• How Many People Still Cook with Solid Fuels?

Air Clean Up

How Many People Still Cook with Solid Fuels?

Nov 22 2020

Over a third of the global population still cooking using solid fuels, according to a new paper published by the World Bank. Almost 2.8 billion people on the planet still rely on coal, charcoal and wood to cook their food. Although cheaper and more widely available, these materials release significant amounts of pollutants (such as nitrogen oxides, or NOx) when combusted and are incredibly harmful to the environment.

This dependence on outdated cooking fuels can be explained by the high costs and lack of availability of modern alternatives, such as electricity and liquified petroleum gas (LPG). Moreover, many people are simply not aware that their current habits have such far-reaching repercussions or that a cleaner, more sustainable alternative exists. Despite the progress made in recent years to clean up the carbon footprint of the human race, the research reveals the size and scale of the task ahead.

Behind the times

In the Western world, the majority of people are accustomed to cooking with gas or electricity, so much so that the former fuel has even become a more popular idiom in English-speaking countries. But while strict stove regulations have come into force in Europe and beyond, large swathes of the developing world do not enjoy the luxury of access to such modern conveniences in the first place.

Indeed, the research makes clear just how many people lack things taken for granted in more affluent regions of the world. Based on a sample size encompassing 5.3 billion people in 71 countries around the globe, the authors found that access to modern sources of energy for cooking purposes is at the lowest in Sub-Saharan Africa at just 10%, while it’s only 26% in East Asia and 56% in the Caribbean and Latin America.

Aside from a lack of access, many people simply can’t afford more expensive sources of fuel such as LPG or electricity. More still don’t fully understand the consequences of their own actions or the ramifications of climate change, and thus don’t see a problem with using solid fuels.

 A long road ahead

While the last 10 years has seen more and more people switching to more environmentally friendly forms of energy for their cooking needs, the continued growth of the global population means that the numbers of those using wood, coal and charcoal fuels has also risen.

This means that the battle to measure and manage NOx emissions will involve a drive towards raising awareness and investing into the technologies necessary to allow people to use cleaner forms of energy. In fact, the World Bank predicts that it will take a minimum of £117 billion each year until 2030 to ensure that the entire global population has access to clean energy when it comes to cooking.

“Lack of progress in clean cooking is driven by adverse impacts on health, climate and gender equality,” explained Makhtar Diop, Vice President for Infrastructure for the World Bank. “Women bear a disproportionate share of this cost in the form of poor health and safety, as well as lost productivity.”


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