Household energy solutions

Improving fuel efficiency and indoor air pollution for the world's poorest

Around 2.5 billion people around the world still cook, heat, and light their homes using open fires or inefficient stoves using kerosene, biomass (wood, animal dung and crop waste), and coal that creates health-harmful air pollution.   
At the local level these practices damage human health and surrounding ecosystems. On a global scale, these practices constitute a significant source of air pollution and climate-warming black carbon particles able to absorb heat locally, alter weather patterns, and accelerate the melting of snow and ice.  
One of the main pollutant by-products of this inefficient combustion is black carbon, which is a key component of PM2.5 – particles so small they can transport toxins into human lungs and the bloodstream. Household energy use in this form causes significant damage to human health, especially for women and girls who are most commonly exposed to such household tasks. 
Black carbon also disrupts rainfall patterns, accelerates the melting of snow and ice, and damages plant and crop growth. The collection of such inefficient fuels also contributes to deforestation and land clearing, often in informal, unsustainable manners. 
Poverty however limits most people using household energy in this manner from changing their energy use sources – either because of an inability to invest in cleaner-burning technology or because of a lack of supporting infrastructure.  

Main Emissions Sources

Globally, household energy is also responsible for roughly half of black carbon emissions and is a source of methane – the latter as a byproduct of charcoal production. Inefficient combustion in household energy production also releases carbon monoxide – which can increase the lifetime of methane in the atmosphere.   

Kerosene lamps are one common, but highly polluting example of inefficient fuel used to light homes. The collection of biomass fuel (wood and other materials) and charcoal production for heating and cooking also contributes to increased CO2 in the atmosphere through forest degradation, biodiversity loss, and land use change. 

There is however a positive trend toward cleaner cooking globally. Approximately two thirds of the global population were primarily using clean fuels and technologies for cooking in 2021, up from one half of the global population in in 2000.  

Cooking and Heating

Fuel used for cooking and heating, such as wood, charcoal, and combustible waste, is a major source of indoor air pollution and black carbon emissions. 

Kerosene Lamps
kerosene lamp, ccac, household energy, Photo: Victor Serban Unsplash

Kerosene lamps used for lighting emit toxic fumes and contribute to black carbon emissions and indoor air pollution. 

Land Clearing
Land clearing, household energy, black carbon, Photo by Charlotte Harrison on Unsplash

Land clearing to collect household fuels exacerbates the climate impact of the SLCPs emitted by reducing carbon sequestration and weakening ecosystems.


Around six million tons of black carbon are emitted each year, with household energy comprising roughly half of those emissions. All of these emissions could be reduced with adequate investment in infrastructure and human development. Solutions for household energy SLCP emissions are available using existing technology, but require systemic investment. It is estimated that a mere $8 billion per year would be needed to convert all household energy usage to cleaner burning fuels by 2030.  

What Can Be Done

Clean cooking, lighting, and heating technology is readily available today to those who can afford it. Not only are solutions available through substituted fuel sources, but interventions in house construction and design can also reduce the need for fuel for heating and lighting.  
Complete solutions to polluting household energy however fundamentally rely on investment in raising living standards for the world's poor through sustainable development.  

Recommended solutions include:

  • Replacing traditional cooking to clean burning modern fuel and cookstove technology, such as solar, biogas, electricity  

  • Eliminating kerosene lamps 

  • Replacing lump coal with coal briquettes for cooking and heating 

  • Replacing wood stove and burners with pellet stoves and boilers 


While initial investment is required, improving household energy efficiency will provide net savings. More efficient technology runs cheaper over the long term and frees up time spent collecting fuel to burn.  These benefits rapidly increase when considering the environmental, agricultural, and health benefits of cleaner air, less heat stress, and more productive crops.  
Reducing black carbon from household usage in areas of snow and ice cover is particularly important for reducing the impacts of black carbon in accelerating snow and ice melt. In the Himalayas, snow and ice melt is being accelerated by the high rate of black carbon produced in neighbouring countries, while in the Arctic, shipping and air currents deposit black carbon directly on frozen surfaces.  

In the area of health alone, more than 3.2 million premature deaths each year are attributed to household air pollution, of which 600,000 are due to acute lower respiratory infections among children under five years of age.  
Women and girls will in particular benefit from reducing household energy black carbon, as they are disproportionately exposed to the dangers involved in fuel collection and inhaling fumes from combustion. 

Reducing black carbon emissions also has the potential to improve agricultural productivity due to black carbon’s detrimental impact on plant and ecosystem health. 
All of these benefits mean that reducing SLCPs from household energy use contributes to achieving several sustainable development goals, such as goals 3 (good health and wellbeing), 5 (gender equality) and 8 (decent work and economic growth), among others.

What we do

The CCAC works on household energy emissions primarily through support for national planning and development processes. Ensuring that these emissions are considered in national planning processes such as nationally determined contributions (NDCs) enhance the potential that they will be addressed comprehensively.

CCAC support includes identifying financing mechanisms to implement planning, improving communication of the benefits of reducing black carbon emissions at all levels, and by advocating for greater financing at key international events.

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