What are cookstove carbon credit projects?
What are cookstoves?
Improved cookstoves are designed to be more efficient and cleaner burning than traditional cookstoves, which are commonly used in many parts of the world, especially in developing countries.
Traditional cookstoves typically burn solid fuels such as wood, coal or agricultural waste, which can produce large amounts of smoke and other harmful pollutants. In addition to their negative health effects, these stoves also contribute to deforestation and climate change.
Improved cookstoves, on the other hand, are designed to use less fuel and burn more efficiently, reducing emissions of harmful pollutants and greenhouse gases. They can also be designed to be safer to use and more durable than traditional stoves.
Why are they popular?
Improved cookstoves are a popular project type in the voluntary carbon markets. They are classified as technology-based avoidance/reduction solutions.
- From a user’s perspective: improved cookstoves offer a range of community benefits such as reduced fuel costs, better energy access, time saved in cooking and collecting wood, and empowering women who are often responsible for collecting fuel for cooking in traditional stoves. Employment opportunities can also come via the production and distribution of the improved cookstoves.
- From a buyer’s perspective: these projects deliver additional benefits beyond carbon avoidance, such as health benefits, reduced deforestation and social and economic benefits for households. These co-benefits make improved cookstove projects an attractive option to investors and buyers.
- From a developer’s perspective: improved cookstoves are relatively small-scale, which makes them easier to implement compared to large-scale projects. This means that they can be implemented in remote or rural areas, where access to energy is limited and traditional cooking methods are still prevalent.
Overall, improved cookstoves projects offer a compelling combination of simplicity, co-benefits and additionality of activities, which makes them a popular option in the voluntary carbon market.
What are the common shortcomings?
While these projects have the potential to provide a positive impact on the environment, they also face several common shortcomings that may result in an overestimation of the effectiveness of the project and therefore over-issuance of carbon credits.
- Low uptake rate and lack of user acceptance: some cookstove projects fail to consider the cooking practices, cultural preferences and needs of the users. As a result, the stoves may not be used as intended; for example, ‘stove stacking’ can occur when the improved cookstove is used in addition to the traditional cooking method, or in some cases, the new cookstove is abandoned altogether.
- Limited durability and reliability: some cookstove projects use low-quality materials and lack proper maintenance, repair or replacement of the stoves, resulting in a shorter lifespan and reduced efficiency over time.
- Challenges in monitoring and evaluation: project developers may not have adequate monitoring and evaluation processes in place to measure the impact of the stoves on reduced deforestation, usage rates, health and other factors.
Sylvera’s Cookstoves Framework
While cookstove projects face valid criticism regarding their effectiveness, Sylvera is developing a proprietary framework so that we can accurately assess the quality and risks of these projects. We have been testing and iterating the framework so that our ratings will reliably show which projects are of high integrity and good quality.
We have been dedicating significant time and resources to the development of the Improved Cookstoves rating framework (since November 2022) with the goal of creating a comprehensive framework that addresses key aspects of cookstove projects.
We are using a variety of sources to generate our ratings. We utilize OECD economic indicators and policy and regulatory datasets to account for the level of financial additionality and common practice. We analyze technical information about the cookstove model, WHO cooking fuel data and GIS data to estimate the risk of over-crediting.
We also run a climatic risk model to assess the level of permanence of the biomass carbon stock that is being saved as a result of the project activity. This ensemble of methods allows us to rate the project’s performance from many different angles.
To ensure that our framework is rigorous and well-informed, we recently presented it to a Framework Review Committee (January 2023). The committee included academics, industry experts, project developers and customers who provided valuable feedback and insights into our work. The framework will be released in the upcoming weeks.
Some early insights from the framework development process:
We will publish a white paper on our Cookstoves framework in the upcoming weeks, and the first batch of project ratings will be released to our platform in early Q2 2023. Given the complexity of generating a carbon score, the ratings in the framework will be provisional, with an indication of positive, neutral and negative scores based on the other pillars.
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