How Indoor Stoves Can Help Solve Global Poverty
World leaders at the U.N. recently began a yearlong conversation about global goals for the next 15 years. Many will rightly talk about poverty, food, water and the environment. Few will mention energy. Yet we should.
Access to energy is one the most important drivers of development, e.g. improving living standards during the Industrial Revolution to more recently, helping lift 680 million Chinese out of poverty. Currently almost 3 billion people, mostly in Africa and South-east Asia, live without modern energy, instead using wood and dung as a source of fuel.
Societies that live without modern energy suffer a double disadvantage: firstly, economic growth is curtailed leading to greater poverty and, secondly people experience the awful effects of indoor air pollution which kills 4.3 million people per year. Increasing access to modern energy is best done with fossil fuels – they are cheaper and more reliable than renewables. But this contributes to climate change – how do we manage this trade-off?
An effective strategy is to provide 30% of the unserved population – 780 million people – with clean cooking fuels. This will save more than 1 million lives each year for just $11 billion. Each dollar spent will do $15 of good.
At the same time we need to phase out fossil fuel subsidies to reduce CO2, and double R&D in energy technology so in the future we have clean AND cheap access to energy (benefits of >$15 and $16 per dollar spent)
An ineffective goal is to double renewables now – this will have high costs, help less, and do little to cut CO₂.