Developing and conducting black carbon emissions testing and protocols for heat stoves

The domestic heating component of the Household Energy Initiative seeks to decrease emissions of black carbon from the residential burning of solid fuels (biomass and coal) for space heating: one of the least addressed sources of black carbon and identified by the Arctic Council as the most powerful in terms of per-unit climate forcing.  Solid fuels are perhaps the only short-lived climate pollutant source projected to grow in coming decades, even in the most developed nations, because it is seen as a renewable resource to replace fossil fuels. Yet, these fuels are a climate issue because of the black carbon impacts that have not yet been recognized by climate regulators, consumers or producers. 

A protocol developed and tested by Nordic test and research institutes describes a standardized procedure for measuring black carbon emissions from residential wood burning. Such a standard can be used for voluntary ecolabeling of wood stoves, specifically the Nordic Swan Ecolabel, “climate-friendly” stoves, and by manufacturers interested in testing and developing extremely low-emission, low-black carbon, “climate-friendly” stoves.

This testing protocol could be used by multiple national laboratories interested in establishing a standardized baseline for stove comparison in terms of black carbon emissions.


A 2010 UNEP Assessment estimates that 0.2 Mt BC could be mitigated from wood stoves in industrialized nations through replacement with pellet stoves; and 2.2Mt from solid fuel stoves in developing countries, but did not differentiate between stoves used for cooking, heating or combined cooking and heating. In 3-5 years, a combination of Burn Right and stove replacement measures could mitigate 30-90% of woodburning emissions in locales that adopt these measures or campaigns, based on initial work under the Nordic and Arctic Councils, depending strongly however on level of consumer adoption. 

The larger portion of reductions will take place by addressing coal heating stoves and combined cooking and heating, which as noted have not yet been quantified separately from stoves used exclusively for cooking, but which is pre-requisite to addressing this developing country sector. 

This effort will have multiple benefits for climate change, air quality, human health, economic and social development, fire safety and capacity-building. It will reduce BC emissions, particularly near snow and ice covered regions, as well as emissions of co-emitted pollutants, such as carbon monoxide, organic carbon, methane, and carbon dioxide, and will reduce deforestation and forest degradation from wood fuel use. It will improve both indoor and ambient air quality, with concomitant health benefits, particularly for women and children who spend more time indoors breathing in the smoke from inefficient cooking and heating stoves. It will reduce household costs associated with fuel used for heating. It will also build capacity of governments, the public, and stove manufacturers to understand the climate and health risks of solid fuel used for residential heating, allowing them to make more informed choices and design stoves that are less damaging to climate and public health.


This activity enables governments, consumers and the private sector to deliver substantial SLCP reductions from woodburning for heating : a sector that has yet to be mitigated by any actor specifically for SLCP reductions, yet has been identified by the UNEP Assessment and Arctic Council as the per-unit most powerful source of BC due to its common proximity to cryosphere; and lays necessary groundwork for action to reduce SLCPs from coal, and for combined cooking and heating. 

The global public health effects from domestic use of solid fuels are staggering, with the already-high UNEP Assessment estimates increased by recent research highlighting this source as the main reason for poor ambient air quality in megacities of the developing world - in addition to its known devastating impact on indoor air quality.

What we're doing

The aim of this activity is to develop the building blocks that will enable Ecolabelling and other voluntary black carbon (BC) standards for heatstoves, tying this in with the Climate and Clean Air Coalition-supported process for cookstove climate impacts.

Ecolabelling of heatstoves for particle pollution already exists in the Nordic Council countries, and the Nordic Council has started testing heatstoves for BC emissions and developing BC emission testing protocols to enable the eventual inclusion of BC on heatstove Ecolabels or other standards, in addition to existing or proposed standards for air quality purposes.

Pollutants (SLCPs)