Senator Collins Introduces Clean Cookstoves Bill to Improve Global Environment, Public Health

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    WASHINGTON, D.C. -  Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), along with Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), introduced the bipartisan Clean Cookstoves and Fuels Support Act this week, a bill that would address the health, environmental, and economic problems caused by exposure to smoke from traditional cookstoves and open fires.  Senator Collins spoke from the Senate floor yesterday afternoon in support of the bill.

      The bipartisan Clean Cookstoves and Fuels Support Act reaffirms the U.S. Government’s commitment to spurring the adoption of clean cookstoves around the world. This legislation would require the Secretary of State to work to advance the goals of the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, an innovative public-private partnership hosted by the United Nations Foundation that was created to help create a thriving global market for clean and efficient household cooking solutions. The Alliance has the goal of enabling the adoption of clean and efficient cookstoves in 100 million homes by 2020.

      “This bill aims to benefit directly some of the world’s poorest people and to reduce harmful pollution that affects us all,” said Senator Susan Collins. “It offers a way for us to address a significant public health threat and the second-largest contributor to climate change in a way that is inexpensive, not burdensome to the people of this country, and that will benefit poor people living in developing nations.”

      This legislation has received strong bipartisan support from organizations throughout Maine and across our country, including from the League of Conservation Voters and the Maine Conservation Voters.

      “Here in Maine we are already feeling the effects of a changing climate on our health and our economy,” said Dr. Marguerite Pennoyer, a Scarborough physician and a member of the American Lung Association in Maine’s Leadership Board. “Warmer temperatures mean more ozone pollution and increased pollen levels, both of which are particularly dangerous for children, seniors, and people with chronic lung conditions. Maine has one of the highest asthma rates in the nation and when our air is unhealthy kids miss school, workers are out sick, and expensive emergency room visits increase. Reducing carbon pollution may be the single best thing we can do – the lowest hanging fruit – in our nation’s efforts to stem the tide of climate change and make our air healthier to breathe.  The American Lung Association in Maine applauds Senator Collins for her leadership in reducing the harmful pollution caused by dirty cook stoves.”

      “Breathing is essential to life, yet nearly half the world’s population suffers from dangerous household air pollution from cooking on open fires or dirty, unsafe cookstoves,” said Harold P. Wimmer, National President & CEO of the American Lung Association. “Replacing old, polluting stoves with modern versions that emit far less soot will directly benefit the world’s poorest people, especially women and girls, and reduce the risk of devastating diseases like lung cancer. Doing so will also help reduce carbon pollution that’s driving climate change. We appreciate the bipartisan leadership of Senators Collins and Durbin in proposing this legislation.” 

      “Exposure to smoke from household cooking fires in the developing world kills more than 4 million people around the world every year, exceeding deaths from malaria, HIV/AIDS, and TB,” said Radha Muthiah, Chief Executive Officer, Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves. “We thank Senator Collins and Senator Durbin for their efforts to raise awareness and resources to address this global health issue, and to promote the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstove’s market based approach to foster the design, development, and adoption of clean cooking solutions.”

      Nearly half the world's population cooks over open fires or inefficient, polluting and unsafe cookstoves using agricultural waste, coal, dung, wood, or other solid fuels. Smoke from these traditional stoves and open fires is associated with chronic and acute diseases and affects women and children disproportionately. The black carbon from these traditional cookstoves also creates serious environmental problems.

      The World Health Organization found that in 2012 this type of air pollution claimed 4.3 million lives. Millions more are sickened from the toxic smoke, and thousands suffer burns annually from open fires or unsafe cookstoves and fuels. In addition, the Global Burden of Disease Study of 2010 doubled the mortality estimates for exposure to smoke from cookstoves, referred to as household air pollution, from two million to four million deaths annually—more than the deaths from malaria, tuberculosis, and HIV/AIDS combined.  This same study ranks household air pollution as the fourth worst overall health risk factor in the world and as the second worst health risk factor in the world for women and girls.     

      Recent studies show that emissions of black carbon, or common soot, from these cookstoves significantly contribute to regional air pollution and climate change.  Black carbon emissions from residential cookstoves in developing countries are responsible for as much as 25 percent of black carbon emissions. 

      The collection of cooking fuel is also a burden that is shouldered disproportionately by women and children.  In some areas, women and girls risk rape and gender-based violence during the up to 20 hours per week they spend away from their families gathering fuel.  This often means that women and girls have far less time to generate income, pursue an education, or participate in other community activities, and this marginalizes their role in society.  A new report by the McKinsey Global Institute estimates that the world economy could increase by between 12 and 28 trillion dollars over ten years if the participation of women were to equal that of men.