Nearly one third of the world still relies on rudimentary cooking means with grave consequences

Today, 2.3 billion people worldwide - nearly one third of the global population - still cook their meals over open fires or on basic stoves, breathing in harmful smoke released from burning coal, charcoal, firewood, agricultural wastes, and animal dung. These practices can still be found in 128 countries today - where households do not have the tools or means to reliably cook meals using clean burning fuels. Even the simplest, widely available cooking devices could improve this situation, including devices like camp stoves using liquefied petroleum gases (LPG) and electric hotplates.

A lack of clean cooking contributes to 3.7 million premature deaths annually, with women and children most at risk. Poor indoor air quality is a leading cause of premature death worldwide. In Africa alone, women and children account for 60% of early deaths related to smoke inhalation and indoor air pollution. This is primarily the result of basic cooking practices that lead to respiratory complications and cardiovascular diseases. 

Women disproportionately endure the negative consequences of rudimentary cooking, while afforded limited ways to change to cleaner solutions. In addition to health risks, a lack of clean cooking prevents many women and girls from accessing education, earning a wage or starting a business that would deliver financial autonomy. In many parts of the world, they typically have little say over household spending, with other purchases prioritised over clean cooking devices. Under-representation of women within executive institutions means that clean cooking also remains low on the political agenda. 

Lost time and productivity results in a huge economic cost due to hours spent collecting firewood and other fuel sources. Households without clean cooking spend an average of five hours per day collecting fuel and cooking. Daily trips to gather firewood expose women to the risk of violence and assault as they leave their communities to search further afield. 

Basic cooking methods using wood and charcoal often contribute to deforestation. The demand for firewood and charcoal results in the loss of forests the size of Ireland each year, with the worst effects concentrated in places like east and southern Africa where large populations increasingly rely on dwindling forests. This has also led to food stress in some regions where fruiting trees are cut for firewood.  

Progress has been swift in Asia but remains slow in sub-Saharan Africa

Thanks to progress in Asia and Latin America, the number of people without access to clean cooking has been declining, but in sub-Saharan Africa, that number has never stopped growing. The number of people globally without clean cooking fell from 3 billion in 2010 to 2.3 billion in 2022. China, India and Indonesia all halved their populations without clean cooking access. These efforts relied largely on providing free stoves and subsidised canisters of of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG). During the same period, the number of people without clean cooking access continued to grow in sub-Saharan Africa, where clean cooking campaigns did not to keep pace with population growth. Today, 1 billion people on the continent-roughly four in every five - rely on highly polluting cooking fuels used in open fires or basic stoves.

Asia is set to continue providing greater clean cooking access, while most African countries are not expected to reach full clean cooking access even in the 2050s. Under today’s policies, the number of people without access to clean cooking is set to decline from 2.3 billion today to 1.8 billion in 2030. Progress continues at a strong pace in Asia, but Africa would end the decade with the same number of people without clean cooking access as today.

Population without access to clean cooking in sub-Saharan Africa and developing Asia in the Stated Policies Scenario, 2010-2030


Reaching universal access to clean cooking is not a question of technology, and the policy solutions are known, but implementation capacity and funding is lacking. Today, less than a third of people without access to clean cooking live in countries with adequate policies and funding needed to reach universal access by 2030. The gap is widest in Africa where clean cooking plans in Africa often lack resources. At present, less than a third of clean cooking plans in Africa are funded, while a confluence of the Covid-19 pandemic and high fuel prices, driven by the global energy crisis, led to a scale back of incentives and financial support to households. 

Universal access to clean cooking by 2030 can only be achieved by replicating historic bests

Reaching universal access to clean cooking requires delivering best practices to countries that have made little progress to date, with a special focus on rural areas. Nearly 300 million people need to gain access to cleaner cooking means each year to ensure universal access by 2030, with sub-Saharan Africa accounting for half of the total. Delivering on this annual target would require matching the record years set in China, India and Indonesia combined over the last decade. It also requires stronger efforts in rural areas, where three quarters of those without access live today.

Number of people gaining access to clean cooking by region, best historic rates and in the Access for All scenario, 2000-2030


The IEA’s analysis identifies a least-cost, realistic scenario to reach universal clean cooking, requiring solutions which are all commercially available today. LPG remains the primary solution to deliver clean cooking access, representing nearly half of the households gaining access to 2030. In the last decade, 70% of those who gained access did so through LPG. Electric cooking becomes the main option for one in eight homes gaining access by 2030, while many more homes adopt appliances like rice makers as part of their cooking routines. Electric cooking benefits from reduced imports but faces challenges due to low electricity access rates and unreliable grids in some regions to scale. In rural areas, where fuel and electricity infrastructure are lacking, improved cookstoves (ICS) serve as an interim solution to deliver health benefits and time savings in the near term. If minimum performance standards are enforced, ICS reduce fuel needs by 20-70% and drastically cut dangerous smoke and fumes. Continued efforts to provide modern cooking solutions help replace ICS as the primary cooking means for homes by 2040.

Share of population gaining access by technology in the Access for All scenario, 2022-2030

Clean Cooking Static Chart Web
Share of population gaining access by technology in the Access for All scenario, 2022-2030
Clean Cooking Static Chart Web

Universal access by 2030 comes at a small cost and brings huge benefits

Investment in clean cooking stoves, equipment and infrastructure over this decade would need to reach about USD 8 billion annually. This is less than 1% of what governments spent in 2022 globally on measures to keep energy affordable for their citizens amidst the global energy crisis. It is also less than 1% of what governments spent last year to keep energy prices affordable for their citizens. Investment would need to grow from levels around USD 2.5 billion today, with most of the growth in sub-Saharan Africa, which would make up to USD 4 billion of the total investment need this decade.

According to the IEA’s analysis, increased demand for modern cooking fuels can be met readily by today’s energy system, however it will require some additional infrastructure, especially in Africa. Achieving clean access for all by 2030 adds less than 3% to modern energy demand today, while the use of fuel wood and charcoal falls by 70% in emerging and developing economies. Existing infrastructure handles the scale up in most regions, but sub-Saharan Africa requires new supporting infrastructure. In sub-Saharan Africa, LPG demand grows by three-fold, requiring an expansion of distribution services, canisters, and fuelling depots. Electric cooking would increase demand by 10% by 2030, which could place strains on electricity networks at the distribution level if not paired with effective electricity planning. 

The gender equality, health and time-savings benefits of universal clean cooking are immense. Our analysis shows that there are 2.5 million less premature deaths caused by the fall in air pollution toward 2030, and the average household saves on nearly 1.5 hours a day from the switch, which can instead be spent pursuing education or work. The time-savings from universal access to clean cooking are roughly equal to the working hours put in by the entire Japanese labour force in 2022.

Time saved in fuel gathering and fuel or fire preparation globally in the Access for All scenario, 2022-2030


Reduction in premature deaths due to indoor air quality globally in the Access for All scenario, 2022-2030


The shift toward clean cooking creates jobs, but also reduces the need for charcoal, a major part of Africa’s informal economy today. The push to reach universal access to clean cooking could employ nearly 1.5 million people in stove production and sales, fuel delivery, and supporting clean cooking campaigns. Making this transition, however, impacts the millions of people working in the charcoal and firewood trade today. These jobs, while still needed in 2030, could decline substantially, emphasising the need for a just, people-centred transition, including efforts to formalise these industries and upskill workers. 

Reaching universal access to clean cooking is a net-gain for the environment too. The switch to clean cooking solutions, such as LPG, drives up emissions by 0.1 Gt in 2030. However, the reduction of fuelwood and charcoal consumed also reduces methane and other greenhouse gas emissions emitted by incomplete combustion in basic stoves by 0.9 Gt of CO2-eq. Deforestation is also reduced, saving 0.7 Gt in 2030. Overall, following the IEA vision for clean cooking for all results in a net reduction of 1.5 gigatons of CO2 equivalent by 2030, similar to the amount of CO2 emitted by planes and ships last year.

Net greenhouse gas emissions annual savings from clean cooking access in the Access for All scenario by 2030


Realising universal access requires national leadership, with strong involvement from women, and increased international and climate finance

Less than 10% of people without access to clean cooking live in countries with adequate policies and funding needed for a successful clean cooking programme. Reaching universal access to clean cooking will depend on strong national leadership and programmes that are reinforced by international financial support. Key enablers include regulatory authority for implementing agencies, public engagement campaigns, and financial support for consumers to manage upfront stove costs and ongoing fuel costs.

Switching to clean cooking depends on rapid, widespread changes in social norms, where grassroots efforts have proven essential. Successful clean cooking campaigns have been accompanied by user engagement and education programmes. These initiatives engage users on matters such as stove use and maintenance, recipes adjusted for their new stoves, and education on the benefits of clean cooking. Peer-to-peer advocacy, especially women-led, can be the difference between lasting adoption and stoves falling into disuse.

Affordability remains a major challenge, with financial support needed for most households to cover upfront stove costs and, in some cases, ongoing fuel costs. Over half of households lacking clean cooking are unable to afford it on an ongoing basis. The upfront cost of a stove for a low-income household can range from one-third of monthly income to three-quarters, depending on the technology. Yet, if annualised, switching to a modern cookstove eventually pays for itself, and more, due to higher efficiencies and reduced expenditure for charcoal and firewood. Still, for a handful of households, ongoing price support will likely be needed. Governments must balance affordability support with risks of ballooning imports and intractable subsidies. Better targeting of incentives and cross-subsidisation between customers can help

Annual investments required in the Access for All case by financial institution, 2017-2019


Annual investments required in the Access for All scenario, by region, 2030


Around half of the USD 8 billion needed each year in clean cooking investments would need to be concessional finance. International financial flows have and will play a key role in advancing clean cooking, especially in regions without the fiscal space to drive the required investment through public funds. Early efforts funded through development efforts has cultivated a maturing private sector, able to attract more private finance and to take on corporate equity and debt. Still, highly concessional financing will still be needed to support projects in the poorest regions. Around three quarters of concessional finance would need to flow to sub-Saharan Africa.