A Q&A with Rita Poppe
From September 23 to 29, the city of New York will host the annual climate week. Besides panel discussion, concerts and exhibitions, the Climate Action Summit of the UN Secretary-General will be organized. In the same week, the SDG Summit will also take place, bringing together the climate and development agenda.
Prior to the summit, a range of issues will be discussed at high-level events. Hivos Director Edwin Huizing is invited to speak at the event on energy access. He will be accompanied by Rita Poppe, Hivos policy advisor green and inclusive energy. We sat down with her to find out what we aim to achieve in New York.
What will be the focus of our visit?
Climate is central to the work of Hivos, especially in our food and energy programs. We believe it is crucial to connect climate and development in our work, making sure that what we do has a positive impact on both. Our work is aimed at increasing access to energy, or more precisely access to (decentralized) renewable energy, thus supporting a low carbon development pathway. The Climate Action Summit provides an excellent opportunity to convey this message and engage with decision makers.
This time specifically, we will focus our efforts on making sure clean cooking is high on the agenda. If we look at the Sustainable Development Goal about energy access (SDG 7: ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all), we see some progress has been made in ensuring access to electricity. However, SDG7 also includes access to clean and modern energy for cooking. There we hardly see any progress. Almost 3 billion people still rely on polluting fuels and technologies for cooking, heating and lighting. Unfortunately, this number is increasing as adoption of clean fuels is not keeping up with population growth.
Clean cooking has been severely neglected by the global community. It is underrepresented in policy debates and only receives a fraction of the investment into renewable energy solutions. Even though we know that making clean cooking available for everybody will not only have a huge impact on health, it will also increase equality between women and men and will free up time to be spend on other activities instead of collecting firewood. When it comes climate, the impact of clean cooking cannot be underestimated. It will reduce deforestation and carbon dioxide emissions. Clean cooking is at the core of climate and development!
Hivos and ENERGIA are invited to speak at the Clean Cooking, Energy and Health Session. What will our core message be?
Hivos and ENERGIA, together with former UN Special Representative for SEforALL Hon. Kandeh Yumkella, are among the driving forces behind establishing the High-Level Coalition of Leaders for Clean Cooking, Energy and Health. Together we want to use this political momentum to make clean cooking a global priority. We want to inspire other leaders to follow our lead and to spur investments into the clean cooking sector.
At the event we will announce the formation of an inspiring coalition that is already supported by the World Health Organization (WHO), UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA), the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the World Bank, several governments and like-minded CSOs such as the Clean Cooking Alliance. We will call upon governments to join this coalition and make clean cooking a priority!
How will that be reflected in the speeches?
In his speech, Edwin will stress the importance of investing in clean cooking and the need for political leadership. Political leadership is key to change course, to attract investment, to align ministries and to involve stakeholders. He will also speak to a US$500 million Clean Cooking Fund which is being established by the World Bank/ESMAP, and support the establishment of a Health and Energy Platform, to increase access to energy for health facilities and clean cooking.
ENERGIA’s Sheila Oparaocha will address the need for a gender lens to all energy access policies, programs and interventions, especially cooking energy. Women and men are affected differently by energy access or the lack thereof. For example, women are traditionally the ones who take care of the household. This means that they are more exposed to health risks caused by indoor air pollution when using firewood or charcoal for cooking. At the same time, it’s men who often decide what kind of appliances are purchased. Clean cooking appliances are often not prioritized. In addition, clean cooking solutions offer significant empowerment opportunities to women. As primary users, women are crucial not only in the adoption of clean technologies. They can also participate in the design, maintenance, distribution and sales. Yet, little progress has been made to push for increased female representation in the energy value chain.
How do Hivos and ENERGIA contribute to clean cooking solutions?
Hivos and ENERGIA are constantly lobbying and advocating to get clean cooking high up on the political agenda. We do this at international level, as well as at the national and county level. We both base our work on experience on the ground.
Hivos has a long track record in building up a biogas market in Africa and South-East Asia. Domestic biogas provides a sustainable way for individual households with livestock to reduce dependence on firewood and fossil fuels: a biogas digester converts dung into biogas to be used for cooking, water boiling and lightning. We have installed over 60,000 biogas digesters in Africa alone.
In its Women’s Economic Empowerment program, ENERGIA supports women entrepreneurs who run a sustainable energy business. They sell improved cookstoves and other clean energy solutions in underserved and difficult-to-reach communities to people who previously did not have to access to clean energy products and services. These stoves use much less fuelwood than traditional stoves and produce much less smoke. So far, more than 300,000 stoves have been sold.
Unfortunately, there is no one size fits all solution to clean cooking, making progress difficult. This is why we also put efforts in finding alternatives and have done different studies examining the viability of, for instance, electric cooking. Our reports have spurred debates and hopefully materialize in extra finance for electric cooking.