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Clean Cookstoves and Fighting Poverty

The city of Xi’an is nestled comfortably in mainland China, between the rural West and the modern East. Though the city has a population of approximately nine million, Xi’an is still smaller than Beijing or Shanghai and is decades behind in technology. It is here in the ballroom of the Aurum International Hotel that a representative from the World Wildlife Fund speaks.

She is scheduled to speak about panda conservation, but the conversation drifts towards using clean cookstoves. It’s the same endeavor that Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and many Congressional leaders and celebrities alike have supported. For around $280, the installation of the clean cook stove is a more sustainable alternative to the traditional coal burning cook stoves. Because the price of installation is too high for many of these families, the stoves have been partially subsidized by the Gold Standard.

During Hillary Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State, the clean cookstove initiative gained domestic and international attention as a hallmark of her Foreign Policy. Traditionally found in rural and underprivileged regions of the world, like those just an hour’s drive out of the Xi’an suburbs, the old cook stoves pose a threat to environmental sustainability as well as public health. The annual death toll as a result of wood-burning and high polluting stoves outnumbers the global mortality rate of malaria, tuberculosis, and HIV combined.

The clean cookstove initiative works twofold. Firstly, the stoves require simple installation which creates jobs of skilled workers to use. Secondly, the efficiency of the clean cookstove helps to expedite the time of household chores. Instead of collecting firewood and attending the old version of the cookstoves, villagers are now allotted more time. This time then can be used to continue to work and garner more income.

In 2013, Hillary Clinton announced the United States would pledge an additional $125 million in addition to the initial $50 million pledge. In conjunction with the efforts of the World Wildlife Fund China, the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves has become a presence in Western China. By 2020, the goal is to have at least 100 million clean cookstoves worldwide.

Because of the multitude of the clean cookstove initiative have garnered support among ecologists, doctors, and politicians alike. The unified front of non-governmental organizations as well as efforts by the United States government has made the clean cook stove project one of the most successful poverty-reducing and life-preserving measures taken in the past decade.

-Kristin Ronzi

Sources: Carbon Finance for Cookstoves, Reuters
Photo: MyClimate