We are focused on clean cooking because we know it can save lives, but the effect of eliminating toxic emissions from cooking with solid fuels can also play a huge part in preventing climate change and saving the environment.
Cooking over open fires or inefficient stoves typically entails burning fuels like wood, charcoal, coal, and kerosene, which releases harmful, climate-warming emissions. Short-lived climate pollutants such black carbon and methane (CH4), as well as other greenhouse gases, such as carbon monoxide (CO) and carbon dioxide (CO2), are emitted due to the incomplete combustion of kerosene and solid fuels that occurs while cooking over open fires or with inefficient stoves.
Black carbon, commonly known as soot, refers to tiny carbon particles that form during incomplete combustion of carbon-based fuels (such as wood, charcoal, coal, and kerosene), and is by far the most significant short-lived climate pollutant emitted during cooking.
Black carbon is a climate warming pollutant and is estimated to be second only to CO2 in its warming impact on the climate. Black carbon particles absorb sunlight, warming the atmosphere.
Black carbon only remains in the atmosphere for a short-period of time, then it falls back earth with precipitation, darkening the surface of snow and ice and reducing the reflecting power of a surface, causing sea ice and glacial melting.
Globally, up to 25% of black carbon emissions come from household cooking, heating, and lighting. In many Asian and African countries, household cooking can account for as much as 60-80% of black carbon emissions.
With nearly 2.4 billion people relying on firewood and charcoal (wood-fuel) for cooking, wood-fuel is by far the most-commonly used solid fuel. The CO2 emissions from cooking with wood and charcoal are caused by unsustainable harvested wood-fuel (when wood is harvested at a rate that exceeds regrowth) leading to forest degradation that reduces the ability of trees and shrubs to absorb emitted carbon from the air (carbon sequestration).
Around 30% of the wood-fuel harvested globally is unsustainable, resulting in climate damaging emissions equivalent to 2% of global emissions. Forest degradation also causes loses in erosion control, biodiversity, and flood protection.