Carbon markets fight pneumonia

This Saturday (12th Nov) is World Pneumonia Day, designed to focus the world’s attention on the disease that kills more under fives than any other  – 1.5 million children every year – and the simple measures to prevent it.

What many don’t realise is that help is coming from a rather surprising place: investments to cut climate change pollution.

In the past decade a global ‘carbon market’ has evolved, part of which involves businesses and governments investing in projects that reduce carbon emissions, the key cause of climate change.  These projects include the familiar wind turbines and hydroelectric power, but also other technologies, such as efficient cookstoves.

Now the latter are crucial: nearly half of the world’s population still cook their meals on open fires or basic stoves and the smoke that fills the home blackens the lungs of mothers and children.  For years development groups have been trying to promote the use of efficient cookstoves, which bring a whole treasure-chest of benefits:  by burning more efficiently they produce less smoke and use less firewood; saving money, time and in many cases deforestation.

But one of their greatest benefits is, quite simply, saving lives.  By cutting down indoor smoke pollution, these stoves help drastically cut instances of pneumonia, saving children’s lives:  according to the Global Coalition Against Child Pneumonia (GAPP), the humble efficient cookstove is a major weapon in the fight against this horrible disease.  In fact, of the four interventions studied by the GAPP  the cookstove has the single highest impact in reducing a child’s risk of contracting the disease, by a whopping 50%. (See infographic) [1]

So, it is quite exciting that investments in clean cookstove projects funded by the carbon market are helping to upscale this technology, supporting local businesses and distributors and getting stoves into the hands of millions more families – and because of the nature of the funding making sure that they are high quality, well designed and actually get used.

ClimateCare has been using carbon money to fund improved stoves since 2004, and has been leading the use of carbon finance to support this technology ever since, including developing the Gold Standard stoves methodology and registering the world’s first Gold Standard stoves project in Uganda in 2007.  We’ve helped to fund over 1.6 million stoves over the past decade, benefiting over 7 million people.

But this is just the beginning.  The UN recently launched the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, aiming to get ‘100 by 20’: 100 million families with a cookstove by 2020.  This is certainly possible – ClimateCare sees huge possibilities, particularly in sub-saharan Africa where our project office is based.

So, if you have bought a product that is carbon neutral, or chosen to ‘offset’ a flight, there is a chance (if it was done through ClimateCare or one of the other quality carbon reduction companies such members of the ICROA alliance) that you will have helped fight childhood pneumonia without even knowing it.

And if you want to take responsibility for your carbon footprint, our offsets let you do so whilst also tackling some of the world’s biggest health problems.

Tackling environmental problems and improving health go hand in hand – and the efficient cookstove’s role in preventing pneumonia is one of the most exciting examples yet.

[1] The other interventions are vaccination (49% reduction), exclusive breastfeeding for first six months (15-23% reduction).