Paris summit on clean cooking in Africa ends with $2.2 billion in global pledges

Each year, more than 600,000 people in Africa die prematurely from respiratory diseases triggered by dirty cooking practices

International Energy Agency summit on clean cooking in Africa held in Paris, France. Photo: Maros Sefcovic, EU Commission executive vice-president for EU GreenDeal / X (formerly Twitter)

The inaugural Summit on Clean Cooking in Africa held in Paris May 14, 2024 garnered significant attention and commitment. With more than 1,000 delegates from nearly 60 countries, this gathering aimed to address the critical health and climate impacts associated with traditional cooking methods prevalent in Africa.

Over a billion people in Africa currently rely on fuels like charcoal and wood for cooking. Unfortunately, these traditional methods pose serious risks to health and environment.

Clean cooking has almost been achieved in China, India and Latin America, but remains a universal failure in Africa. In Benin, Ethiopia, Liberia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Tanzania, more than 80 per cent of the population still depends on biomass to cook their meals. In Nigeria, Kenya or Ghana, it’s 70 per cent.

“African governments and multilateral development banks have never made the subject a real priority,” said Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency (IEA).

He added:  “…the toxics coming from these cooking practices are causing respiratory diseases especially for women and children.”

The director-general of the World Health Organization explained that every year, 3.2 million people die from household air pollution generated by dirty fuels and stoves for cooking. Birol added that Africa bears the brunt of the problem. “Each year, more than 600,000 people, mostly women and children, die prematurely from these respiratory diseases triggered by these cooking practices,” he said. “That means we will lose six million women and children in 10 years,” added the President of the African Development Bank, Akinwumi Adesina.

He said the global health cost is estimated at $1.4 trillion annually, with over half of ($700 billion annually) being in Africa. “This is unacceptable in the 21st century,” said Birol. 

“Access to clean cooking is not just about cooking. It is about human dignity, fairness, justice and equity for women. It is more than the lighting of the stoves; it is about life,” Adesina said.

He said access to clean cooking will save at least 200 million hectares of forests globally, with 110 million being in Africa by 2030. It will also reduce greenhouse gas emissions globally by 1.9 gigatonnes of CO2-equivalent, which is equal to all the emissions from airplanes and ships today.

IEA estimated that it will cost only $4 billion a year in Africa to achieve universal access to clean cooking. Adesina, therefore, urged African governments to play their leadership role.

“Governments must allocate at least 5 per cent of the current total $80 billion spent on energy investments annually into the provision of clean cooking solutions, that will provide close to the $4 billion needed annually,” he said.

Governments and private sector entities pledged over $2.2 billion to support clean cooking initiatives in an African continent in which four out of five families use open fire or basic stoves to cook their meals.

“This Summit has delivered an emphatic commitment to an issue that has been ignored by too many people, for too long,” Birol said.

“We still have a long way to go, but the outcome of this summit $2.2 billion committed can help support fundamental rights such as health, gender equality and education while also reducing emissions and restoring forests,” Birol said.

Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store announced that Norway would allocate $50 million to support the efforts continuing “to be a trusted partner for our friends in Africa”.

The European Commission’s executive vice-president Maros Sefcovic said that the European Union will be committing $431 million for clean cooking activities. “Team Europe will also soon launch a regional clean cooking action for West Africa, an initiative supporting policy-making, private sector development and an enabling environment for cleaner cooking solutions.”

“The African Development Bank will play a major part in this collective effort and will now allocate 20 per cent of all its financing for energy in Africa to clean cooking,” said the bank’s president, Akinwumi Adesina. “I am pleased to announce that the African Development Bank will commit $2 billion to clean cooking over the next 10 years.”

“We will work with governments to develop and roll out clean cooking solutions at scale, along with supportive policy, standards, safety and regulations, as well as fiscal incentives to improve access and affordability,” he said.

One of the co-chairs of the summit, Tanzania’s President Samia Suluhu Hassan, emphasised the government’s commitment to promoting effective policies. Their goal is to ensure that 80 per cent of Tanzanians adopt clean cooking methods by 2030. Hassan believes that embracing clean cooking practices will not only contribute to environmental sustainability by reducing harmful emissions and deforestation but also foster gender equality across the continent.

Countries like Uganda and Mozambique have started to implement the use of electric cooking devices and other African countries are placing them as examples to follow.

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