore play a vital role in providing viable, affordable clean cooking solutions to those who are most at risk; ensuring sustainable finance for long-term progress; and are key to enabling the achievement of the SDGs.