Paltry sums of international funding are being allocated to help poor families cook with modern, clean methods, exposing them to deadly household air pollution

By Megan Rowling

BARCELONA (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Governments, development banks and businesses are providing less than 1% of the money needed each year to wean 3 billion people off dirty, health-harming cooking by an international deadline of 2030, new data on energy access showed on Tuesday.

In 2017, the latest figures available, funding commitments for clean cooking in 20 countries in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia with the largest needs plummeted by 73%, to $32 million, from the average in the previous two years, found a report tracking finance towards global goals on energy.

An annual investment of $4.4 billion is required to move to modern cooking methods the nearly 40% of the world’s people who still use traditional fuels such as wood, charcoal, dung or kerosene, often in smoky indoor environments, researchers said.

The World Health Organization estimates that household air pollution kills about 4 million people each year, many of them women and children, through ailments such as heart and lung disease and cancer.

Olivia Coldrey, lead finance specialist with Sustainable Energy for All, a U.N.-linked body that co-produced the report, highlighted a “continued lack of global effort” to tackle low access to less-polluting fuels and more efficient stoves.

“This is really an environmental and public health emergency,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation, noting that investment in cleaner cooking was “orders of magnitude away from what it needs to be”.

International donor projects to boost clean cooking were fragmented, often short-term and tended to focus on single countries and technologies, she added.

Barbara Buchner, executive director of climate finance at the Climate Policy Initiative, a think tank that partnered on the annual report, called for “a paradigm shift” in thinking, to focus on ensuring new fuel supplies as well as cleaner stoves.

Governments need to set stronger targets, and allocate large budgets to help poor households afford the upfront costs of moving to improved cooking methods, she added.

Riccardo Puliti, global director for energy and extractive industries at the World Bank, said clean cooking should be “a political, economic and environmental priority” because, without urgent action, other global goals on health, gender and climate change would be missed.

Last month, at a U.N. climate summit, the bank unveiled plans for a $500-million “Clean Cooking Fund”, supported by the Netherlands, Norway, Denmark and Britain. It aims to increase investment and back businesses delivering solutions.

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