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COP26: Communication is the driving force for fashion’s climate problem

By Rachel Douglass


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Image: COP26

The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) has shared new visions, insights and recommendations on how communication changes are important for the fashion sector in order to align itself with science-based targets, outlined by the Paris Agreement Goals. The testimonial is mirrored in the renewed Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action (Fashion Charter), which includes a commitment to measure industry and consumer communication with the corresponding targets.

The report came as part of the UN Climate Change (UNFCCC) Global Climate Action ‘Fashion Industry Race to Zero’ session, during the ongoing United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26).

“Addressing consumption is a central part of reducting climate impact, from volume of new products purchased to the carbon footprint of how we use these products,” said UNEP’s deputy director, economy division, Steven Stone, in a statement. “We must work together to align all stakeholders across the fashion sector towards the 1.5 degree pathway of the Paris Agreement.”

A key point in the conference suggested that communication change was the defining factor in how fashion can respond to climate and contribute to the goals of the Paris Agreement. A consultation by UNEP led to the renewed Fashion Charter goals, with over 160 organisations participating in the consultation from across the value chain.

These new commitments recognise the potential the fashion industry has to bring sustainability to life through communication in ways that have not been considered yet.

The Fashion Charter signatories, formed as a collective to represent a significant portion of the fashion industry, included the likes of Burberry, H&M Group, VF Corporation, Adidas, Kering, Chanel and Nike, as well as a number of suppliers.

Renewed commitments included that of a decarbonisation plan to limit the global temperature rise to 1.5 celsius above pre-industrial levels. A strategy to jointly develop the plan was laid out in the Charter, suggesting the use of practical tools necessary to deliver on the reducation targets. These include a pledge to achieve net zero emissions no later than 2050 was also included, an update on the previous target of 30 percent by 2030.

Further commitments within the Charter revolved around the sourcing of 100 percent electricity from renewable energy sources by 2030 and the sourcing of environmentally friendly raw materials and phasing out coal from the supply chain by 2030, among others.

Policy change request

In addition, a further 50 fashion and textile companies have backed Textile Exchange’s request for a policy to incentivise the use of envrionmentally preferred materials. Presented by the organistion, also during COP26, the request calls for preferential tariffs on materials like organic cotton and recycled fibres.

The hope is that a trade policy will encourage better practice in sourcing raw materials, giving fashion companies a larger incentice to lower their environmental impacts.

The request supports Textile Exchange’s industry goal of a 45 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from textile fibre and material production by 2030.