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Representing MECS at the One Young World Manchester 2022 Summit

3rd November 2022

By Sasha Lawson (Loughborough University, UK).

The annual One Young World Summit is a much anticipated event for many companies, NGOs and individuals making huge social impact changes from over 190 countries. This year I was lucky enough to attend the Summit as a delegate of Modern Energy Cooking Services. I am incredibly proud and grateful to have represented MECS during the summit and worked with the Clean Cooking Alliance to spread the message that Clean Cooking is far better for the environment and saves time as compared to cooking with wood, coal or other traditional fuels.

The mission of MECS aligns in many ways with the wider mission of One Young World, which is to drive forward societal change to tackle the most pressing issues facing the world today. Whilst there is an almost unanimous agreement that climate change is one of the biggest global issues we face today, when thinking about combating climate change, the conversation rarely includes the energy we use for cooking. Yet there are over two billion people in the world who still rely on biomass to prepare meals.

The One Young World Manchester summit 2022

The summit kicked off with speeches on the power of youth leadership from the Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, singer and political activist, Sir Bob Geldof, former President of Ireland, Mary Robinson and the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle. The theme of leadership continued to be present throughout the summit, especially within companies revolutionising their respective industries, disrupting the status quo in their fields to bring ideas to fruition that catered for people’s needs without compromising on sustainability values.

Mary Robinson, Former President of Ireland and Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex addressing the One Young World 2022 delegation. (Image credit: One Young World).

These values of environmental protection were also held by individuals attending the summit, from emerging young leaders to those with decades long experience of creating positive social impact like former President of Ireland, Mary Robinson, a vocal advocate for using cleaner cooking fuels and clean cookstoves throughout her political career.

I had the extraordinary opportunity to meet with Mary Robinson and representatives from the Clean Cooking Alliance to explore the importance of youth advocacy in helping to achieve universal access to clean cooking fuels and cookstoves. We discussed the challenges to clean cooking such as how it can be hard to change cooking practices that date back thousands of years. As cooking is steeped in tradition, preparing a dish without the familiarity of typical cooking methods can feel like a break with dearly held customs.

Image above, and featured image, top of page: Discussing the power of clean cooking with former President of Ireland Mary Robinson. (Image credit: Sasha Lawson, Loughborough University).

We therefore agreed that the following points are key to attaining Clean Cooking for everyone:
• Empowering people with information about the harmful effects of cooking with biomass;
• Dispelling myths that cooking with modern energy cannot achieve authentic tasting cultural dishes;
• Providing people with cleaner cookstoves, especially electric pressure cookers and tools to access electricity for cooking.

Sharing and discussing the goals of MECS with fellow delegates from around the world was a hugely fulfilling experience. In particular, it was brilliant to hear first hand from delegates representing countries where MECS is active, who were in agreement that accelerating the transition to clean cooking is a pivotal step to tackling climate change and reducing the detrimental health impacts and time burden spent cooking for women.

The summit showed that there are many businesses and organisations, from start ups to the largest transnational corporations in the world, that are unwavering in their pledge to reduce their contributions to climate change. Although each organisation had a different goal in tackling the environmental crisis that we face, they were united in their belief that education and collaboration are the most integral factors to halting the climate emergency. I believe that because of this openness to innovation and ideas, clean cooking can become a more prominent part of the global conversation on climate change.