Madam Secretary

Secretary Clinton is promoting cookstoves to save the world. Seriously.

Secretary Clinton is promoting cookstoves to save the world. Seriously.

Secretary Clinton today launched an initiative that could save millions of lives around the world — the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, a public-private partnership to which the U.S. government is committing $51 million over the next five years.

Sounds a bit wacky, but this effort will improve health, empower women and girls, and mitigate climate change. For real. As Clinton explained in a speech today in New York at the Clinton Global Initiative, where she was escorted to the podium by her husband, Bill Clinton:

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 gases 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 [such as firewood] 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.

The solution? Clean, efficient, afforable cookstoves that cost as little as $25. The Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves aims for 100 million households getting clean cookstoves by 2020. The initiative will involve research and development for improved designs and lower costs, an effort to create a market for the stoves (which will include lowering trade barriers and fostering public awareness), and weaving clean stoves into international development programs, including women-owned microfinance networks.

At the end of her speech, Clinton asked us to do the following:

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.

And, check out the video: