Comprehensive study by CITRIS PIs find overestimation of cookstove carbon credits

Stacked gray and brown cookstoves of a variety of sizes at a store in Kenya.

UC Berkeley doctoral candidate Annelise Gill-Wiehl and CITRIS investigators Daniel Kammen, the James and Katherine Lau Distinguished Professor of Sustainability at UC Berkeley, and Barbara Haya, director of the Berkeley Carbon Trading Project at UC Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy, have collaborated on the first comprehensive quantitative study of the growing market of carbon offsets for more efficient cookstoves in developing countries. They found that cookstoves are overcredited by a factor of 10, requiring a thorough reworking of the methodology used to measure their emissions. 

Clean cooking factors in as a major strategy for cutting national carbon emissions, leading the subsidized distribution of cookstoves to become the fastest growing project type on the voluntary carbon market. In their pioneering assessment, the researchers found that stove use and the impact of fuel collection on forest biomass are frequently misrepresented. Additionally, many improved cookstoves do not meet the World Health Organization’s standards to effectively reduce kerosene and solid fuel use as promised.

The assessment included guidelines to align projects with reduction goals and fulfill their intended potential, including recommendations for buyers to prioritize projects with quality cookstoves that will improve health outcomes and reduce emissions. The study’s extensive procedure further provides a means to assess credit quality across all project types on the offset market and prevent overcrediting.

“Cookstove offset methodologies are currently being revised and, if our recommendations are adopted, could become a rare project type that offset buyers can trust,” says Haya.

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