Annual investment of $8bn needed to achieve universal access to clean cooking, IEA says

One in three people still cook their meals over open fires or on basic stoves, agency says

The burden of collecting fuel and making meals typically falls on women, preventing many from pursuing an education. AFP
Powered by automated translation

Annual investment of $8 billion will be required until 2030 to achieve universal access to clean cooking, according to the International Energy Agency.

The Paris-based agency’s estimate is less than 1 per cent of what governments spent last year on measures to keep energy cheap for their citizens, it said in a report produced in partnership with the African Development Bank on Wednesday.

One in three people around the world still cook their meals over open fires or on basic stoves, resulting in “significant damage” to health, quality of life and gender parity, the IEA said.

“Clean cooking is a topic that rarely hits the headlines or makes it on to the political agenda,” said IEA executive director Fatih Birol.

“And yet, it’s a cornerstone of global efforts to improve energy access, gender equity, economic development and human dignity.”

The report said that basic cooking methods contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, while the collection of wood and charcoal for cooking results in the loss of forest areas “the size of Ireland each year.”

Currently, 2.3 billion people rely on harmful cooking fuels such as charcoal, firewood, coal, agricultural waste and animal dung, exposing them to dangerous smoke, which leads to 3.7 million premature deaths, the report said.

Early deaths from poor indoor air quality would drop by 2.5 million annually if access to clean cooking is achieved globally, the IEA said, adding that the average household would also save at least 1.5 hours of time a day.

“The burden of fuel collection and making meals typically falls on women and takes on average five hours a day,” the agency said.

“This prevents many women from pursuing education and employment or from starting a business that could deliver financial independence.”

China, India and Indonesia have halved the number of their citizens who lack clean cooking access since 2010, mainly through free stove distribution and subsidised liquefied petroleum gas canisters.

However, in Africa, the population without clean cooking access has increased during the same period, the IEA said.

“The lack of access to clean cooking negatively impacts public health, perpetuates deforestation and increases greenhouse gas emissions,” said Akinwumi Adesina, president of the African Development Bank.

“Universal access to modern energy by 2030 is imperative and requires game-changing approaches.”

Public and private finance have a “key” role in advancing clean cooking, particularly in regions without the fiscal space to drive the required investment through public funds, the IEA said.

The agency also said that concessional and climate financing would be needed to support projects in the poorest regions, notably in sub-Saharan Africa.

“Solving access to clean cooking does not require a technological breakthrough,” Mr Birol said.

“It comes down to political will from governments, development banks and other entities seeking to eradicate poverty and gender inequality. But today, we are failing women in some of the most vulnerable areas of the world.”

Updated: July 26, 2023, 11:42 AM