One year ago, 193 nations joined together to adopt 17 Sustainable Development Goals, with the aim of ending poverty, reducing inequality, and combating climate change by 2030. Next week, leaders from across sectors will gather in New York for the opening of general debate of the 71st session of the United Nations General Assembly. The world’s biggest issues will be on the agenda, including sharing ideas on how to accelerate progress on the global goals.
As the world works toward implementing these goals over the next 15 years, let’s remember that scalable solutions at the household level can fuel transformative progress and unleash potential. We must invest in the proven approaches to address root challenges and deliver cross-cutting gains.
One issue that we must tackle is how people cook. Three billion people still rely on solid fuels such as wood, dung, coal, and charcoal for their daily cooking, producing smoke that kills more than 4.3 million people annually and sickens millions more. The walls of hundreds of millions of homes around the world are black with soot, and billowing smoke can be seen in households and skies over Beijing, New Delhi, Lagos, and other cities.
Yet, in international development circles, this daily, and too often deadly, household activity often flies under the radar.
Clean and efficient cookstoves and fuels that decrease exposure to toxic smoke can improve the health of millions while saving hundreds of thousands of lives. But that’s just the start. Beyond the dramatic health benefits, these household solutions lessen deforestation from unsustainable fuel harvesting, minimize outdoor air pollution, and reduce some of the most important contributors to global climate change.
Clean cooking results in tangible impacts for women and girls. With improved health and less time spent collecting fuel, they can pursue income-generating or educational opportunities, contributing to poverty alleviation. For these reasons, scaling up clean cooking is essential to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and implementing the Paris Agreement on climate change in an inclusive and equitable way.
The challenge is immense, but transformative progress at the household and global level is happening. Thousands of public, private, and nonprofit partners around the world are working to scale up solutions that bring benefits to people and planet.
Small and large businesses are testing out innovative technologies. Governments are working to expand and improve infrastructure, enabling the most vulnerable households to feed their families without producing harmful smoke. And every year, millions of additional households are using clean and efficient cookstoves and fuels to prepare their daily meals.
As leaders gather to discuss how to address the needs of the world’s most vulnerable, let’s keep in mind that in order to deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals, we must address how people cook.
Clean and efficient cookstoves and fuels can directly deliver gains across 10 of the Sustainable Development Goals and contribute to an enabling environment for achieving the entire agenda, including:
[Photo:Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves/ Alex Kamweru for UN Foundation]