Avoided fuelwood harvest
Around the world, 2.8 billion people burn wood for their basic energy needs. The majority of that fuelwood is used for cooking in developing countries.
Improving cook stoves to burn more efficiently would reduce the amount of wood taken from forests, storing more carbon in trees. In addition, improved cook stoves would reduce smoke inhalation, providing significant health benefits, especially for women and young children.
Reducing fuelwood harvest could prevent the release of 110 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per year (GtCO2e/year). That’s comparable to the emissions from 23 million passenger vehicles per year.
The challenges of reducing fuelwood harvest are mostly logistical. There can be cultural barriers to convincing people to change the way they cook. Switching to clean cook stoves and alternative fuels, such as gas, can have high upfront costs for homeowners. Further, distributing new technology to remote villages can be difficult. Due to these limitations, this is a comparatively high-cost pathway.
Despite some practical challenges, this is a pathway that could be implemented immediately. We estimate that improving cook stoves to burn more efficiently could reduce carbon emissions by 49 percent.
Spotlight: EnDev Kenya
An estimated 77 percent of Kenya’s primary energy supply is based on traditional biomass, primarily wood. That demand for fuelwood has contributed to deforestation across the country. Most of that biomass is used for cooking.
The Energizing Development Partnership Programme (EnDev) works to provide sustainable access to modern energy services to people in developing countries. In Kenya, EnDev has disseminated more than 1.3 million improved cooking devices since 2005. Compared to open fires, modern stoves save up to 70 percent of fuelwood. As they provide nearly smokeless cooking, they also improve health and save lives.
The project collaborates with local community organizations and partners such as tea factories and other large employers to raise awareness of the benefits of improved cook stoves.
The project does not donate stoves, but rather makes several affordable stove models available to homeowners, schools, churches and other institutions. As a result, the program has also created new businesses for producing and distributing stoves.
Similar efforts are underway in other regions where fuelwood is used for cooking. The Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, for instance, is working to strengthen the marker for clean cookstoves and fuels in Bangladesh, China, Ghana, Guatemala, India, Kenya, Nigeria and Uganda.