UPDATED 27 July 2023


UNFCCC, Gold Standard, and the Clean Cooking Alliance Partner to Strengthen Carbon Finance Opportunities in Clean Cooking

The carbon market will not reach its full potential if it omits solutions like clean cooking


The carbon market represents a critical resource in the pursuit of net zero. It has the potential to provide funding at the scale and speed necessary to bring about large-scale transitions in the world’s energy systems and economies. However, to realize this potential, the carbon market must be able to channel funding to those solutions that are most essential to meeting our global climate goals. Clean cooking is one such solution.

More than 2.4 billion around the world cook with polluting stoves and fuels, a practice responsible for a gigaton of CO2e emissions each year, more than 50% of manmade black carbon emissions, and 16% of ambient air pollution. In short, we cannot achieve our global climate goals without addressing clean cooking. Despite this, the clean cooking ecosystem has not received the funding it needs to thrive. Cooking has historically received insufficient investment from public and private sources. As such, the carbon market, with its large funding flows and rapid growth, could provide the financial resources necessary to rapidly expand clean cooking access. However, clean cooking has also struggled to attract sustained, large-scale funding flows from the carbon market.

To take full advantage of the opportunities provided by carbon finance, clean cooking carbon projects must be grounded in sound methodologies, realistic parameters, and conservative assumptions that reflect integrity, transparency, and accountability. Improving the conditions for clean cooking carbon projects can take the ecosystem to the next stage—a virtuous cycle wherein credits with higher integrity drive better technologies and incentives for sustained use. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Gold Standard (GS), and the Clean Cooking Alliance (CCA), among others, are working to continue moving the carbon market closer to this ideal.

There is much cause for optimism. The earliest clean cooking carbon credit programs relied on the best data available at the time, which was sometimes scarce and incomplete. We now have more and significantly better data specific to clean cooking. This includes a much more detailed understanding of fraction of non-renewable biomass (fNRB) values, baseline energy needs, stove performance data, and more—all of which are key to accurately estimating emissions reductions.

Further, the ecosystem now benefits from improved regulations, including international ISO standards for clean cooking, enhanced Measurement, Reporting and Verification (MRV) approaches (including digitized MRV, and Internet of Things devices), use cases, more savvy participants in the market, greater scale, and better scrutiny of methodologies and input parameters. Additionally, stove quality has been continuously improving over time and pay-as-you-go options expand both implementation and monitoring opportunities. Other ongoing efforts such as the ICVCM process for the voluntary market and CCA's new Responsible Carbon Finance for Clean Cooking Initiative offer additional opportunities to improve the transparency, governance, and conduct of carbon markets in clean cooking. Carbon credits are estimated, based on methodologies which UNFCCC, GS, CCA and the wider clean cooking expert community are working to strengthen. Good practice improves over time, and the balance between rigor and practicability is a fine one and as norms change and evolve. With Paris and emerging market approaches, the ecosystem should leverage lessons learned from learning by doing to make improvements. This is not because our predecessors lacked credibility, it is because they were working with the best available information and in accordance with the norms in place at that time. And just as we are now at in inflection point, and will go through the necessary process to bring the methodologies up-to-date, we will inevitably find ourselves in a similar place in the future. Recognizing this is what will ultimately allow the carbon market to move beyond the cycle of starts and stops that has sometimes characterized its progress.

UNFCCC undertook a review resulting in changes to the default values used in CDM methodologies for clean cooking, requiring more conservative conversion factors, baselines, fNRB values and stove stacking assumptions. CCA and UNFCCC are currently supporting additional research on methodology updates as they relate to baselines and fNRB values. GS has updated its cookstove methodologies and introduced conservative default factors, improved monitoring requirements with safeguards and caps including maximum permissible levels for key inputs like baseline fuel and usage rate. In addition, GS has introduced a new methodology for advanced cooking solutions like electric, electric pressure cookers, biogas, LPG, and bioethanol stoves that rely on real-time direct measurement of energy and fuel consumption for robust and credible GHG quantification. CCA convened the Clean Cooking and Climate Consortium (of which UNFCCC and GS are part) to provide technical support to help country governments set and meet climate goals through clean cooking, and to help donor governments ensure that the credits they purchase represent real-world emissions reductions, along with other important co-benefits.

CCA, along with UNFCCC and GS, is continually reviewing the latest evidence, and seeking to improve methodologies in line with the latest science. CCA convened the first MRV meeting at its Clean Cooking Forum in October 2022. CCA will build upon these efforts in a subsequent MRV meeting at the Africa Energy Forum in Nairobi in June 2023 that will discuss potential methodological improvements as part of this ongoing process.

Clean cooking represents an archetype for how carbon markets can truly deliver on climate justice and the transition to net zero. If we don't get this right, the clean cooking ecosystem will miss a critical opportunity to tackle one of the greatest development challenges of our time.

CCA is thrilled to collaborate with UNFCCC and Gold Standard to ensure that methodologies for clean cooking carbon projects are robust, sound, and grounded in the latest evidence. This is an exciting time for the clean cooking ecosystem and the carbon market more broadly, as improvements in data and innovation drive better credits. CCA will continue to work to ensure that clean cooking, a critical climate solution, receives strong support and that the carbon market works for the many, not the few.
Dymphna van der Lans, CEO, Clean Cooking Alliance

Approximately 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions from forest degradation come from people harvesting forests for fuel. And exposure to smoke from cooking fires causes and estimated 3.2 million deaths every year. Directing finance to projects that support the growth of clean cooking is good for people, communities, and the planet, meaning that people around the world will live longer, healthier lives while reducing emissions.
Margaret Kim, CEO, Gold Standard

The Clean Development Mechanism has already done a lot to boost the spread of clean cook stoves, not least in Africa. As the Paris Agreement is implemented and new rules for carbon markets under Article 6 of the agreement emerge, there is much to build on in terms of experience and know-how. The UN Climate Change secretariat stands by to assist with technical expertise and we look forward to new incentives and projects emerging which have the potential to shift the needle on climate change.
Massamba THIOYE, Manager Regulatory Framework Implementation. Mitigation Division, UNFCCC

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