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No COP-outs for fashion! The industry's takeaways from COP26

It’s no secret that the fashion industry singlehandedly contributes to a whopping portion of the climate crisis we’re experiencing today — and rather unapologetically, too. From fast fashion practices that refuse to be curbed to the tangible damage inflicted by sub-industries like leather, it seems the cost of looking good is finally starting to weigh heavy on the planet.

To paint a more factual picture, though:

  • Textile production contributes to 1.35% of global oil production
  •  35% of all microplastics found in the ocean are from synthetic materials used in garments
  • A 2020 report by Global Fashion Agenda and McKinsey put fashion’s greenhouse gas emissions at between three and 10 percent of the global total
  • The McKinsey research shows that the sector was responsible for some 2.1 billion metric tons of greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions in 2018, about 4 percent of the global total
  • The same report also found the industry’s emissions are actually set to rise to around 2.7 billion tonnes a year by 2030, if current measures stay the same

Mohammed Anwarul Kabir Choudhury/Alamy

 Given these frankly alarming numbers, the question begs to be answered: is it alright for the overwhelming negatives of the fashion industry to sneak past unchecked as they hide behind the occasional Stella McCartney venture? 

That’s somewhat the issue the COP26 held at Glasgow attempted to address over the course of 12 days. Here are some of the most crucial fashion developments at the summit:

The UN Fashion Charter gets a do-up

The New York Times

The UN Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action, an entity that was brought to global climate politics at the COP24 (2018) held at Katowice, Poland, embarked on a mission to update its existing targets in this year’s conference. The Charter, which previously called on brands to reduce emissions by 30 percent by 2030, is now urging its 130 signatories to slash emissions by half by the end of the decade and giving them a 12-month time limit to submit concrete plans for the same.

Other Charter targets include:

  • 100 percent of “priority” materials – cotton, viscose, polyester, wool, leather and more – to be low climate impact by 2030.
  • Incentive mechanisms to engage suppliers in building a decarbonisation pathway
  • Sourcing 100% of electricity from renewable sources by 2030.
  • Phasing out coal from the supply chain by 2030
  • Brand-supplier cooperation in reducing emissions.

Through these updated targets, the Fashion Charter hopes to match efforts to cap global warming at no more than the globally agreed-upon 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

LVMH comes aboard the climate fight...

REUTERS/BENOIT TESSIER

The new-and-improved UN Fashion Charter received a valuable addition to its roster of supporters in the form of fashion behemoth Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton (LVMH). The global conglomerate joins the likes of Burberry, H&M Group, Adidas, Kering, Chanel, Nike, and PUMA in extending their support to the climate cause through the UN Fashion Charter. This is an exceptionally crucial development in the fashion and climate space, given that the previously-aloof LVMH is host to over 75 fashion houses and is the only group with a presence in all five major sectors of the luxury market:  Wines & Spirits, Fashion & Leather Goods, Perfumes & Cosmetics, Watches & Jewelry and Selective Retailing.

...as yet more brands rise to the occasion!

https://twstalker.com/thepangaia

Not to be outdone by the big guns, more than a few fashion names delivered pleasant news. As Deckers Brands — parent company to Everlane and UGG — announced partnerships with the globally recognised organisation Science-Based Targets Initiative (SBTi) to set emissions reduction targets grounded in climate science, Chloé artistic director Gabriela Hearst announced the brand’s newly acquired status as a B Corp brand — the most stringent sustainability certification in the industry. Eco-conscious label Pangaia, who previously backed the Bee the Change funding campaign, hosted a roundtable during the COP26 summit lobbying for bee populations that are under threat of diminishing.

Material sourcing gets some summit sun

CHRISTOPHER FURLONG/GETTY IMAGES

A call to action presented in the second week of COP26 by global non-profit Textile Exchange was quick to receive support from a number of brands, suppliers, retailers and NGOs. The trade policy seeks to incentivise the use of environmentally preferred materials — defined by Textile Exchange as those from certified, verified sources that can be traced from raw material to finished product, such as organic cotton and recycled fibres — by imposing preferential tariffs to encourage their purchase and use. 50 of the world’s largest fashion and textile companies seconded the request.

Stella McCartney gets another powerful word in...

Owen Humphreys/POOL/AFP

Disillusioned by the lack of attention given to the fashion industry during climate conversations, British fashion designer and sustainability advocate Stella McCartney candidly declared to an audience on the 8th day of COP26 — “The future of fashion looks bleak unless we step up.” McCartney has vocalised the need for fashion brands to join the climate fight on several occasions, urging world leaders to introduce laws and policies that will help combat fashion’s negative climate effects.

… while fast fashion gets a ‘youthful’ reality check!

UN News/Laura Quiñones

The last day of COP26 saw a flurry of activity as over 350 young people and students across Glasgow and the surrounding city region came together to challenge fast fashion practices. The Sustainable Fashion Festival: Re-Clothing the Future Conference, held at Glasgow Caledonian University, allowed students to grasp how sustainable models of business are pushing back against fast fashion and gave them the opportunity to interact with Scotland's sustainable fashion businesses.

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The effectiveness of these developments is yet to be proven; despite the many promising commitments made at the summit, it is projected that the fashion industry is slated to miss its emission targets. However, what COP26 represents goes beyond just tangible measures of climate impact (as important as those are). With so many different voices from various parts of the world chiming in on the climate conversation, one can rest assured that environmental concerns will never again be brushed under the carpet. What remains to be seen is whether the fashion industry’s growing awareness of its contribution to climate change is here to stay — or whether it’ll soon be swapped in for the next fad. As advocates for sustainable fashion ourselves, we can only hope for the former.

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