Last updated: 24 May 2018      

On 25 September 2015, the 193 countries of the UN General Assembly adopted the "2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development" which included the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These 17 Goals were designed to build on the progress made by the United Nations Millennium Development Goals by providing an updated framework for the global community to work towards "recognizing that ending poverty must go hand-in-hand with strategies that build economic growth and addresses a range of social needs including education, health, social protection, and job opportunities, while tackling climate change and environmental protection".[1]

As with the Millennium Development Goals, solar cooking can play a vital role in achieving each of the 17 SDGs by:

  • Reducing the need to gather fuel, saving families time which presents individuals, primarily women, with the opportunity to focus on education and income generation activities to provide a better life for themselves, their families, and their community.
  • Allowing families to spend money, which would otherwise be needed to purchase fuel, on food and other essentials.
  • Only requiring clean and renewable energy from the sun to cook a meal. Solar cooking emits zero harmful toxins which keeps household air clean, preventing health issues related to smoke exposure, and does not contribute to climate change.

Learn more below about how solar cooking can contribute to each of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

The role of solar thermal cooking

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Goal 1: End poverty in all its forms everywhere

Access to free solar energy by ensuring appropriate solar technologies for the nearly 3 billion people who cook make water safe to drink by burning combustibles in open fires will help end energy poverty. Up to 40% of the household energy budget is used for heating water. Reducing the amount of gathered biomass and purchased energy with free, zero-emission solar thermal energy builds resilience, particularly for the poor and those in
vulnerable situations. Because energy access for all is key to development, policies that
encourage innovation in solar technologies will help end poverty, in all its forms, everywhere.

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Goal 2: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture

Nutritious foods, such as pulses and legumes, require large amounts of scarce or expensive biomass or fossil fuels to cook. With free solar thermal energy for cooking, families can continue to cook highly nutritious foods, ending malnutrition. Because all traditional foods can be cooked in solar thermal cookers, they build resilience for extreme food price volatility. Because solar energy access reduces the demand for biomass and
extracted fossil fuels, land, soil and water quality are improved.

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Goal 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages

Women and their young children experience the highest exposure to household air pollution, the number one cause of disease: more than malaria, HIV/AIDS, and diarrheal disease. Solar thermal cookers reduce exposure to household air pollution that results in 7 million premature deaths annually, including 50% of deaths from pneumonia for children under age five. Because solar thermal cookers do not produce flames, risk of disfigurement or death by burns from cooking fires is greatly reduced, particularly for women and children.

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Goal 4: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote life-long learning opportunities for all

Freed from the time-intensive tasks of gathering biomass fuel for cooking fires by solar cooking, the vulnerable, including persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples, and children, gain time for education and study.

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Goal 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls

In many cultures, the time-consuming chore of providing cooking fuel is the domain of women and girls. Traveling far from the safety of their homes and communities to gather biomass fuels, women and children are often attacked, raped, or killed while gathering fuel for their households. Using solar thermal cookers reduces women’s and children’s exposure to violence. By using free solar energy for cooking, women and children can gain up to 5 hours per day for other activities, such as education and community participation,
empowering them for leadership in their communities. This is an important first step to many
needed societal reforms.

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Goal 6: Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all

Sustainable management of drinking water supplies will rely on decentralized pasteurization of local water sources. Solar thermal cookers make water safe to drink, addressing water scarcity and reducing diarrheal disease.

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Goal 7: Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all

Solar energy is true modern energy: it does not need to be gathered or purchased, and is available on all continents, in all regions. It requires no supply chain, and no infrastructure for delivery. Solar thermal energy has the highest energy efficiency of all energy sources.

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Goal 8: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all

By cooking with free solar energy, household fuel costs formerly used for cooking and water pasteurization can be redirected to other family needs. With less need to gather biomass fuels, and fewer trips to market to purchase fuels, women gain time for education which leads to productive employment and decent work.

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Goal 9: Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation

Solar technologies reduce the need for energy infrastructure by providing access to decentralized energy. Many solar thermal cooking technologies can be manufactured affordably from locally- or regionally-sourced materials. Solar cooking technology is accessible to local innovators, increasing access of small-scale enterprises, and supporting human well-being and economic development. Because solar thermal energy is available for
all, it is inclusive. Solar energy is a sustainable energy source, increasing energy stability
and resilience.

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Goal 10: Reduce inequality within and among countries

Free solar energy is of proportionately higher value to the bottom 40% of the global population, who will benefit most from increased access to decentralized, free energy. Solar energy is accessible to all people during seasons where solar energy is available, irrespective of age, sex, disability, ethnicity, origin, religion, or economic or other status.

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Goal 11: Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable

Solar energy can be captured for household and institutional uses in urban settings where biomass fuels are not available, reducing reliance on expensive and unsustainable fossil fuels for cooking and water pasteurization. Accessing solar energy sources reduces competition for energy, reducing human conflict in high-density settings.

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Goal 12: Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns

Enough solar energy reaches the Earth’s surface every hour to power all human activity for a year. Because free, no-emission solar energy has a natural and equitable distribution chain, environmental costs of fuel production and transportation to markets are reduced. Decentralized use of solar energy can contribute to sustainable patterns of household energy consumption and production, reducing market distortions.

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Goal 13: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts

Use of free, zero-emission solar energy reduces production of climate change forcing agents, such as greenhouse gases and black carbon produced by fossil fuels and biomass fuels.

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Goal 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development

Healthy forests are essential carbon sinks, fixing carbon on land so it will not be absorbed by the world’s oceans. Replacing biomass combustion fires with solar energy for basic households needs promotes preservation of healthy biomass, maximizing the land’s ability to absorb water, and reducing runoff containing pollutants and eroded soils that choke streams and deposit fertilizers in the oceans.

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Goal 15: Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss

The rate of desertification can be slowed when solar energy replaces harvested biomass fuels for household use. Cooking and pasteurizing water with solar energy can assist forest management, halt land degradation, and arrest desertification and marine pollution.

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Goal 16: Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels

Access to free solar thermal energy is essential to achieve two of humankind’s most important rights: cooked food and safe water. Solar energy is the ultimate inclusive energy source: by reducing competition for scarce and expensive fuels, it reduces human conflict.

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Goal 17: Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development

The solar thermal cooking sector has a strong history of appropriate technology. Knowledge sharing for solar thermal cooking innovations strengthens and empowers community members, particularly women, to be change agents for revitalized, sustainable development.

UN Sustainability Goals SCI slide January 2018

See also