This post first appeared on Liberal Democrat Voice
Earlier this week we told you of Paddy Ashdown’s visit to Bangladesh to raise awareness of the need for clean stoves. This is also an area where Liberal Democrat International Development Minister Lynne Featherstone has been working and on Thursday, she spoke at a Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves conference in London. This issue is important because the World Health Organisation estimates that 4.3 million people lost their lives through being exposed to household air pollution, just from cooking dinner.
The GACC was launched in 2010 by Hillary Clinton when she was US Secretary of State, with the goal of 100 million households adopting clean and efficient cooking stoves and fuels by 2020. That would impact 500 million people. In November last year, Lynne joined the GACC’s Leadership Council, to help bring political attention and action to the clean cooking issue, within the context of her campaign on the importance of Clean Energy Access for Girls and Women. It’s important because the World Health Organisation estimates that household air pollution claims 4.3 million lives a year. This makes it the second largest killer of women in the developing world, after childbirth.
On Thursday Lynne explained the positive impact access to clean, safe energy had on the lives of women and girls:
The campaign highlights the economic, health and safety benefits that clean energy access can bring women in particular – allowing them to study at night, have better medical care, earn more and feel safer on the streets at night. Without action to support clean and efficient cooking, the aspirations of economic empowerment and the entitlement to safety and health, cannot be met for girls and women across the world.
If girls and women are collecting firewood, they are not learning or earning, and so can’t meet their own potential or their families’. We also know that as women gather firewood, they can be at risk of attack.
On a visit to Mozambique last year, Lynne met a woman whose health had so improved as a result of a stove that she was able to send her daughter to school rather than keep her at home to cook for the family.
The quest to provide these stoves needs manufacturers to make them and a standards system to make sure that they are safe. That’s an important part of the UK’s contribution:
I will commit the UK today to follow up on the cookstove standards work which the Alliance is convening with UK help. We need to establish a minimum threshold for the stoves we support, to make sure they are effective, safe and sufficiently reduce smoke.
What counts after all, is that these stoves make a real difference. Families need to see a new stove is worth their investment, not only saving them money and time but also improving their health.
Lynne ended with a plea – that people should raise awareness of this issue.
I trust that you all feel as strongly as me about taking on this crisis as previous cohorts of experts and campaigners have done with other global health issues. But to do this we must look beyond ourselves and spread the word. Your expertise needs the support of the wider world – of the public and politicians. So, whilst wishing you a successful and productive afternoon, if you take nothing else away from today, pass on the message, spill some ink.