Of the world's 7 billion people, one in five does not have access to electricity. And nearly half of the people on Earth still cook on traditional stoves fueled by wood, peat, waste, or dung. The resulting pneumonia, emphysema, bronchitis, and cardiovascular disease due to smoke and soot inhalation causes an estimated 1.9 million premature deaths a year—more than double the number of deaths due to malaria, by World Health Organization statistics.
"Energy poverty translates into grinding, dehumanizing poverty," said United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon this fall in announcing the organization's new goal of achieving energy access for all by 2030. How to finance this effort, and how to ensure that the goal is achieved without worsening the planet's greenhouse gas overload, will be a key focus of a huge U.N. Conference on Sustainable Development June 2012 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil—an event that marks the 20th anniversary of the Earth Summit held in the same city.
"We cannot continue to burn our way to prosperity," said Ban. The seemingly conflicting goals of spurring economic development and curbing emissions from fossil fuels have stymied global negotiations on a climate change solution in the 20 years since the original Rio summit.
And yet advocates for the world's energy poor have pointed to International Energy Agency estimates that financing universal energy access would cost only about 3 percent of the world's current total global investments in energy. And spread of more modern means of cooking and lighting would reduce deforestation and the harmful black carbon emissions that worsen global warming. Ghana-based Toyola Energy is one of many companies worldwide making more efficient cookstoves, pictured here, to help provide cleaner energy for cooking at an affordable price. Carbon-credit financing lowers the cost of the devices and Toyola was on track to sell more than 60,000 of its energy-efficient cookstoves in 2011, up from 51,000 the previous year.
The public-private partnership, the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, launched with the help of the nonprofit United Nations Foundation, was working to spread such solutions and raise awareness of the solvable problem.
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