WASHINGTON, DC, June 21, 2011 – A World Bank report released today says that the time is right to transform household cooking in the poorest areas of the world with resulting benefits for health, the environment, and climate change. The World Health Organization estimates that 1.9 million lives—mostly women and children—are lost annually, because of exposure to indoor biomass cooking smoke from traditional cookstoves.
The new report, Household Cookstoves, Environment, Health, and Climate Change, identifies a combination of critical factors that could be “game changers” in providing safe and clean household energy to the poorest people of the developing world. These potential “game changers” include:
1. Taking advantage of opportunities for technology development, leading to the availability of “advanced” biomass stoves—some of these stoves could be as clean burning as natural gas stoves, according to Prof. Kirk Smith of the University of California at Berkeley, who has been researching cookstoves and indoor air pollution for the past 30 years;
2. Utilizing new sources and mechanisms of financing, including those linked to climate change; and
3. Supporting the formation of new international coalitions and global partnerships like the UN Foundation-led Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves which aims to spur the adoption of 100 million clean burning cookstoves by the year 2020. The World Bank Group has joined the alliance through the Energy Sector Management Assistance Program (ESMAP).
“Scaling up stove and fuel programs can provide a transformative tool for sustainable development. Providing clean cooking solutions for the poor can deliver large health and other multiple benefits that are vital for human development,” said Subramaniam Vijay Iyer, Director, World Bank Sustainable Energy Department.
“The report states that there is mounting evidence that biomass burned inefficiently in commonly used cookstoves, contributes to climate change at regional and global levels, suggesting that the climate change debate needs to take household energy issues into consideration,” said Sameer Akbar, lead author of the report and a climate change specialist at the World Bank.
In developing countries, about 730 million tons of biomass are burned each year, amounting to more than one billion tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted into the atmosphere. Other products of incomplete combustion further exacerbate the problem. With better fuels and more efficient cookstoves, such emissions could be reduced.
Under conditions of sustainable production and more efficient fuel use, biomass energy could be renewable. However, in many regions, little attention is paid to this issue and scant research is undertaken to assess whether biomass energy is being produced and burned in a sustainable way.
The report spells out the increasing role the World Bank Group can play in addressing these problems. This includes supporting cookstove technology development and innovation, scaling up programs that include the private sector, utilizing innovative financing mechanisms, and supporting initiatives for partnerships to fill key knowledge gaps
The World Bank Group is already taking action on cookstoves. A number of the Bank’s regions—including South Asia, East Asia and Pacific, and Africa—as well as the International Finance Corporation (IFC) are going forward with initiatives on improving cookstoves and their fuel. In Cambodia, the World Bank, through ESMAP and the Asia Sustainable and Alternative Energy Program (ASTAE), is supporting a project to manufacture a local clay stove, the Neang Kongrey Stove designed to use less firewood, concentrate heat, and produce far less smoke than earlier stoves. Local women, trained to produce the stoves, now manufacture around 3,000 of them each month.
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