25 March 2010

Clean-cooking stoves cut carbon, improve life

Only recently understood, soot from traditional cooking on open-fire stoves may be responsible for up to 20% of global warming. Our understanding of this phenomenon is so recent, 2007's IPCC report did not even cite soot or black carbon as a reduction target, or as a cause. 3 billion people worldwide use these stoves to cook their food, releasing black carbon into the atmosphere. Scientists now understand that the carbon can travel long distances-soot particles stick to glaciers like a thick winter-coat and absorb and trap heat from the sun. Black carbon has been linked to the Himalayan glacier recession.

In the last years, entrepreneurial projects have been brewing-applying modern engineering to design efficient, clean-burning stoves and fuel-the StoveTec project, created in 2008, has witnessed widespread success and rapid expansion. The new mass-produced stoves are as popular as they are efficient. In addition, they improve the health of the people that use them, by reducing indoor and outdoor air pollution, by saving families fuel money due to better efficiency, and reducing deforestation. The World Health Organisation estimates 1.6 million people die annually due to inhaling wood smoke.

All of these factors make Aprovecho Research Centre's StoveTec project a worthy and effective endeavour; unlike so many green technologies this is uncontroversial, proven, and efficacious. Cleaner cooking improves lives whilst addressing deep environmental and global warming concerns. Black carbon, unlike CO2 emissions, only lasts in the atmosphere for one to two weeks. Replacing harmful wood-fire stoves with efficient stoves the project will stunt global warming. The only question is how to extend the project.

In Africa, the new cooking stoves have been particularly popular-over 300,000 Ugandans own and operate the stoves, which comprises over 1% of Uganda's population. Statistics released during a recent Ashden Awards for Sustainable Energy conference estimate that this has led to a reduction of each family's fuel cost by 42% and curbed regional deforestation by 24%. South and Central America and Asia are targets to extend production. The report also states that the StoveTec abated more than 10,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions just last year alone.

The challenges of expansion mostly relate to marketing the product and adapting stoves to meet the specific cultural cooking needs of each region. Before the stove can be used, marketers must educate the people how and why they should use it. Supporters of the project hope the carbon-trade market can be mobilised to incentivise the programme, and thus lead to greater profitability and attract more investors.

Stovetec hopes to attract funding from new stakeholders, investors and governments to fund production, research, and distribution for clean-burning briquettes and high-efficiency stoves, which has seen increased demand since its inception.

Author: Michael Good | Climate Action

Images Provided by:
Stovetec |
oskarlin | Flickr

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