- Consumer behaviour continues to gain traction
Within the cookstove sector, the conversation has moved well beyond the technical aspects of cookstoves and fuels and the focus is now firmly on understanding consumer behaviour and needs, and translating this knowledge into products and systems that will be purchased and used consistently. There were a total of five panel sessions focusing on consumer behaviour, more sessions than for any other single topic. Various tools and approaches, both qualitative and quantitative, were presented for identifying consumer’s needs and the behavioural drivers affecting cookstove uptake. The challenge now for the GACC will be to synthesise and communicate key lessons from across this work to ensure that valuable insights are put into action.
- There is an ongoing debate among GACC partners about the type of cooking solution that should be promoted
Two weeks ago the Washington Post published an article that criticised the continued promotion of improved cookstoves despite the lack of evidence for their efficacy in terms of improving health or meeting people’s needs: “Of those 28 million cookstoves [disseminated by GACC partners], only 8.2 million — the ones that run on electricity or burn liquid fuels including liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), ethanol and biogas — meet the health guidelines for indoor emissions set by the WHO. The vast majority of the stoves burn wood, charcoal, animal dung or agricultural waste — and aren’t, therefore, nearly as healthy as promised”. This criticism was met head on by the GACC Secretariat in the opening plenary with GACC CEO Radha Muthiah stating that a continued focus on biomass cookstoves in areas where access to liquid petroleum gas or electricity remains a long way off is a pragmatic approach, and that the work of GACC partners is motivated just as much by socioeconomic and environmental benefits as it is by improving health.
- Results based finance is here to stay
Access to finance continues to be a challenge for cookstove entrepreneurs. Despite the drop in the price of carbon credits, project developers continue to tap into carbon finance, often selling credits into the voluntary market and packaging cookstoves with other household technologies, such as water filters, in their project design. New developments in RBF were presented, for example, the idea of health credits based on averted disability adjusted life years (DALYs).
- The impact of household energy on climate is emerging as a much more complex issue than people thought when the GACC first took shape
SEI Senior Scientist Rob Bailis presented GACC-supported work on mapping woodfuel sustainability, which shows that impacts of woodfuel extraction for cooking are generally smaller than previously thought. For years, conventional wisdom held that 80–90% of extraction was non-renewable, but findings show that it is actually closer to 20–30% in most locations, with “hotspots” reaching 50–60%. Then, a second, unrelated factor that adds complexity is the role of black carbon. While black carbon alone has an unambiguous warming impact, it is co-emitted with organic carbon aerosols, which have a cooling effect. While there is still a lot of uncertainty around which one “wins”, new research funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency presented at the forum shows that black carbon and organic carbon more or less cancel each other out. Taken together, these two ideas show that stove and fuel interventions will have lower impacts on climate mitigation than most people hoped. However, well-designed interventions could still be effective in identified “hotspots”.
- Gender remains high on the agenda
There was a push towards a more holistic perspective when it comes to women’s involvement in the sector. There was a a clear recognition of the need to integrate women throughout the improved cookstove value chain, from product design to production to marketing.
SEI’s engagement at the forum
The seventh Clean Cooking Forum took the theme of “accelerating markets, scaling solutions”, and gathered people from government, business, NGOs and academia from more than 50 countries to take part in more than 50 sessions on all aspects of the clean-cooking space.
Fiona Lambe, SEI Research Fellow and leader of the SEI Initiative on Behaviour and Choice, led the session on Translating Knowledge on Consumer Behaviour into Effective Interventions, which featured insights from anthropology, behavioural economics, and success stories from the private sector. View Lambe and the three other session panelists responses to the discussion.
Julie Ipe, GACC’s Manager for Market Research & Knowledge, echoed a growing realization that behaviour change is central to meeting cookstove targets, and that improved technology is just one part of the solution (see video below). “It’s refreshing that organizations like SEI are really starting to take the consumer point of view into account, which we know is critically important”.
Senior Scientist Rob Bailis presented his work in sessions on clean cooking and climate, and on linking clean cooking and REDD+. Bailis and collaborator Adrian Ghilardi of the National Autonomous University of Mexico here reflect on their work.
Cooking fuels were a central issue at the forum: Anne Nyambane SEI Research Associate, highlighted her work on scaling up clean fuels – specifically in the case of efforts in Mozambique to move to bioethanol from charcoal use.
Learn more about SEI’s Initiative on Behaviour and Choice »