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CER collaborates on project to improve cookstove technology and policy in third-world countries

July 2015


standard three rock stove cooking methodFor the past year CER has been working with Assistant Professor at UC San Diego’s School of Global Policy and Strategy (GPS), Jennifer Burney, on a project that will change the way families in third-world countries cook. Currently over two billion people worldwide rely on unprocessed biomass, such as wood, crop residues, or dung, for their daily cooking needs. The burning of these substances results in emissions such as carbon monoxide that are both dangerous to human health and potent climate warmers. Better cookstoves exist, but many people cannot afford them. 

Recently, development agencies have started focusing on the potential for carbon markets to finance improved cooking technologies. Polluters can purchase offsets, and the revenue will allow households currently using biomass to purchase better cookstoves. While this is a great idea, the existing carbon market offset protocols do not include emissions of anything other than carbon dioxide. They essentially ignore the quality of the combustion in the cookstove. Thus, the best cookstoves are not necessarily valued in the market over poorer alternatives.

Jennifer Burney and her research team have been working to solve this problem on two fronts. They have used carbon market offset data and cookstove emissions studies to propose a comprehensive carbon
The first cookstove tested in Burney's labaccounting method for cookstoves. They have also been testing in a UC San Diego lab traditional and improved cookstoves based on their proposed accounting guidelines.

Sometimes it can take years for research to funnel through layers of academia and affect real-world change. Burney feels positive that her work could realize quicker impact. “We know that carbon markets want to include cookstove projects and are looking for the best ways to do this. One of them (The Gold Standard) even held a meeting here last year to learn more about the science. The work we are doing is directly and immediately applicable for them,” she explained.

Burney hopes that her emissions accounting method will become the gold standard for all home energy technologies in carbon markets, and that her test facility can grow to be the industry standard. “We want to make sure these offsets are calculated correctly, and that carbon markets will incentivize the best technologies – cookstoves that are truly better for people and the planet.”