Switching from Wood to Gas for Cooking is not a Climate Problem

Switching from Wood to Gas for Cooking is not a Climate Problem

Author(s): Devyani Singh &
Hisham Zerriffi, Shonali Pachauri
Published in: Environmental Research Letters (October, 2017)
URL: doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/aa909d

Environmental Payoffs of LPG Cooking in India

About 3 billion people around the world cook with polluting and inefficient solid fuels like fuelwood, resulting in 4 million premature deaths annually. Several governments, including India’s, have implemented policies that encourage people to switch to cooking with modern fuels like liquefied petroleum gas (LPG). While such policies certainly save lives, the implications for the climate are less well understood. In India almost 37 million households have switched to cooking with LPG between 2001 and 2011. The climate impacts of this are positive if two key factors are accounted for: these are emissions of short-lived, potent greenhouse gases like black carbon, and the fact that not all fuelwood is renewably sourced.

The study estimated about 7.2 million tons of fuelwood were displaced due to better LPG access in India between 2001 and 2011, considering both households that made a complete switch to LPG and those that continued to use some fuelwood as a supplement. In 2011, about 0.22 million tons of LPG were consumed by households that gained access to it between 2001 and 2011. The estimated net emissions impact of these changes in fuel consumption were found to vary significantly depending on assumptions of fuelwood renewability and the set of emissions considered. The study estimated that net emissions were reduced by as much as 6.73 metric tons of CO2 equivalent (MtCO2e) if both longer- and shorter-lived emissions (such as black carbon, organic carbon, and sulphur dioxide) were considered and it was assumed, conservatively, that 30% of fuelwood was non-renewably sourced. If only emissions included under the Kyoto Protocol were counted, the net reduction was estimated to be 3.1 MtCO2e when 30% of fuelwood was assumed non-renewable, and near zero if all of it was assumed to be renewable.

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