Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Clintons Cook Up Global Change

The Secretary of State and former president announce $50.82 million interagency project to get modern cookstoves into homes around the globe
Joined by her husband, former President Bill Clinton, on Tuesday Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced The Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, an international initiative that has her mirroring First Lady Michelle Obama's efforts to change home cooking practices. But Sec. Clinton's $50.82 million project goes far beyond merely encouraging healthy eating: The huge effort to get modern cookstoves into homes around the world will "save lives, improve livelihoods, empower women, and combat climate change," according to the State Department. That's a lotta action from new stoves. (Above: The Clintons during the announcement of the project)

The new project comes as Bill Clinton is making international headlines about a personal food initiative: Clinton is tap dancing around full-bore vegetarianism, he told media this week. Sec. Clinton made the cookstove announcement during a plenary session entitled Empowering Girls and Women, on the opening day of the Annual Meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative. The project is focused specifically on women and girls: It seeks to end close to 2 million annual premature deaths from smoke inhalation due to cooking on old fashioned cookstoves and open fires, which use dung, wood and coal as fuel.

"This initiative has the potential to save countless lives, and I'm proud CGI members could build this important public-private partnership,” Bill Clinton said on Tuesday.

Even the act of gathering ding, wood and coal poses a big personal security threat for girls and women, according to a State Department announcement about the project:

Reliance on biomass...for cooking fuel and heating also forces women and children to spend many hours each week collecting these items. They face severe personal security risks...particularly in refugee camps, conflict zones, and other areas of instability.

Five different US agencies are joining the State Department as founding partners of Clean Cookstoves, and the initiative has a target of "100 by 20": 100 million homes adopting clean and efficient stoves and fuels by 2020. The US has pledged the $5o.82 million, which will be spread over five years. The State Department's announcement also focused on the green angle:

Inefficient, polluting cookstoves can contribute to climate change through emissions of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, methane, and aerosols such as black carbon.

The partnership
The Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves is being led by the United Nations Foundation, and along with the State Department, founding partners include the EPA, the Department of Energy, Health and Human Services-Centers for Disease Control, the National Institutes of Health, and the US Agency for International Development. The World Food Program, Royal Dutch Shell, the World Health Organization, and other public and private partners have also signed on.

President Obama and Mrs. Obama will close the Clinton Global Initiative tomorrow, during a final plenary. The President will be introducing the First Lady before she speaks.

*Reuters photo