The Fashion Industry’s Efforts at COP26

Despite sustainability’s numerous jumps in recent years, committing to net-zero and relying on carbon-offsetting procedures will (probably) never be enough to bring us back where we should be. These means will only attempt to undo the unsustainable emissions that have already been collected in the atmosphere. Even with motives like “carbon positivity”- where we utilize more carbon than we emit- we need changes on a bigger scale. Please, don’t regard my negative tone as “biased”; I’m simply giving you a realistic rundown. 

The global climate summit wrapping up in Glasgow is known as COP26, with COP standing for Conference of the Parties. In diplomatic parlance, “the parties” refers to the 197 nations that agreed to a new environmental pact. The United States and other countries ratified the treaty, which aims to combat “dangerous human interference with the climate system” and stabilize levels of greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere. This is the 26th time countries have gathered under the convention. Hence, COP26 (“What does COP stand for?”). We’re at a place where the fashion industry’s emissions are actually double what they should be in order to stay in line with the Paris Agreement’s goal of keeping global warming to 1.5 degrees celsius (Chan). The enormity of the situation called for the  United Nations Fashion Industry Charter For Climate Action to gather and set initiatives that rule out specific ways of reading CO2 emissions in order to keep them level with the Paris agreement.

So far, specific changes include increasing the percentage by which CO2 emissions will be reduced- however the real question of how is not as easy to come by. Brands like Burberry, Chanel and Gucci have committed to halving greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, rather than solely decreasing by 30% like the original plan was. 

These commitments only do so much, so setting transparent, specific goals can also ensure reliance. The Charter has also set a new target for 100% of “priority” materials – such as cotton, viscose, polyester, wool and leather – to be low climate impact by 2030. The agreement specifically points to materials that can be recycled in a closed loop, and are deforestation-free, conversion-free (meaning natural ecosystems are not destroyed in the process) and produced using regenerative practices (Chan). 

Transparency with the pubic is as important as transparency within the creative process. Brands must work with their suppliers to track the supply chain and recognize which areas are in need of change. The new Charter pledges tier one and tier two providers to phase out coal by 2030, with zero new coal power by 2023, as well as assisting suppliers in implementing science-based targets by the end of 2025.

To track progress and ensure efficiency, brands have a year from now to submit their plans regarding specifics on how they will reduce their emissions, and will send reports every three years to serve as updates. These plans will be evaluated on effectiveness through constant monitoring to guarantee we reach out carbon emission goals by 2023. 

With further research, I came across a simple, general list that could be a starting point for most large brand names. 

  1. Reducing energy usage

This can be done through utilizing more energy efficient lights, appliances, switching to a green web hosting company etc. 

  1. Eliminate single use plastic

Every time someone discards a plastic straw, bag, cup, or other packaging materials, they contribute to climate change.Cafeteria silverware, disposable coffee cups, and plastic water bottles can all be easily replaced with reusable alternatives. Reusable replacements cut carbon emissions while also lowering waste disposal expenses.Additionally, for shipment, using degradable material for shipping and not overpacking can decrease waste buildup by a large margin. 

  1. Tracking supply chain efficiency

Increased transparency with suppliers allows companies to see where resources are wasted through inefficient operations. 

Take a look at Vogue’s “How Fashion Is Ramping Up Its Climate Efforts at COP26″ for a more in-depth analysis. 

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