Indoor air pollution

Household energy and health at CSD-14

The 14th session of the Commission for Sustainable Development (CSD-14) took place in New York from 1st to 12th May 2006. Established by the United Nations in 1992 to ensure effective follow-up to the Rio Earth Summit, the CSD is the high-level forum for discussing sustainable development within the UN. Energy for sustainable development is the main theme of CSD-14 and CSD-15.

Panel 3

On 11 May 2006, WHO, the German Technical Cooperation (GTZ), the Partnership for Clean Indoor Air, Practical Action and the US Environmental Protection Agency organized a side event entitled "4000 deaths a day from cooking fires? Lets prevent them!". By drawing attention to the severe risks of using biomass and coal for cooking and heating in developing countries, the side-event made the case for the urgent need to improve access to household energy among the poor.

M. Neira
Maria Neira

Arno Tomowski, Director, Department of Environment and Infrastructure at GTZ, who moderated the panel discussion, and Susanne Weber-Mosdorf, Assistant Director General, Sustainable Development and Healthy Environments at WHO, welcomed more than 70 participants. Drawing on the new WHO report "Fuel for life: household energy and health", Maria Neira, Director of Public Health and Environment at WHO, laid out the challenge: Every year, indoor air pollution is responsible for more than 1.5 million deaths, mostly among children and women. To achieve the Millennium Development Goals nearly 500 000 people will need to gain access to cleaner fuels or modern cooking technologies every day between now and 2015.

Mr Chawdhury, Bangladesh
Jafrul Islam Chowdhury

High-level panellists from different countries were asked to respond to the challenge. H.E. Jafrul Islam Chowdhury, Honorable State Minister of Environment and Forests in Bangladesh, Paul Mubiru, Commissioner for Energy in Uganda, and Surya Sethi, Energy Advisor in the Planning Commission of the Government of India, gave an overview of the situation in their countries as well as efforts to address the problem. Notably, Uganda has successfully reached more than 150 000 households with improved stoves over the past 18 months. Based on the Indian experience, subsidies on liquefied petroleum gas or other cleaner fuels are essential if the poorest households are to be reached.

Andrew Scott, Director of Policy and Programmes with Practical Action, described the various low-cost technologies which successfully reduce indoor air pollution levels but emphasized the need for building capacity at the country level, both with respect to supply chains for the delivery of improved cooking technologies and with respect to raising awareness about the dangers of smoke. Finally, the representative of the Dutch Directorate General for International Cooperation (DGIS), Ton van der Zon, stated that household energy was a key element of Dutch development policy. He argued that donors will need to restructure their development aid by setting concrete targets for providing modern energy services to poor families in developing countries.

Surya Sethi
Surya Sethi

Following the statements, a lively discussion ensued and further highlighted the significance of the health burden from indoor air pollution as well as difficulties in scaling up effective solutions. In his closing remarks, Arno Tomowski reiterated the daunting challenge ahead, but showed himself confident that through working together existing knowledge and experiences can be translated into real changes to transform people's lives on a large scale.

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All photographs courtesy of IISD/Earth Negotiation Bulletin