Clean Cooking: Lower Environmental Damage and Reduce Mortality Rates in Marginalised Communities

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Despite five or six decades of development work by the government and private agencies, small and marginal farmers, sharecroppers, agricultural, mining, and industrial labourers, and those living in houses in coastal fishing villages, mohalas, and slums in India’s emerging States still lack access to even the most basic amenities like clean cooking. Most of these families survive off of monthly incomes of about Rs 1,000 to Rs 2,000 and make do with what they can afford or get for free, including forest wood for cooking and traditional chullahs (stoves) with inadequate ventilation or inefficient open fires.

With the delivery of its 40,000th improved (energy-efficient) cookstove, CoreCarbonX (CCX) is promoting clean cooking in isolated forest-dependent households in Orissa and Jharkhand.

“Dirty” Cooking Carbon Warms the Planet 1500 Times More Than CO2

As per an estimate, almost half of the population on earth, especially in developing countries, relies on traditional stoves or open fires that burn wood, coal, or other biomass fuels for cooking. Inefficient household solid fuel combustion, or “dirty cooking,” emits carbonaceous aerosols (CA) that contain Black Carbon(BC), a strong solar radiation absorber, organic matter, and greenhouse gases like methane (CH4), carbon monoxide (CO), and carbon dioxide (CO2). The ability of black carbon to absorb sunlight and heat its surroundings makes its climate-warming effects 1,500 times stronger per mass than those of CO2. In South Asia, traditional cooking is responsible for about half of the black carbon in the air, which is a major cause of climate change. According to a recent report in Nature Communication, black carbon increases vertical convection and cloud condensation, depleting water vapour over the Indian subcontinent, the southern Tibetan plateau’s main moisture source. Increasing black carbon concentrations decrease summer precipitation over the southern Tibetan plateau, resulting in an 11.0 per cent glacier mass balance deficit on average from 2007 to 2016; in the Himalayas, this loss is 22.1 per cent.

Conventional Cooking Deforests and Lowers Quality of Life

The ongoing demand for firewood for conventional cooking by economically disadvantaged communities results in deforestation. Deforestation disrupts ecosystems by making temperatures rise and changing the way rain falls. This leads to a drier climate, the extinction of species, and people who depend on forests not being able to keep their standard of living. Additionally, since forests serve as a natural sink for atmospheric carbon dioxide, deforestation can exacerbate climate change.

Traditional cooking with poor ventilation and solid fuel combustion pollutes indoor air. Constant exposure to polluted air can have devastating effects on one’s health, leading to respiratory problems like asthma and lung cancer and reducing one’s quality of life. Women and children are particularly vulnerable to the effects of smoke from traditional stoves, as they tend to spend more time indoors and are often responsible for cooking and other household tasks.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), indoor air pollution from cooking with solid fuels (such as wood, charcoal, and animal dung) is responsible for over four million premature deaths every year.

In partnership with Vida Carbon, CoreCarbonX initiated an ambitious project of distributing energy-efficient cookstoves to 300,000 homes in Odisha and Jharkhand, aiming to reduce emissions by 4.6 million metric tons of CO2 over seven years. The improved cookstove is designed to provide an enclosure for the fire to reduce the loss of radiant heat, protect it against wind and increase heat transfer, thereby increasing efficiency. CoreCarbonX collaborates with exclusive partners to design and manufacture affordable cookstoves that can improve combustion, provide advanced insulation, and have better fuel-burning controls.

Improved Cookstoves Emerging as a Transitional Solution

With 2.4 billion people still without access to clean cooking methods, clean cooking is the most undervalued and underfunded tool to protect the environment and livelihood. A serious market failure in the adoption of clean cooking may be linked to inadequate supply networks and affordability, as well as gendered disparities between the advantages seen by decision-makers and those experienced by households.

Improved Cookstoves (ICS) are more efficient than conventional stoves but less efficient and healthier than clean stoves. They are cheaper and operate like traditional stoves, making them easier for economically disadvantaged households to switch.

The use of an improved cookstove over inefficient conventional stoves has the potential to reduce Black Carbon emissions by 50-60 per cent. These stoves promise to facilitate more efficient cooking while consuming less time and wood.

Improved Cookstoves Programme in Odisha and Jharkhand

CoreCarbonX, an environmental consulting and sustainability advisory firm, is the project originator and implementation partner of such programmes to tackle the uncertainties of climate change and ensure a sustainable future for the ecosystem.

The organisation helped the families in Myanmar shift from open fire or three-stone methods for cooking to Improved Cookstoves. CoreCarbonX also supported the ICS adoption programme among forest-dependent households in the districts of Chhattisgarh and Odisha.

In partnership with Vida Carbon, CoreCarbonX initiated an ambitious project of distributing energy-efficient cookstoves to 300,000 homes in Odisha and Jharkhand, aiming to reduce emissions by 4.6 million metric tons of CO2 over seven years.

The improved cookstove is designed to provide an enclosure for the fire to reduce the loss of radiant heat, protect it against wind and increase heat transfer, thereby increasing efficiency. CoreCarbonX collaborates with exclusive partners to design and manufacture affordable cookstoves that can improve combustion, provide advanced insulation, and have better fuel-burning controls.

While it also meant faster cooking, the cookstoves help save time and fuel, cleaner pans, kitchen walls and lower health expenditure.

CoreCarbonX has also trained “Carbon Saathi” (Carbon Friend), the majority of whom are women, from each of the local communities that have been identified for the programme. These “Carbon Saathi” are tasked with raising clean cooking awareness amongst women, informing them of the drawbacks of using traditional cooking methods, assisting them in making the switch to improved cookstoves, and ensuring that the stoves are properly maintained so that they continue to provide benefits to women.

Unique Delivery Model and Incentive to Promote ICS Adoption and Use

The most effective distribution model for such critical programmes depends on the specific needs and resources of the target community. By considering the local context and working with a range of partners and individuals, CoreCarbonX has been following a community-based delivery programme, in which local communities or individuals are responsible for distributing and promoting the use of clean cooking technologies. This model is particularly effective in reaching hard-to-reach or remote communities in the case of Odisha and Jharkhand.

The team is actively working to facilitate the widespread adoption of clean cooking practices in underserved communities by establishing self-help women’s groups to educate and encourage enrollment in the clean cooking programme, ensuring the seamless supply of energy-efficient cookstoves from source to household with all necessary due diligence to monitor, and training local community members for maintenance of these cookstoves. Moreover, there is an incentive for those households who use the improved cookstoves continuously for four years.

Carbon Saathi to Educate Women Households on Clean Cooking Practices

CoreCarbonX has also trained “Carbon Saathi” (Carbon Friend), the majority of whom are women, from each of the local communities that have been identified for the programme. These “Carbon Saathi” are tasked with raising clean cooking awareness amongst women, informing them of the drawbacks of using traditional cooking methods, assisting them in making the switch to improved cookstoves, and ensuring that the stoves are properly maintained so that they continue to provide benefits to women.

The team is giving the women in these communities the opportunity to become Carbon Saathi, which allows them to earn additional income.

Co-Benefits Delivered by the Improved Cookstove Programme

There are many benefits that are being delivered using clean cooking technologies. This includes achieving the nine UN Sustainable Development Goals as given below

  1. Improved indoor air quality: Clean cookstoves drastically reduce the amount of smoke and other pollutants that are released into the air, helping to improve the health of people who use them.
  2. Increased fuel efficiency: Clean cookstoves are more efficient than traditional stoves, helping people to use less fuel to cook the same amount of food. This can be important for people who live in areas where fuel is scarce or expensive.
  3. Reduced greenhouse gas emissions: Clean cookstoves produce fewer emissions than traditional stoves, thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions and combatting climate change.
  4. Improved health: Clean cookstoves help reduce the risk of respiratory problems, such as asthma and lung cancer, which are often associated with traditional stove usage. This can have a particularly positive impact on the health of women and girls who are often responsible for cooking and other household tasks.
  5. Reduced deforestation: Clean cookstoves help reduce the demand for wood and other biomass fuels, which can help protect forests and other natural habitats.
  6. Increased economic opportunities: CoreCarbonX clean cookstoves programme creates economic opportunities for people who manufacture, sell, and distribute them.
  7. Lower manual labour: This programme lowers manual labour involved in wood collection – a responsibility that primarily falls on women.
  8. Women Empowerment and Gender Equality: Women and girls get opportunities to train and educate. They are involved in the manufacturing, distribution, training or sale of clean cookstoves, providing a source of income and empowerment.
  9. Greater access to education: By reducing the time and energy required for cooking and fuel collection, clean cookstoves can increase the time and energy available for other important activities, such as education. This can be particularly important for girls, who may be more likely to be pulled out of school to help with household tasks.

Clean cooking is emerging as a crucial nature-based solution to combat climate change. Clean stoves help reduce gender inequality in poor homes and improve health and well-being around the world. By decreasing the demand for wood and other forms of biomass fuels, the use of clean cookstoves can contribute to the preservation of forests and other types of natural habitats. The reduction of black carbon emissions is absolutely necessary to slow down the acceleration of global warming and keep the temperature increase well below 1.5 degrees Celsius, as stipulated in the Paris Agreement.

Conclusion

Traditional cooking methods involving solid fuels are estimated to cost the global economy more than $2.4 trillion each year due to the damage they cause to people’s health ($1.4 trillion), the environment ($0.2 trillion), and women’s productivity ($0.8 trillion).

The provision of clean cooking facilities to all people around the world is one of the most important targets of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 7, which has repercussions for a number of other SDGs, including the promotion of gender equality and the protection of the climate.

Clean cooking is emerging as a crucial nature-based solution to combat climate change. Clean stoves help reduce gender inequality in poor homes and improve health and well-being around the world. By decreasing the demand for wood and other forms of biomass fuels, the use of clean cookstoves can contribute to the preservation of forests and other types of natural habitats. The reduction of black carbon emissions is absolutely necessary to slow down the acceleration of global warming and keep the temperature increase well below 1.5 degrees Celsius, as stipulated in the Paris Agreement.

Core CarbonX Solutions is a carbon trading, environmental consulting, and sustainability advisory firm. We are the project originator and implementation partner that can help tackle the uncertainties of climate change and ensure a sustainable future for the ecosystem. It uses its expertise, knowledge, and technology in carbon emission reduction programmes to incorporate ideas into sustainable business practices for enterprises, governments, and organisations concerned about climate change. We have a team of 200+ consultants providing advisory services related to climate change and sustainability in 12 countries across Asia and Africa.