World Leaders Secure $2.2 Billion to Tackle Africa’s Dirty Cooking Crisis
Tanzania’s President Samia Suluhu Hassan and Norway’s Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre (centre) co-chaired the summit.

In a ground-breaking move, global leaders on Tuesday made an unprecedented financial pledge to tackle the dirty cooking fuels crisis, which silently claims millions of lives across Africa. 

The Summit on Clean Cooking in Africa, chaired jointly by the leaders of Tanzania and Norway, alongside the African Development Bank, secured financial commitments from governments, development institutions and companies. 

The summit was co-hosted in Paris by the Clean Cooking Alliance (CCA) and the International Energy Agency (IEA). 

This was the largest amount of money to be pledged to clean cooking energy at a single gathering, and earmarked for a continent where four in five people still cook on open fires. As such, the summit was billed as a potential turning point for Africa, and particularly African women who shoulder much of the health burden from cookstove pollution.

Lack of access to clean cooking affects over two billion people globally, with over half living in Africa, often reliant on open fires and rudimentary stoves, fuelled by charcoal, wood, agricultural wastes and animal dung. 

In Africa, more than 850 million people still depend on wood and charcoal for cooking, the leading cause of indoor air pollution, with devastating effects on health. 

In fact, toxic indoor smoke is the second biggest cause of premature death in Africa, predominantly affecting women and children. Household air pollution causes nearly half of pneumonia deaths among children under five years of age.

Impact on women

“Successfully advancing the clean cooking agenda would contribute toward protecting the environment, climate, health, and ensuring gender equality,” Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan told the summit in Paris.

Hassan has called for the generous replenishment of the African Development Fund, which  includes $12 billion for clean cooking with the goal of ensuring clean cooking for all by 2030.

“Insufficient funding and a lack of awareness about the economic opportunities within the clean cooking industry hamper efforts to scale interventions,” she said.

Hassan cited three major challenges facing clean cooking in Africa, including the lack of access to adequate, affordable and sustainable solutions, lack of global attention to the problem and the absence of smart partnerships to ensure clean cooking access for all.

“Amidst these challenges, central to Tanzania’s own commitment is delivering on or recently-launched 10-year Clean Cooking National strategy, which aims to ensure 80% of Tanzanians use clean cooking solutions by 2034,” she said.

Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre said his country will invest approximately $50 million to support clean cooking energy.

“Improving access to clean cooking is about improving health outcomes, reducing emissions, and creating opportunities for economic growth,” he said.

Respiratory and cardiovascular diseases

The global clean cooking energy campaign received a boost at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in November last year with the launch of the African Women Clean Cooking Support Programme(AWCCSP) which aims to provide clean cooking technologies to women and girls in Africa to reduce the use of firewood and charcoal.   

Dirty cooking causes respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, increases planet-heating emissions, and robs women’s of their time, experts said at the conference.

IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol emphasized the significance of the Summit’s outcome. “This summit had delivered an emphatic commitment to an issue that has been ignored for too long” Biro states, underscoring the potential of the $2.2 billion commitment to support  fundamental rights such as health, gender equality and education, while also mitigating emissions and restoring forests.

Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank Group, announced plans to increase financing for clean cooking to $200 million annually over the next decade, while also scaling up the provision of blended finance for clean cooking through Sustainable Energy Fund for Africa(SEFA).

“We are delighted to play a leading role… to definitively tackle lack of access to clean cooking, that affect a billion people in Africa,” he said.

Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland, arrives at the summit.

Following the Summit, the IEA announced plans to employ a “double-lock system” to ensure sustained momentum behind clean cooking efforts.

This system entails effective tracking methods to ensure pledges and commitments are fulfilled, alongside continued efforts to engage more partners and generate additional funds to meet the $4 billion annual capital investments required until 2030 to achieve universal access to clean cooking in sub-Saharan Africa.

More than 100 countries, international institutions, companies, and civil society organizations signed The Clean Cooking Declaration, reaffirming their commitment to prioritizing the issue and enhancing efforts toward achieving universal access for all.

Nearly one in three people globally still use open fires or basic stoves for cooking thus causing untold health damage, lower living standards and widening gender inequality, according to IEA report titled, A Vision for Clean Cooking Access for All.

 Women suffer the worst impacts from the lack of clean cooking. The burden of fuel collection and making meals typically falls on women and takes on average 5 hours a day.  

 “Clean cooking is a topic that rarely hits the headlines or makes it onto the political agenda,” said Birol. “And yet, it’s a cornerstone of global efforts to improve energy access, gender equity, economic development and human dignity,”

Former President of Ireland, Mary Robinson, cautioned against unfulfilled promises.

 “We need to know what kind of new money is coming in and how it will be spent. We have to test everything these days, as so many promises are made and not fulfilled,” she said.

“The fact that 900 million women in Africa still cook on dirty stoves should not be tolerated in the 21st century,” Robinson asserted.  “And to hear it only requires $4 billion, with $300 million being allocated each year for the next few years. Isn’t that very doable?”

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