Remarks on Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves at the Clinton Global Initiative

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Sheraton Towers
New York City
September 21, 2010

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you all. Thank you. Thank you so much. Thank you. And it is, as always, such a personal pleasure for me to join this remarkable gathering. And I look out at this audience and there are just too many people here who deserve recognition to name all of you, so let me just express my deep appreciation to all the representatives of foreign governments as well as the leaders and advocates who are here with us and who will be sharing the stage. And of course, I do want to thank someone very special, namely my husband, for organizing this event – (applause) – and instilling it with his very special spirit of activism, innovation, and commitment that is contagious.


Last year at CGI, I spoke about the Obama Administration’s new strategy for international development, which has elevated development alongside diplomacy and defense as the core pillars of American foreign policy. And we are working with our partner countries to help them obtain the tools and capacity that they need to solve their own problems and contribute to solving the world’s shared problems. Our goal is to help people lift themselves, their families, and their societies out of poverty and toward a better life. And this is not development for development’s sake. This work, we believe, advances our own security, prosperity, and values.


So we have focused on strategic areas where we can make the biggest impact on agricultural change that stretch from the farm to the market to the table and keep people nourished and productive, health systems that help people spend their days working rather than sick or dying, opportunities for women and girls that allow them to contribute to economic and social progress.


And today, I am very excited to tell you about a new initiative that will advance these and other efforts, and help put vital new tools in the hands of millions of people.


As we meet here in New York, women are cooking dinner for their families in homes and villages around the world. As many as 3 billion people are gathering around open fires or old and inefficient stoves in small kitchens and poorly ventilated houses. Many of the women have labored over these hearths for hours, often with their infant babies strapped to their backs, and they have spent many more hours gathering the fuel. The food they prepare is different on every continent, but the air they breathe is shockingly similar: a toxic mix of chemicals released by burning wood or other solid fuel that can reach 200 times the amount that our EPA considers safe for breathing.


As the women cook, smoke fills their lungs and the toxins begin poisoning them and their children. The results of daily exposure can be devastating: Pneumonia, the number one killer of children worldwide, chronic respiratory diseases, lung cancer, and a range of other health problems are the consequence.


The World Health Organization considers smoke from dirty stoves to be one of the five most serious health risks that face people in poor, developing countries. Nearly 2 million people die from its effects each year, more than twice the number from malaria. And because the smoke contains greenhouse gasses such as carbon dioxide and methane, as well as black carbon, it contributes to climate change.


There are other consequences as well. In conflict zones like the Congo, the journeys that women must take to find scarce fuel put them at increased risk of violent and sexual assault. Even in safer areas, every hour spent collecting fuel is an hour not spent in school or tending crops or running a business.


People have cooked over open fires and dirty stoves for all of human history, but the simple fact is they are slowly killing millions of people and polluting the environment. Engineers and development professionals have worked on this problem for decades. My own involvement stretches back many years, and I’m well aware that well-meaning efforts have been launched, but none have managed to match the scope of the challenge.


But today, because of technological breakthroughs, new carbon financing tools, and growing private sector engagement, we can finally envision a future in which open fires and dirty stoves are replaced by clean, efficient, and affordable stoves and fuels all over the world – stoves that still cost as little as $25.


I know that maybe this sounds hard to believe, but by upgrading these stoves, millions of lives could be saved and improved. This could be as transformative as bed nets or even vaccines. So today, I am very pleased to announce the creation of the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves. (Applause.) This is a public-private partnership led by the United Nations Foundation that will work toward the goal of 100 million homes adopting new clean stoves and fuels by 2020. Our long-term goal is universal adoption all over the world, and the alliance is a perfect CGI model of a public-private partnership that already includes governments such as the United States, Germany, Norway, and Peru, international development organizations and local NGOs, as well as foundations and private companies such as Morgan Stanley and Shell.


And we do expect to grow quickly with your help, and this effort will proceed on a number of parallel tracks. First, a major applied research and development effort to improve design, lower costs, and develop global industry standards for cookstoves. There are already some good stoves out there, but we can make them much more durable, efficient, and affordable, and scale up production to reach a mass market. With the right advances, new stoves could even use their own wasted heat to produce electricity that powers smoke-clearing fans, mobile phones, and even household lights.


Second, a broad-based campaign to create a commercial market for clean stoves, including
reducing trade barriers, promoting consumer awareness, and boosting access to large-scale carbon financing. Now, no single stove will meet the needs of every community across the world. In fact, previous efforts have taught us that if local tastes and preferences are not considered, people will simply not use the stoves, and we’ll find them stacked in piles of refuse. That’s why a market-based approach that relies on testing, monitoring, and research is so important, because if we do this right, these new stoves will fit seamlessly into family cooking traditions while also offering a step up toward a better life.


Third, we will integrate clean stoves into our international development projects so that refugee camps, disaster relief efforts, and long-term aid programs all will act as distribution networks. Women and girls who are obviously the vast majority of stove users will be our focus throughout. Women-owned, micro-financed businesses and networks can extend deep into hard-to-reach communities, and that I know a number of my friends from SEWA, the Self Employed Women’s Association that started in India, has already made a huge difference for millions of women in India. And they’re with us today; you’ll meet them in a minute. And they’re helping us to make this happen more broadly.


The United States is committing more than $50 million over the next five years to this initiative, and we urge other countries to join us. Our partners have already contributed an additional $10 million, and we’re working to raise more every day with the goal of reaching at least $250 million over 10 years. This is a project that brings, across our government, the experts together, and many of them have long experience in working on clean stoves, but never before have we pulled our resources and our expertise behind a single global campaign, as we are doing today. And never before have we had the range of global partners and coordination that the Alliance for Clean Cookstoves brings with it.


So we need your help as well. You’re here because you are already committed to identifying and investing in innovative solutions to persistent global problems. So today, I ask you to join us, to be a part of this solution, an issue that brings together so many of our concerns. Whether you’re passionate about health or the environment or sustainable development or women’s empowerment, this is a project for you, and we need you.


The next time you sit down with your own family to eat, please take a moment to imagine the smell of smoke, feel it in your lungs, see the soot building up on the walls, and then come find us at the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves. Hearths, whatever they look like, and wherever we gather around them, where we tell our stories and pass down our values, bind families together. And the benefits from this initiative will be cleaner and safer homes, and that will, in turn, ripple out for healthier families, stronger communities, and more stable societies. So we are excited because we think this is actually a problem we can solve.


And I want to bring up and introduce to you a woman who has been my partner in this process in the United States Government. She provided invaluable leadership to this effort and has on so many important issues facing our country. The Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Lisa Jackson.

PRN: 2010/1306