NEW YORK, New York, September 21, 2010 (ENS) - "People have cooked over open fires and dirty stoves for all of human history, but the simple fact is they are slowly killing millions of people and polluting the environment," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said today, as she announced the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, a new public-private partnership led by the United Nations Foundation.

Speaking at the annual Clinton Global Initiative at the Sheraton Towers in New York, Secretary Clinton said the new alliance is "a perfect CGI model of a public-private partnership that already includes governments such as the United States, Germany, Norway, and Peru, international development organizations and local NGOs, as well as foundations and private companies such as Morgan Stanley and Shell."

"Today we can finally envision a future in which open fires and dirty stoves are replaced by clean, efficient and affordable stoves and fuels all over the world - stoves that still cost as little as $25," said Clinton. "By upgrading these dirty stoves, millions of lives could be saved and improved. Clean stoves could be as transformative as bed nets or vaccines."

The partners aim to have 100 million households adopt clean cookstoves by 2020 with the long-term goal of universal adoption all over the world.

Clinton said the initial U.S. financial commitment to the Alliance is $50.82 million over the next five years. "Our partners have already contributed an additional $10 million, and we're working to raise more every day with the goal of reaching at least $250 million over 10 years," Clinton said.

"As we meet here in New York, women are cooking dinner for their families in homes and villages around the world," said Clinton. "As many as three billion people are gathering around open fires or old and inefficient stoves in small kitchens and poorly ventilated houses. Many of the women have labored over these hearths for hours, often with their infant babies strapped to their backs, and they have spent many more hours gathering the fuel."

"The food they prepare is different on every continent, but the air they breathe is shockingly similar: a toxic mix of chemicals released by burning wood or other solid fuel that can reach 200 times the amount that our EPA considers safe for breathing," Clinton said. "As the women cook, smoke fills their lungs and the toxins begin poisoning them and their children."

The World Health Organization considers smoke from dirty stoves to be one of the five most serious health risks in poor, developing countries. Nearly two million people die from its effects each year, more than twice the number from malaria.

Daily exposure to the smoke leads to pneumonia, the number one killer of children worldwide, chronic respiratory diseases and lung cancer, Clinton said. Each year the effects of indoor smoke from wood and other basic fuels kill as many people as HIV/AIDS and more people than tuberculosis.

"And because the smoke contains greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane, as well as black carbon, it contributes to climate change," Secretary Clinton said.

Former President Bill Clinton said, "If you've ever been in a home where cooking was being done with an unsafe cookstove and you've choked up yourself, I don't have to tell you what a big deal this is."

Energy Secretary Steven Chu said, "As part of the cookstoves alliance, the Department of Energy is lending our scientific and technical resources to develop practical solutions that are clean, safe and affordable. Pursuing concrete steps towards more efficient stoves makes good financial sense, good public health sense and good environmental sense."

The United Nations Environment Programme is an Alliance founding partner and today UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said the clean cookstoves initiative will help reduce deforestation by curbing the large quantities of wood used to make charcoal, and by households switching to alternative fuels such as solar energy.

"In addition to meeting the health targets of the Millennium Development Goals, especially among women and children who are often the most exposed to indoor air pollution, the Alliance may have wider and indeed global benefits," said Steiner, speaking at UN Headquarters in New York where a high-level summit on achieving the goals by 2015 is underway.

Steiner said black carbon is responsible for up to 40 percent of current climate change, accelerating melting rates of glaciers in mountain ranges such as the Himalayas, as the dark particles absorb sunlight and raise ice temperatures. He blamed black carbon for the dimming of cities in polluted parts of the world and for reducing sunlight available to grow crops, with implications for poverty and for combating hunger under the Millennium Development Goals.

Alliance founding partner financial services firm Morgan Stanley will fund a study of the health impacts for children when low-emission biomass cookstoves are used.

"While the harmful and tragic effects of traditional cookstoves have long been known, we believe the right conditions are in place to address this problem more effectively than ever before," said Audrey Choi, head of Global Sustainable Finance at Morgan Stanley.

"For 10 years we have been helping to deliver market-based solutions to selling clean cookstoves in India, China, Central America and Africa. The sector has made great progress," said Shell Foundation Director Chris West. Still, he said, "Stove manufacturers face numerous barriers to successfully selling clean cookstoves at scale, and just like any infant industry they need support to address those barriers."

Alliance partners will develop a business plan to address the prerequisites for large-scale adoption of clean cookstoves, identify target markets, overcome market barriers to production, deployment, and use of clean cookstoves, and implement a strategy emphasizing women's participation and market-based solutions.

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