Woodstoves and Cookstoves

NEW: How to “Burn Right”: See below for a Danish video demonstrating the most climate- and air quality-friendly way to start a woodstove, with dry wood and “lighting from the top.”  Enjoy the traditional Danish chimney sweep uniform, complete with top hat!

The Household Cooking and Domestic Heating Initiative of the CCAC is working to speed the pace of reductions in SLCP emissions from household cooking and heating, and to mitigate global climate change through effective measures to promote the adoption of clean cookstoves, heat stoves and fuels. Stove technologies already exist that to a large extent can reduce emissions of Black Carbon and other pollutants to acceptable levels and allow continued use of wood as a sustainable energy source, especially if consumers use wood properly (so-called “burning right”) to minimize emissions. Educational Burn Right campaigns focus on regions that use solid fuel stoves for heating and emphasize the importance of proper burning techniques that reduce particulate and black carbon emissions. Target zones include northern Europe and North America, the Andes and southern New Zealand and Australia. See below and also www.burnright.org for more information on ICCI’s Burn Right campaign in 2016/2017.

Late in the evaluation and modeling stage of the 2011 UNEP/WMO Integrated Assessment of Black Carbon (BC) and Tropospheric Ozone, researchers were surprised when newly-acquired estimates on domestic heating — replacement of wood burning with pellets in OECD nations — plugged into existing models led to about 15% greater cooling in the Arctic region.  That single measure had more impact than that from any other OECD source, despite its relatively small size; and in Nordic nations, also carries the greatest impact per unit, according to the Arctic Council.  The Arctic Council also estimates residential heating as perhaps the only source of black carbon projected to remain the same or increase without new and additional action.

At the same time, Nordic nations have a long history of addressing this source for health reasons, using both regulations and incentives; some more successful than others.  They therefore have the potential to use this past experience to move relatively quickly on this new regional climate imperative.

Finally, what holds in the Arctic holds also for the Himalayas and Andes, where cookstoves still are broadly used and lead to a number of more immediate threats even than climate change:  health problems, low birth-weight babies and higher child mortality, girls leaving school because of the burden of cooking and fuel gathering, girls and women exposed to attack and rape while walking further and further from their homes to gather fuel becoming less and less available, due to deforestation that often also has been caused in part by climate change.

ICCI’s program of wood stoves and cookstoves therefore aims to design strategies to address technical, economic and social barriers to decreasing black carbon and other particle emissions from wood and other biomass burning for household use, working with governments, Nordic NGOs, technical experts and interested stove manufacturers. It also aims to develop synergies with the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, especially in near-alpine regions such as the Andes and Himalayas.

ICCI’s current work in this area includes:

Woodstoves:

A project under the Nordic Council of governments, that had its origins in a Chatham House rules workshop in May 2012, organized by ICCI and co-sponsored by the European Environment Agency, with participation from all four Nordic nations and the GACC.  The meeting identified the following central program elements needed to move quickly to reduce emissions of BC and other pollutants from wood stoves and small boilers in Nordic and OECD nations:

– Consciousness-raising of climate benefits through the health, climate and environment civil society community through pan-Nordic gatherings;

– Support for printed informational materials, such as might be given out by chimney sweeps as well as civil society campaigns;

– Support for development of pan-Nordic BC testing protocols, especially if these could become part of Nordic Swan certification;

– Greater outreach to producers, helping the stoves industry see the BC issue as a new and strong opportunity to market more climate-friendly stoves, whether new models or existing pellet, gas or electric stoves.

These elements make up the current Nordic stoves project led by ICCI, funded by the Nordic Council of Ministers and with in-kind support from Nordic Ecolabel. ICCI has held meetings with stove producers in Nordic countries, including a meeting between experts from academia and Nordic governments in May 2013. Informational materials were developed together with Norwegian producers and chimney sweeps, and the Norwegian Nature Conservation Union (Naturvernsforbundet) guiding consumers on how to burn wood in ways that minimize emissions of pollutants, including black carbon. This brochure was distributed by sweeps and with all new stoves sold in Norway during 2013-2014.  (For a copy of the brochure, click here.)  Similar programs are being developed at the local country level as part of this project in Sweden and Finland, and the measures to evaluate project effectiveness are under development.

The project also included an examination of the success or failure of past legislation and incentive programs to decrease pollution from stoves.  (For a copy of the draft report, click here.)  ICCI is currently seeking support to carry out a second phase of work for future recommendations aimed specifically at black carbon.

Finally, the project formed a Technical Working Group consisting of national testing experts, government representatives and recognized experts in the field, including Tami Bond who also is leading testing efforts of the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves (GACC).  The group met formally in May in conjunction with the producer meeting, and focused especially on the development of black carbon testing protocols. This proposed method has already been tried and found to work successfully by one testing organization (Sintef, Norway) in June, and ICCI is seeking support to expand this trial testing to other Nordic testing bodies to conduct their own trials.  In part on the basis of this consensus, Nordic Swan has proposed including black carbon in its next round of requirements that shortly will be under development.  This work has also fed constructively into the broader work of the GACC and the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) on both heating and cooking stoves.

The project also has worked extensively with national experts on better Nordic coordination of the Ecodesign process, which is coming to a conclusion and where the preservation of the Norwegian testing method (a so-called “cold sampling” of flue gas) is perquisite to being able to include black carbon standards in Ecodesign in the future.

Some of these elements will be taken on by planned Nordic government projects in 2014 and beyond.  These include especially, the Norwegian-led Arctic Council ACAP project, and the Climate and Clean Air Coalition proposed domestic heating and cooking focal area.

Cookstoves:

ICCI was involved at an early stage in the formation of the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, and is currently a partner in the Alliance.  Much of our work focuses on the development of reliable testing protocols for black carbon from stoves, and in promoting the stoves that provide the greatest health benefits, with climate as a strong co-benefit.

ICCI strongly advocates for replacement of older stoves for health and gender reasons, which provide ample reason alone for stove programs.  Nearly three billion people living in developing countries — close to half the world’s population — rely on biomass (wood, charcoal, dung, and crop residues) and coal burning to cook their food and heat their homes; they face daily exposure to smoke. Recent studies have found that the tiniest particles within such particulate pollution (smaller than PM2.5), inflict the gravest respiratory damage.  Once lodged in the lungs, these superfine particles — which include black carbon/soot — cannot be coughed out, creating the conditions for disease.  The Global Burden of Disease estimates that some four million people, mostly women and young children, die prematurely each year from the effects of poorly ventilated household smoke.  This toll now exceeds WHO’s estimate of annual deaths from HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria combined.

Demand for wood-fueled energy can have serious negative effects on forests and woodlands where large and sometimes lucrative wood-fuel markets create incentives for forest and woodland clearance, or where rural communities depend on fragile ecosystems that are already under environmental stress.  In addition, the daily burden of firewood collection contributes to gender inequality, by preventing women and girls from spending time in school or engaged in productive economic activities while exposing them to a higher risk of sexual violence.

Four cookstove models  – LPG, biogas, ethanol, and forced-draft stoves – have been proven to reduce particle pollution and black carbon.  Biogas digesters, which convert manure from cows, pigs, and even human waste to cooking fuel, are commercially available in sizes ranging from a single household to a small village; so are larger installations that gather such waste and distribute the gas.  Ethanol provides an alternative fuel in growing use in Africa, and the health and climate benefits should equal those of LPG and biogas.  The ethanol needs to be sustainably produced, however, given competing demands for land and water use for cultivation.

All four models present different challenges for implementation. Fugitive methane emissions can occur from the two gas-driven stoves; and a badly-maintained or improperly used forced draft stove will emit copious amounts of smoke and black carbon.  In addition, all the stoves must be used on a regular basis and maintained properly to effectively curb pollution emissions.  Training, proper maintenance, and long-term monitoring and evaluation must be essential elements of cookstoves replacement programs.  Past experience also shows that the sustainability of cookstoves programs is dependent on the sociocultural context, market conditions, and affordability.

Despite these challenges, the costs of continued traditional cookstove use in terms of family health and welfare – not to mention the climate impacts – speak to intensified efforts to overcome these barriers and increased “learning by doing;” this is similar to the approach used by donors in the HIV/AIDs, malaria and TB health crisis of the late 1990s.  The barriers to distribution and proper use of cookstoves include some striking similarities to the public health challenges of these three infectious diseases:  the need to solve issues of distribution (which, for anti-retroviral drugs, included keeping the supply cold throughout the supply chain in rural areas without refrigeration); education in proper use; and ongoing monitoring, evaluation, and follow-up.

Hundreds of public and private initiatives exist to bring cleaner cooking solutions to women across the developing world.  These efforts include commercial and nonprofit enterprises, carbon finance schemes, national and intergovernmental development projects, and humanitarian assistance programs.[1]  Not all of these programs, however, address emissions in a way that might be expected to bring proven health and climate benefits, with only incremental improvements in emissions levels. As a first step, interventions could perhaps seek to focus these many existing efforts on the four clean cooking solutions proven to maximize those benefits.

ICCI is actively seeking support to fill many of these policy gaps.  As a first step, we hope to bring the cookstoves and woodstoves communities together to discuss potential new technologies that might cut emissions further, for example using degasification approaches.  Whether woodstoves for Arctic benefit and cookstoves for the Himalayas and elsewhere, the challenges in technical approaches and testing to provide workable standards remain the same.

 


[1] See examples at the Global Alliances for Clean Cookstoves: www.cleancookstoves.org.