Roughly two-thirds of Africa’s population — almost a billion people — doesn’t have access to clean cooking, according to a recent International Energy Agency report.
What’s more, half of those people live in just five countries: Nigeria, Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania and Uganda.
While the world strives to transition to a net zero economy, many poorer countries still do not have access to such basic energy needs as clean cooking.
In sub-Saharan Africa, less than 20% of the population has access to clean cooking in 29 countries.
The IEA findings come as world leaders gather in New York for the yearly Climate Week, as well as for a special summit organized by the United Nations on September 18 and 19 meant to track progress on the Sustainable Development Goals, which include universal access to clean and affordable energy by 2030.
Air pollution from rudimentary cooking fuels such as charcoal, firewood, coal, agricultural waste and animal dung causes 3.7 million premature deaths per year, ranking it the third largest cause of premature death globally, according to the report.
Women suffer the worst impacts, since the burden of finding the fuel and making the meals typically falls on them.
These cooking methods also lead to greenhouse gas emissions and, in some instances, can contribute to deforestation.
Clean cooking systems include improved cook stoves, biogas systems, electric stoves, liquid petroleum gas, natural gas or ethanol stoves, according to the IEA. These methods are more efficient and environmentally sustainable than traditional fuel options. Although scientists, environmentalists and others don’t consider natural gas, a fossil fuel, to be a climate solution, in the context of clean cooking in lower income nations, it’s generally considered to be clean.
The agency’s report shows universal clean cooking access could be reached worldwide by 2030 with an annual investment of $8 billion, which it points out “is just a tiny fraction of what the world spends on energy each year.”