US Invests $50 Million in Cleaner Cook Stoves


Photo: kakissel via Flickr/CC BY

It's one of the great under-recognized threats around the globe: cooking smoke. In developing nations the world over, women cook with crude wood-burning stoves, often in exceedingly poorly ventilated houses and rooms. The smoke poses not only a dangerous health risk -- the toxic smoke coats the lungs of family members, especially endangering women, who typically spend more time indoors by the stove, and children. So this year, at the 2010 Clinton Global Initiative, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton announced the creation of the Global Alliance for Clean Cook Stoves, a US-lead effort to bring safer, and yes, cleaner, cook stoves to the developing world.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson was on hand with Clinton at this year's CGI to unveil the measure, in which the US is investing $50 million. The EPA, which is contributing $6 million to develop and test cleaner stoves, is partnering with the State Department, private corporations like Shell and Morgan Stanley, and nations around the world to jump start the effort.

The arrangement practically epitomizes to the spirit of the Clinton Global Initiative -- which is predicated on gathering nations, business, and nonprofits and social justice advocates to pursue a unique, far-reaching brand of philanthropy.

And hazards posed by cook stoves the developing world are a worthy issue to put front and center at CGI. Currently, toxic smoke from the cook stoves used today kill an estimated 2 million people every year, most of those casualties being women and small children. Lisa Jackson, in presenting the Global Alliance for Clean Cook Stoves, called the problem "the ultimate environmental justice issue."

And the GACCS seeks not only to elicit donations from corporate and state sponsors, but to stimulate growth for clean stoves in an incipient market. Hilary Clinton noted that it was a top priority of the initiative "to create a commercial market for clean cook stove." The program will focus on a market-based approach for bringing more clean stoves to homes in poor parts of the world, like rural India. In doing so research will be done on longstanding cooking tradition so that the introduction of the clean stoves won't be a disruption.

As Clinton said, the goal is to have the new stoves "fit seamlessly into cooking traditions." The initiative is also seeking to develop a supply infrastructure, so that clean stoves can be introduced to refugee camps and disaster areas in addition to poor and rural areas. Success development of such a program could have a major impact on both human health and on mitigating climate change -- and this program marks a good start.

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