Carbon-financed cookstove fails to deliver hoped-for benefits in the field

From University of Washington:

IMAGE: About 40 percent of families continued using traditional cooking methods after they received new cookstoves as part of the intervention. This “stove stacking ” phenomenon erased some of the hoped-for benefits…. view more

Credit: Ther Wint Aung, University of British Columbia

Replacing traditional cooking fires and stoves in the developing world with “cleaner” stoves is a potential strategy to reduce household air pollution that worsens climate change and is a leading global killer.

A new study by researchers from the University of British Columbia, University of Washington and elsewhere — which measured ambient and indoor household air pollution before and after a carbon-finance-approved cookstove intervention in rural India — found that the improvements were less than anticipated.

Actual indoor concentrations measured in the field were only moderately lower for the new stoves than for traditional stoves, according to a paper published in June in Environmental Science & Technology. The study is one of only a handful to measure on-the-ground differences from a clean cookstove project in detail, and the first to assess co-benefits from a carbon-financed cookstove intervention.

Additionally, 40 percent of families who used a more efficient wood stove as part of the intervention also elected to continue using traditional stoves, which they preferred for making staple dishes such as roti bread. That duplication erased many of the hoped-for efficiency and pollution improvements.

Laboratory studies suggested that the more efficient, cleaner-burning stoves could reduce a family’s fuelwood consumption by up to 67 percent, thereby reducing household air pollution and deforestation. In practice, there was no statistically significant difference in fuel consumption between families who used the new stoves and families who continued to cook over open fires or traditional stoves.

Without field-based evaluations, clean cookstove interventions may be pursued …

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