The global Clean Cooking Forum began Monday in Phnom Penh, with more than 500 experts, activists and entrepreneurs from around the world gathering to share ideas about how to expand and improve the production and distribution of clean cookstoves.
Clean cookstoves, which have for decades been an environment-driven initiative to prevent deforestation and climate pollution by reducing the amount of wood burned for cooking, have received increasing international attention in recent years for their potential contribution to improvements in public health. A clean cookstove is any stove that burns fuel more efficiently or produces less harmful smoke.
In Cambodia, 95 percent of the population relies on burning solid fuels—mostly wood and charcoal—for cooking, causing an estimated 11,800 adult deaths and 1,600 child deaths each year from diseases caused by smoke inhalation, according to the U.N. Foundation’s Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves (GACC).
A study on the global burden of disease published in the Lancet medical journal in December found that household air pollution from cooking with solid fuels kills 4 million people annually, making it the fourth-greatest health risk in the world. Among the diseases that scientists have linked directly to household air pollution from cookstoves are lung cancer and disease, respiratory infections and cardiovascular disease.
“This is truly a silent killer,” said Radha Muthiah, executive director of GACC. “You don’t immediately see the effects but over time, it impacts eyes, lungs and the heart.”
The championing of clean cookstoves by former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other world leaders has brought the issue to the fore, said Ms. Muthiah.
Along with $30 million in U.N. funding and about $115 million that the U.S. government has committed to global efforts to develop and distribute clean cookstoves, there was about $15 million of private investment in the sector last year, up from almost nothing five years ago, Ms. Muthiah said.
Geres, a Cambodia-based NGO that has sold millions of clean stoves in the past decade, has been a global leader in integrating small and medium-sized enterprises into the production and distribution of clean stoves, Ms. Muthiah said.
Having been funded for the past decade by carbon credits for the contribution of their stoves to reducing carbon emissions, the new focus on health benefits will expand opportunities for Geres and others producing clean stoves in Cambodia, said Mathieu Roillet, Geres country director.
“This is a second momentum behind clean cookstoves,” said Mr. Roillet, explaining that from 2000 to 2001 Geres saw its first wave of support for its work in relation to climate change.