13 March 2023

LPG Contribution to SDG 5: An Opportunity to Empower Women and Achieve Sustainable Development By James Rockall, CEO & Managing Director, WLPGA

Gender is woven throughout the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as it sits at the intersection of economic, social, and environmental issues. It has its own Goal, SDG 5 - with the ambition of achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls. One of the key drivers of achieving this goal is through access to clean and affordable energy, and Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) has a significant contribution to make in this regard.

LPG is a clean-burning fuel that can be used for cooking, heating, and lighting. It is widely available and affordable, making it an ideal energy source for low-income households. However, despite its many benefits, LPG is still underutilised in many parts of the world, particularly in developing countries where women and girls are disproportionately affected by energy poverty.

Women spend around 4.5 hours per day working unpaid, over double the amount of time spent by men. This gender inequality is estimated to be worth €8.8 trillion annually, almost one eighth of global GDP. Much of this unpaid work is related to household chores. In many developing countries, women and girls are primarily responsible for cooking, and they often rely on traditional fuels such as firewood, charcoal, and kerosene. These fuels are not only inefficient but also pose serious health and environmental risks. According to the World Health Organization, household air pollution accounted for the loss of an estimated 86 million healthy life years in 2019 with the largest burden falling on women living in low- and middle-income countries. The negative health impacts caused by use of traditional fuels is responsible for nearly 4 million premature deaths annually, with women and girls being the most affected. The process of fuelwood collection also exposes women and girls to risk of violence and injury.

The benefits of LPG are not limited to health and environmental outcomes. Access to clean and affordable energy can also have a positive impact on women's economic empowerment. In many developing countries, women are often excluded from the formal economy and face significant barriers to entrepreneurship. However, LPG provides women with opportunities through saving time, estimated at up to four hours per day, on collecting fuelwood and cooking, allowing time to pursue other activities such as education, leisure, and livelihood opportunities, which can generate income and support their families.

LPG can help address many of these challenges by providing a clean and safe alternative to traditional fuels. By switching to LPG, women and girls can significantly reduce their exposure to harmful indoor air pollution, leading not only to improved health, but an improved quality of life, greater security and a significant advancement in gender equality.

The potential of LPG to contribute to SDG 5 has not gone unnoticed by the international community. In fact, the United Nations has recognised the important role of LPG in achieving the SDGs and has launched several initiatives to promote its use in developing countries.

For example, the Clean Cooking Alliance, a public-private partnership hosted by the UN Foundation, is working to accelerate the adoption of clean cooking solutions, including LPG, in developing countries.

The World LPG Association (WLPGA) has been at the forefront of promoting the use of LPG to achieve SDG 5. WLPGA has partnered with governments, NGOs, and other stakeholders to raise awareness about the benefits of LPG and to support the transition to clean energy. However, this transition will not happen without strong policy action. By 2030 2.1 billion people, or 25% of the world’s population, are estimated to still lack access to clean fuels and technologies.

Cooking For Life, a major campaign of the WLPGA, was launched in 2012 and aims to facilitate the transition of one billion people from cooking with traditional fuels as well as other dirty and dangerous fuels such as kerosene, to cleaner-burning LPG by 2030.

The LPG industry also enables gender diversity through the promotion of gender equality. This not only allows the LPG sector to benefit from a more diverse pool of talent, but also empowers women economically and provides opportunities for leadership. WLPGA launched the Women in LPG (WINLPG) global network several years ago to support women’s engagement across the industry.

With continued investment and support from governments, private sector and civil society, the use of LPG can be scaled up and made accessible to even more households significantly contributing to SDG 5 and achieving gender equality and women's empowerment.