COP26: ‘Clean cooking should not be an afterthought’

Women and children are often central to the conversation about clean cooking. They are more exposes to home air pollution and are often tasked with gathering fuel for food preparation. Photo: Supplied/Peace Parks Foundation

Women and children are often central to the conversation about clean cooking. They are more exposes to home air pollution and are often tasked with gathering fuel for food preparation. Photo: Supplied/Peace Parks Foundation

Cooking is an important part of life but frequently disregarded and downplayed to monotony. But this week, clean cooking was recognised during a COP26 discussion as an important topic if we want to achieve our energy objectives.

The 26th United Nations climate change conference (COP26) is currently taking place in Glasgow, Scotland. Between 31 October and 12 November, the gathering is hosted under the theme “Reinforcing the Africa-Europe climate alliance: looking ahead to COP26 and onto COP27”.

In one of the discussions, guest speakers underlined the need for moving beyond talk and into practical initiatives to promote smart energy projects in Africa.

According to The World Bank, women and children in Africa are particularly affected by home air pollution due to higher levels of exposure. They also frequently spend a considerable portion of their day gathering the fuel — firewood, for example — needed to cook a meal.

Dymphna van der Lans, CEO of the Clean Cooking Alliance (CCA), stated that no one would be able to reach their climate targets if they did not include strategies on clean cooking. She also mentioned the need for funding. “Small-scale financing will no longer be enough to meet the need for clean cooking. To make clean cooking and climate action a reality, a far larger funding is required.

“We need to make sure that clean cooking is not an afterthought. It needs to be front and centre because we cannot reach universal energy access without clean cooking.”

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Time to walk the talk

Kandeh Yumkella co-chair of the Africa Europe Foundation strategy group on energy, urged Africa to be courageous, and recognised the need to engage the African Development Bank and World Bank to fund green projects in Africa as a whole. This, he believes, will ensure the continent has access to gas – the most accessible energy source.

“When Africa is ready to switch to other, more sustainable energy sources, such as solar, at least the clean cooking objective will be met, making the transition simpler. It’s time to go from compacts and declarations to actual action.

“We are beyond advocacy and need to take action. At least 40% of people, by 2030, should be having access to clean cooking .This will result in carbon emissions [going] down,” Yumkella added.

Van der Lans went on to say that there is no one-size-fits-all solution for the green transition. “Each country will have a different mix of solar, hydro and natural gas for industrialisation, creating a groundswell of demand from women and their families for clean cooking. They can put pressure on elected leaders to act.”

Emphasising the inescapable and essential need for financial support, Van der Lans pointed out that the one thing she does not need to see is more language. “I just need to see the money.”

Involve young people

Ayakha Melithafa, a young South African environmental activist, underlined that in order to implement energy solutions properly, the voice of Africa’s youth must be amplified, young people must be educated more on climatic issues, and be involved more vigorously in COP26 events because they are most affected by climate change.

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