Since the adoption of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015, the UN annually convenes the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF). This gathering brings UN agencies, member states, business leaders, and civil society together to review progress on the SDGs. Ahead of the 2017 HLPF in July, the UN Secretary-General released the 2017 report on “Progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).” The UN’s assessment is sobering, as development advancements are moving far too slowly to achieve the goals by 2030.

Clean cooking and related issues have been incorporated into the 2030 Agenda as a result of advocacy by the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves and our partners. According to the HLPF, where does the world stand on addressing clean cooking-related development aims in 2017?

Good Health and Well-Being (SDG 3)

“Indoor and ambient air pollution is the greatest environmental health risk,” according to the Secretary General’s progress report. Approximately 1.3 million more people die from household air pollution-related causes than they do from traffic and industrial air pollution, making the case to focus on combatting household air pollution to improve health.

Gender Equality (SDG 5)

Women and girls’ empowerment is inherently tied to the time they spend on unpaid domestic and care work, much of which – up to five hours each week – is devoted to collecting cooking fuels and cooking itself. The UN, member states, and civil society increasingly recognize that time poverty prevents women from pursuing professional opportunities and girls from attending school. According to the progress report, women spend more than triple their time on unpaid duties than men.

 Affordable and Clean Energy (SDG 7)

Goal 7 on energy access is an underlying and essential factor to making sustainable, inclusive gains. According to the progress report, clean cooking is lagging in rural populations. Only 22% of rural communities, on average, have access to clean cooking. Cooking solutions will only scale to meet the needs of the millions in need when resources are mobilized and innovative tools created that all players in the cooking sector can access: “Meaningful improvements will require higher levels of financing and bolder policy commitments, together with the willingness of countries to embrace new technologies on a much wider scale.”

Moving forward with cross-cutting solutions

While this data reflects a grim global situation, there are reasons for optimism. The global community acknowledges the interconnected nature of the Global Goals, and that clean cooking has a role to play because it intrinsically bridges previously-siloed development objectives.

The Alliance co-hosted an HLPF side event with the United Nations Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation, United Nations Population Fund, and PATH. During the event, our partner from the Energy Commission Ghana, Dr. Nii Darko Asante, provided written input echoing this:

“The Energy Commission Ghana’s focus was on ensuring efficient use of energy for cooking to protect the trees typically used as cooking fuel...  To achieve this goal, we promoted energy efficient cookstoves and LPG as a cooking fuel. But recent research findings have revealed that the health benefits that we saw as co-benefits have a major and significant impact on the health outcomes of both women and children.

Today, clean cooking is about a lot more than just energy, and in some ways it is more about the health of women and children.  This is clearly a more important, significant and compelling message to women and their families than energy efficiency.”

To tell a different story by the 2018 SDG progress report, we must undertake swift and well-coordinated steps that accelerate access to and adoption of improved cookstoves and fuels. These steps should include:

  • Raise awareness in the global and national development policy community about clean cooking’s development benefits
  • Mainstream clean cooking into other development projects and programs
  • Increase Availability of and Accessibility to Financing for clean cooking programs and entrepreneurs