Interview With John Broder of the New York Times

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Via Telephone
New York City
September 20, 2010

QUESTION: Give me, in your words, a sense of the scope of the problem we’re addressing here tomorrow with this cookstove initiative. What – globally, what is the nature and the size of the problem, and how are you going to go about attacking it?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, this is one of those problems that has enormous implications for the environment, for women, for the health of populations that use the cookstove, because exposure to toxic smoke from traditional cookstoves and open fires accounts for nearly 2 million premature deaths annually, according to the World Health Organization. And it also has a very serious impact on the environment. So while we’re looking at some of the large issues that we know affect climate change, we’re not always focused on what people do every day that pollutes the climate and emits carbon dioxide, methane, and black carbon.

So this is a global alliance that will advocate and operationalize the campaign for clean cookstoves by establishing stove standards and field-testing leading technologies and encourage applied research to create a cleaner cookstove and look for innovative financing tools and market influence through creating supplies that will lead to the diminution of all of the problems that we see with cookstoves.

So it’s a win-win. And the United States has decided that it’s such an important initiative that we are contributing $50 million over the next five years: It’s a whole-of-government approach, because it’s not only the State Department, it’s EPA, and USAID and the Department of Energy and National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control. And we will partner with other governments and the private sector in getting this alliance off the ground.

QUESTION: Given – and I’ve had a couple of background conversations with people at EPA and at the UN Foundation. But given the scope of the problem, we’re talking about as many as 500 million households worldwide cook using these methods and are exposed to this indoor pollution, billions of people, literally. Fifty million dollars sounds like a fairly small amount of money. How are you going to leverage this into the kind of major impact that you’re looking to accomplish?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, it won’t only be U.S. Government money. We have 20 founding partners of the alliance, from the United Nations Foundation to the Shell Foundation to Germany and Norway and other governments, along with private sector contributors. So we’re expecting a lot of financial assistance and technical expertise to come from all of the partners in the alliance. And like anything, we have to start somewhere. We think that the sector that cookstoves is part of, namely everyday activities of individuals, is amenable to a sustainable solution on a global scale if we all unify our efforts.

And I think that the commitment that we’ve seen coming from so many others around the world suggests that we have a fighting chance here. So when we make the announcement tomorrow at the Clinton Global Initiative, there will be a representative sampling of those countries that are already attempting their own national cookstove programs, like Peru, that has recognized this as a national problem, as well as others who can help create a market for clean cookstoves. I mean, the fact is that we have to provide an alternative to what people are so used to doing.

QUESTION: Right. I know I’ve only got a couple more minutes of your time. But is this an environmental issue? Is this a health issue? Is this a women’s empowerment issue? I mean, is –

SECRETARY CLINTON: It’s all of the above.

QUESTION: -- microfinance? Yeah, I know.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes, it truly is all of the above, which makes it such a good subject for a coordinated global approach, because some people do come to it from the health perspective like in our own government, NIH and CDC. Some come to it from the environmental perspective, like EPA and DOE. Some of us see it as a cross-cutting issue that is unique because it also has tremendous impact on women, particularly vulnerable women in conflict zones and refugee camps who have to spend so much of their time out looking for either wood or dung or some other fuel.

So I think that what makes this a really attractive option is that as we saw in the ‘80s with the first global efforts to address HIV/AIDS in Africa, and then in the ‘90s to address malaria, this is an opportunity to bring many different forces to bear, all of whom have a reason for supporting the alliance and can supplement the work that others are doing.

QUESTION: Okay. Is the Clinton Global Initiative itself going to be an active participant in this alliance, or are they just sort of providing the venue for you to make this announcement tomorrow? Is this a Bill and Hillary deal?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes, they are actively supporting it because it also affects their – the health and environmental work that is done through CGI. And of course, the way CGI works is that you enlist private sector partners from the not-for-profit and business community as we’ve done here, and then CGI, since it’s going to be announced at CGI, will be an active participant in making sure that people carry forward on their commitments. And we’re obviously committed to doing our part in the federal government, but we also want to be sure that all of the partners step up and deliver on what they’re claiming to do tomorrow.

QUESTION: Madam Secretary, thanks. I really appreciate your reaching out to me.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, thank you for your interest in this, John. I mean, this is one of these issues that I think is maybe a little bit of a sleeper issue, but with very (inaudible) implications.

QUESTION: Well, once we start looking at the numbers – and we have written about the black carbon problem and the cookstoves and that relationship. But I didn’t realize there were 2 million premature deaths a year and that it’s the third or fourth environmentally caused factor in deaths in the developing world, and now I do.

All right –

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, thank you. Thank you for your interest.

QUESTION: Have a great day. All right, good luck today.


PRN: 2010/1307