“Global extreme poverty is expected to rise in 2020 for the first time in over 20 years as the disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic compounds the forces of conflict and climate change, which were already slowing poverty reduction progress.” This was the stark message from the World Bank in October 2020. A month earlier, the Bank had concluded that on one important Sustainable Development Goals – number 7 on clean energy - progress was particularly poor. Almost 4 billion people, half of the world’s population, lacked access to modern cooking facilities (see the World Bank report “Modern Energy Cooking Services (MECS) Systematic Review). Of these nearly one billion are in Africa.
As a result of this energy poverty, people burn wood, charcoal and kerosene – with significant human health impacts from particulate air pollution often many times higher than levels accepted in developed countries, while at the same time causing significant deforestation, desertification and high greenhouse gas emissions. In the developed world we rely on electricity and piped gas – both unrealistic options in the medium-term in energy impoverished regions, particularly in Africa. Grid expansions will take decades to have a significant impact, and off-grid solutions require panels and batteries of sizes unrealistic for lower income households.
Bottled liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), burning with a cleaner flame and easily transportable in small-scale, is the only realistic option in the short to medium term to address this, one of the largest global development challenges. Currently, LPG is however not delivered cheaply and reliably to many markets.
To bring about change and rapidly grow the provision of cheap LPG for cleaner cooking, three things need to happen:
- Private companies along the LPG supply chain and their banks need to invest in infrastructure, bottles, transport and distribution of LPG. An exciting development in recent years is the growing number companies that use smart metres on bottles and other ways to make each payment smaller, reaching customers with ever lower incomes.
- Development finance institutions need to contribute by providing concessionary finance solutions.
- Governments need to provide an enabling environment, ensuring that there aren’t subsidies for fuels like kerosene and that there are predictable and well governed investment environments.
And for all of this to happen better and faster, we must all work together, learn, share information, and find new forms of public-private partnerships.
To this end, Trafigura co-hosted the launch of LPG4SDG7 for Cleaner Cooking Coalition earlier this week. See more about its mission and who the other supporters are at the new website here.
“LPG4SDG7 is a critical new platform for mobilizing private sector investments for the rapid scale up of access to clean cooking services in developing countries. Millions of lives could be saved with such creative public-private partnerships,” said the Honourable Kandeh Yumkella, former United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Sustainable Energy for All, on the eve of the launch.
We will also be working together on sharing information about how LPG reasonably quickly can contribute towards lifting large numbers of the world’s energy poor population out of this poverty. There will be a need to communicate to stakeholders that the use of LPG can address an urgent humanitarian need and that it emits significantly less greenhouse gas emissions and soot compared to the alternatives. For some time to come, LPG will be required as a transition fuel. I hope we will develop ways to hold ourselves to account, for example by measuring how many households every year can stop using wood, charcoal or kerosene for cooking.
There is no tension between making a significant contribution to the meeting of the SDGs and commercial objectives. We at Trafigura, hosting governments, development partners, customers and competitors, can do a great deal better in serving energy poor households.
Read Trafigura's press release here.
Read more about the coalition on its website: www.lpg4sdg7.org