Skip to Main Navigation
FEATURE STORY November 4, 2019

Clean Cooking: Why it Matters


Photo of women cooking/SEforAll


  • Fast-tracking the transition to clean cooking fuels and technologies is critical to reach the Sustainable Development Goal on energy (SDG7) and requires measures such as results-based financing and wide participation from both the public and private sectors.
  • The World Bank has established a planned $500 million Clean Cooking Fund to accelerate progress toward universal access to clean cooking by 2030.

Cooking is a fundamental part of life. It is an activity that brings families together and has cultural and social significance around the world. But in some developing countries, solid fuels like wood and coal are often used in traditional stoves for cooking. The use of such polluting fuels and technologies results in household air pollution, causing respiratory illnesses, heart problems and even death. In fact, indoor air pollution causes more than 4 million premature deaths every year—50 percent of which are children under the age of 5.

Women and children are disproportionately affected by household air pollution, due to levels of exposure and because they often spend a significant part of their day collecting the fuel—firewood for instance—needed to cook a meal. Residential solid fuel burning accounts for up to 58 percent of global black carbon emissions and a gigaton of carbon dioxide per year—approximately 2 percent of global emissions.

Despite three decades of efforts, access to clean cooking fuel and technologies has continued to be an issue with severe health, gender, economic, environmental, and climate impacts. Nearly three billion people today do not have access to modern cooking services—that is more than the combined population of India and China.

Clean cooking must be a political, economic, and environmental priority, supported by policies and backed by investments and multi-sector partnerships. To make that kind of change, the level of commitment and the scale of investment matter.

To that end, the World Bank’s Energy Sector Management Assistance Program (ESMAP) has established a planned US$500 million Clean Cooking Fund (CCF), with contributions from the Netherlands. Norway and the United Kingdom also support the Fund.

"Clean cooking must be a political, economic, and environmental priority, supported by policies and backed by investments and multi-sector partnerships. To make that kind of change, the level of commitment and the scale of investment matter. "
Riccardo Puliti
Global Director, Energy and Extractive Industries and Regional Director for Infrastructure, Africa

The Fund will scale up public and private investments in the clean cooking sector by catalyzing technology and business innovations and linking incentives with verified results, also known as results-based financing. It is expected to leverage at least $1 billion in investments to support a sizable number of businesses delivering clean cooking solutions. It will also help with developing an impact bond market to monetize the health, gender, and climate impacts of projects that can attract a broad range of capital.

The CCF will complement and support the High-Level Coalition of Leaders for Clean Cooking, Energy and Health, which is being convened by the World Health Organization, United Nations Development Program, United Nations Department of Economics and Social Affairs and the World Bank. The Coalition aims to demonstrate the global leadership in advocacy and action required to create political momentum, drive practical solutions, spur investments and mobilize public support and multi-stakeholder engagements for clean cooking.

The Fund draws from the World Bank’s experience and lessons learned from the past decade. The World Bank currently has an active lending portfolio of over $350 million in clean cooking and heating projects across 21 countries, helping over 3.6 million households and 18 million people with improved access to more efficient, cleaner cooking and heating solutions.

Among these projects, results-based financing has been implemented in various ways, successfully helping private companies enter the clean cooking market in 10 countries: BangladeshChina, Ethiopia, IndonesiaKenyaLao PDR, Madagascar, Mongolia, Rwanda, and Uganda.

For example, in Bangladesh, the World Bank worked through ESMAP to identify and implement a successful market model by partnering with a local development finance institution, tapping into a network of non-governmental organizations, and incentivizing the market players to manufacture and distribute cleaner, more efficient stoves. About 1.7 million improved stoves have been distributed through the program and greenhouse gas emissions have been reduced by 3 metric tons of CO2 equivalent. When the project is completed, 4 million improved stoves will have been distributed, illustrating how a results-based financing model, along with strong partnerships with organizations on the ground, can provide lasting results.

The Fund will also establish a global platform for knowledge, innovation, and policy coordination. It will build on various initiatives and partnerships and align the efforts to mobilize high-level political commitments for the sector, to generate and disseminate knowledge, and to promote continued innovation in technologies, businesses, and policies.

It’s time to scale up public and private investments to deliver clean cooking solutions in every household—to empower women, keep families healthy and the environment clean.