Indoor air pollution

Evaluation of the costs and benefits of household energy and health interventions at global and regional levels: Summary

Worldwide, more than 3 billion people cook with wood, dung, coal and other solid fuels on open fires or traditional stoves. The resulting indoor air pollution is responsible for more than 1.5 million deaths due to respiratory diseases annually – mostly of young children and their mothers. Effective solutions to reduce levels of indoor air pollution and to improve health do exist and include cleaner and more efficient fuels and improved stoves that burn solid fuels more efficiently and completely. In addition to preventing death, improving health and reducing illness-related expenditures, household energy interventions have many impacts that, at the household level, improve family livelihoods and, at the population level, stimulate development and contribute to environmental sustainability. These benefits include time savings due to less illness, a reduced need for fuel collection and shorter cooking times. Cost–benefit analysis offers a method of economic evaluation that values all benefits against all costs from a societal perspective.

This summary provides a synopsis of the approach and key findings of the cost–benefit analysis of household energy and health interventions, and presents the results for three intervention scenarios of particular relevance to energy policy in the context of the Millennium Development Goals. It concludes that the gains in health and productivity far outweigh the overall cost of the interventions: Investing US$ 13 billion per year to halve, by 2015, the number of people worldwide cooking with solid fuels by providing them with access to LPG shows a payback of US$ 91 billion per year. Making improved stoves available to all those still burning biomass fuels and coal on traditional stoves would result in a negative intervention cost of US$ 34 billion and generate an economic return of US$ 105 billion a year over a ten-year period. Health and productivity gains make household energy interventions potentially good value for money.

This publication is intended for policy-makers in the energy, environment and health sectors at subnational, national and international levels.

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