An Integrated Carbon Offset Protocol for Improved Biomass Cookstoves

Researchers: Jennifer Burney (UC San Diego), Veerabhadran Ramanathan (UC San Diego), George Tynan (UC San Diego) 
Location: United States


There is much interest in linking improved cookstoves to carbon markets. This financing mechanism has the potential to make stoves affordable to the world’s poor, a part of biomass-dependent populations who would benefit most from their use. The few carbon offset protocols that exist, however, account only for carbon dioxide reductions in stove- or fuel-switching. They do not capture the full value of the climate benefit of high-quality improved biomass cookstoves, which also dramatically reduce emissions of black carbon. Commonly known as soot, black carbon is a potent climate warming pollutant and the main driver of the respiratory health problems associated with traditional (unimproved) cookstove use.

This study conducts the first set of experiments that will rigorously quantify the emissions from biomass-burning stoves in order to establish an integrated (carbon dioxide plus black carbon) offset protocol for use of improved biomass cookstoves. Black carbon, carbon monoxide, and carbon dioxide emission data, along with cooking time and fuel use data, will be collected from a combination of 160 water boiling and real-world cooking sessions in a before-after experiment utilizing the traditional rural three-stone stoves and improved forced draft stove. Emission inventories will be made available to the public for use in future climate studies.

The collected data will be used to develop the basis for a new carbon credit methodology for clean cookstoves that incorporates region-specific estimates of black carbon contributions to the Global Warming Potential. This protocol has the potential to transform the affordability of one of the simplest, least expensive mitigation tools available to humanity.