Cookstoves that kill ISO guidelines help save lives

Issue 43 – October 2012

This article by Sally Seitz first appeared in ISO Focus+ September 2012 and is summarised here with permission.

Globally, traditional cookstoves and open fires cause over two million deaths a year, and fuel use and emissions contribute to environmental degradation and climate change. Published in June 2012, the International Organization for Standardization's (ISO's) International Workshop Agreement (IWA) ISO IWA 10:2012 Guidelines for evaluating cookstove performance, is a major step towards defining criteria for safer, more efficient, and cleaner cookstoves.

Exposure to smoke from traditional cookstoves and open fires are a major cause of death in developing countries, with women and young children among the worst affected. To reduce this risk and facilitate the large-scale adoption of clean cooking solutions, stakeholders have recognised the need for an international Standard to define criteria for cookstove performance.

While national Standards for cookstoves have been developed and implemented in some countries, no international Standard for defining cookstove performance has been agreed to by the international community. Such a Standard would significantly enhance efforts to see clean cookstoves adopted around the world.

In the ISO arena

At an international workshop held in February 2012 at The Hague, the Netherlands, more than 80 stakeholders from 22 countries unanimously approved IWA 10, which is a major step towards defining criteria for clean, efficient, and safe cookstoves.

Organized by the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves (the Alliance) and the Partnership for Clean Indoor Air, with the American National Standards Institute serving as the secretariat, the IWA was a platform for experts in the public, private, and non-profit sectors to agree on a framework for rating cookstoves by performance.

For the first time, the workshop also brought together experts from the cookstove community with national Standards bodies to begin moving the Standards development work for cookstoves into the ISO system.

The IWA represents a critical first step to develop a common understanding of how to define and verify clean stoves and fuels among all affected countries and stakeholders, and to encourage innovation to find even better cooking solutions.

Since its launch in 2010, the Alliance's mission has been to save lives, improve livelihoods, empower women and combat climate change by creating a thriving global market for clean cookstoves and fuels.

Radha Muthiah, Alliance Executive Director, commented: 'The ISO IWA represents a significant step forward in global efforts to scale up clean cookstoves and fuels as it provides guidance for rating cookstoves on four performance indicators : fuel use, total emissions, indoor emissions, and safety.'

Standards can give stove makers affirmation of product quality, let users know they are making a worthwhile investment, and drive industry innovation. 'One of the goals of the Alliance is to mobilise worldwide support for robust Standards and protocols. We are therefore committed to disseminating the results of the IWA as well as strengthening existing protocols and building the capacity of national and regional testing centres around the world.'

The author, Sally Seitz, served as Secretary for the international workshop held in February 2012 at The Hague, the Netherlands. She is Senior Manager of Standards Facilitation at the American National Standards Institute.

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Published in energy.