CAPE TOWN – There were numerous health risks associated with cooking, especially in developing countries, Waltaji Terfa Kutane from the World Health Organization in Ethiopia, told delegates at the South African International Renewable Energy Conference (Sairec) on Tuesday.
Kutane spoke about how “three billion people still cook and heat their homes using open fires and simple stoves burning biomass – wood, animal dung, crop waste and coal”.
The majority of these people live in poor, low to middle income countries, and the impact of pollution from cooking with biomass has a detrimental effect on air quality.
He pointed out that over 4 million people died prematurely each year due to pollutants in the air caused by inefficient cooking methods.
Clean household energy was essential to an increase in air quality and better health.
To achieve this, there needed to be a gradual transition in households from using traditional biomass fuel to using low emission biomass, and subsequently switching completely to clean fuels.
The WHO envisioned this household energy transition to be completed by 2030, in line with the Sustainable Development Goal of ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable modern energy for all by 2030.
It was essential to ensure that there was a clear “integration with public health services and livelihood interventions” to bring about this.
“It is important to tackle the issues” in the sphere of cooking energy and clean fuel said Sire Abdoul Diallo, one of the panelists, and a West Africa Clean Cookstove Alliance (WACCA) Coordinator at the ECOWAS Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency.
Diallo pointed out that small micro entrepreneurs should be part of this transition and have access to information on how to transition to clean energy.
He added that it was important for people to understand the laws surrounding energy and clean energy.
Kutane spoke about the WHO Air Quality Guidelines (AQGs) for indoors, which build upon existing outdoor air quality guidelines.
The guidelines take into account practicality of implementation, including design, production and standards. He emphasised that it was important to “monitor all cooking technology uses and air pollution”.
He said many people and countries would need time to meet the guidelines, and in the instance that solid fuels needed to be used, the best possible option should be selected.
Kutane added that any “policy should promote clean fuel whenever possible”.
Carl Pendragon, co-founder of Carbon Wealth in Sweden, a company which turns grass into fuel, said it was wise to ask questions and look at ways in which countries could build energy wealth.
Rosario Loayza, Deputy Director of GIZ EnDev in Mozambique said it was important to have agreements with parties wanting to be part of the conversation.
She highlighted that key to clean energy was “making it more affordable” and how important it was to not let concerns go unnoticed. “If you have a problem, you have to vocalize it,” she said.