[Earth & Industry's Maria Surma Manka is reporting from New York City where she is covering the annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative.]
Underscoring President Clinton's point that CGI is about action and not just rhetoric, new commitments by member nations, companies and NGOs are announced before nearly every session or discussion. This year, about 300 new member commitments are expected ($2.5 billion alone was announced yesterday) - more than ever before.
So far, in the five years that CGI has been in existence, members have made 1,946 commitments, valued at $63 billion dollars, that have touched nearly 300 million lives.
Some commitments address problems we've heard a lot about: Haiti, Pakistan, the Gulf Coast. Others are not so high-profile but vitally important. I'll highlight them throughout this series (as well as status reports of previous commitments), but here's a big one that was announced yesterday by Secretary Clinton:
Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves: The name doesn't roll off the tongue and I've seen some cynical Twitter chatter about whether this effort is really going to help "save the world" - but I beg to differ. "Smaller" projects like this - in addition to the sexier work like solar power in Haiti - are exactly what CGI aims to organize. Nearly 3 billion people - mostly women and often refugees - cook over traditional cookstoves. This means they have to forage for fuel (in conflict areas, this means exposing themselves to potential violence) and spend hours inhaling the toxic smoke from the fires. The toxins cause about 1.9 million premature deaths each year thanks to pneumonia, emphysema, lung cancer, and bronchitis. In fact, air pollution is the fourth biggest health risk in developing world, according to the Alliance.
In short, the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves will create a more robust market for clean and efficient household cookstoves that meet the needs of the local consumer and her cooking patterns. Partners in the private sector - the Shell Foundation, Morgan Stanley, and others - are working on developing industry standards for the simplest, most affordable and cleanest-burning stoves possible. They will work with NGOs (United Nations Foundation, World Health Organization, and others) and governments (Peru, Norway, and others) to get these stoves into the hands of those who need it and use financing mechanisms to help give the poor access to the stoves. By 2020, the Alliance hopes to have a product adopted by 100 million homes.
And yes, there's a climate change angle to this too: A little cookstove may not seem like much of a climate threat - especially when we tend to picture coal-fired power plants when we think of climate pollution - but multiplied by 3 billion users, there's a target here. According to the Alliance, the high-performing stoves can cut emissions 95%, while even the lower-grade ones can cut emissions 40-50%. That's a significant reduction in emissions, a significant increase in the health and safety of the poor, and a significant commitment by CGI members.
Photo: Eva Parey/ABACAPRESS.COM Photo via Newscom/PicAPP