Africa Clean Cooking Summit in Paris: Progress or Smoke Screen?

Africa Clean Cooking Summit in Paris: Progress or Smoke Screen?

More than 900 million people in Africa depend on cooking solutions that cause numerous public health and pollution problems. The summit in Paris raised funds to replace stoves in developing countries, but it also raised some questions…

an outdoor cooktop
The Africa Clean Cooking Summit took place in Paris on May 14th. | © Jessica Hearn

Could one of the solutions to global warming lie in African kitchens? This is the conviction of the International Energy Agency (IEA), which brought together Heads of State, ministers, international organizations, companies and investors in Paris on May 14 at the Clean Cooking Africa summit, co-chaired by the President of the USA. Republic of Tanzania, Samia Suluhu Hassan, the Norwegian Prime Minister, Jonas Gahr Støre, and the President of the African Development Bank Group, Dr. Akinwumi A. Adesina.

On the agenda of the largest meeting ever organized around the common goal of promoting access to clean cooking in Africa: the search for financing sources to replace stoves in developing countries.

Half a million premature deaths each year

According to the IEA, in 2022 some 2.3 billion people around the world will not have access to clean cooking facilities. Nearly four in five people in Africa, or 900 million people, rely on unhygienic cooking solutions that are often dangerous to use, such as kerosene, charcoal or animal dung. The absence of clean cooking methods has serious consequences for health, causing respiratory and vascular problems and cancer. Women and children are hardest hit, with almost half a million premature deaths each year in Africa alone.

This type of cooking is also disastrous for the climate. They are a major source of carbon emissions and are estimated to kill around four million people worldwide each year through inhalation of harmful fumes and fumes. The charcoal trade, for example, which accelerates deforestation, was recently the subject of a decree in Uganda prohibiting the felling of trees for commercial purposes.

“Clean” cooking methods can reduce fuel consumption by 30% to 60%, leading to fewer deaths from smoke-related illnesses and lower greenhouse gas and carbon emissions, according to the Clean Cooking Alliance. “The international community cannot achieve its goal of combating climate change without addressing the way people cook,”says the nonprofit organization.

If your neighbor’s house is burning, you should help. Africa is our neighbor,Fatih Birol, executive director of the IEA, told Euronews before the event. “The solutions are well known and we state that our main goal is to ensure quick and affordable access to modern and cleaner cooking solutions, including biomass in high-efficiency stoves, biogas, bioethanol, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), electricity, all of it. of which can bring benefits in terms of health, productivity, gender equality, forest preservation, biodiversity and emissions reduction,”, he clarified during the summit.

A system of “carbon credits”

The cost of solving this problem is “relatively low” according to the IEA, which estimates that $4 billion of investment is needed each year to enable all Africans to have access to clean cooking fuels by 2030. To achieve this, the IEA wants to rely on a system of “ “carbon”: units equivalent to one ton of CO2 captured in the atmosphere, sold to companies in exchange for financing a virtuous carbon capture project.

The strategy is bearing fruit, since the oil company TotalEnergies, accustomed to leading the ranking of the biggest polluters, announced at the summit an investment of more than 400 million dollars to develop liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) for cooking.

Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre stated that “Norway is a strong advocate of clean cooking,” committing to invest 50 million euros in “this important cause.

France will invest €100 million over five years in clean kitchens and mobilize even more through the Paris Pact for people and planet.” French President Emmanuel Macron announced at the summit.

In total, financing and investments worth 2.2 billion euros will be made over the next five years.

These new announcements build on the commitment made by the African Development Bank Group at COP28 to dedicate $2 billion to clean cookstoves over a 10-year period, and will reinforce direct development assistance already available through other governmental and multilateral sources. Speaking at the Paris summit, the group’s president, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, said the institution will now dedicate 20% of all funding for its energy projects to promoting safe cooking alternatives.

The focus must now be on the implementation of commitments and outcomes, a task that the summit co-chairs are committed to supporting.”the agency concluded.

“Tanzania President Samia Suluhu Hassan called for a reorganization of the African Development Bank’s (AfDB) African Development Fund to include $12 billion to achieve clean cooking for all low-income countries by 2030.”Insufficient funding and lack of awareness about the economic opportunities offered by the cooking sector and clean cooking methods are hampering efforts to scale up interventions. Furthermore, the development of necessary solutions is limited by insufficient research and innovation,” she added.

Only 38% of the participants are from Africa

Some civil society groups took up arms against the choice of Paris as the venue. “We do not understand why a summit of such importance for Africa should be held outside the continent. The decision to host the summit in France does not inspire confidence or give a positive impression. Rather, it suggests that Africans are not in control of the agenda on an issue that is extremely important to them. This, in turn, weakens a well-intentioned summit. France is involved in oil and gas exploration and expansion projects across Africa, contributing to the energy poverty and climate crisis currently facing the continent.” reads a statement from Power Shift Africa, a think tank providing analysis on climate change, renewable energy and sustainable development in Africa.

Mohammed Adow, director of the group, expressed particular surprise that the resolutions adopted at the summit had been drafted by a group of “rich men of the North.” “What we need is a women-centric approach that prioritizes their needs, not those of a profit-hungry private sector. It is increasingly clear that the majority of women who can afford and have access to gas for cooking could also afford and have access to electric stoves, which can be powered by renewable energy. That’s what we should focus on.”he added.

Joab Okanda, senior adviser at Christian Aid, a UK charity fighting global poverty, saying It was no coincidence that the summit was held in France. “We have to ask ourselves what the agenda of this summit is. Was it really a summit for Africa or a summit to continue extracting from Africa?”, he asked on the social network X.

Only 38% of summit participants were from Africa, including 14 African women, out of a list of 84 participants.