Pankaja Balaji gives in­sights into cli­mate change and its im­pact and how the fash­ion in­dus­try can work to over­come this chal­lenge.

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The ev­i­dent con­se­quences of cli­mate change are upon us. Mul­ti­ple cy­clones, seem­ingly end­less mon­soons, killer heat waves and frigid win­ters are no longer hints; they are signs that we must act and act now. Three years ago, the his­toric Paris Ac­cord was signed; coun­tries pledged to keep ris­ing global tem­per­a­tures be­low 2°C. The In­ter­na­tional Panel of Cli­mate Change gave the world a fixed car­bon bud­get and re­minded us that to pre­vent


cat­a­strophic con­se­quences, we needed to do what­ever nec­es­sary to not cross the bud­get and to stay be­low it.

Un­der­stand­ing these dire warn­ings and the need for ur­gency, the pledg­ing coun­tries took on am­bi­tious green­house gas (GHG) mit­i­ga­tion tar­gets, spoke about strict mea­sures for sus­tain­abil­ity and promised to un­lock sig­nif­i­cant fi­nanc­ing to­wards cli­mate change mit­i­ga­tion.

Global al­liances, sec­toral poli­cies at the na­tional and in­ter­na­tional level, and aca­demic re­search have been mo­bilised to guide in­dus­tries such as oil and gas, con­struc­tion, auto, etc., to tackle cli­mate change. How­ever, fash­ion and tex­tiles have not seen sim­i­lar in­dus­try-wide mo­bil­i­sa­tion and have re­mained with­out the same level of pol­icy guid­ance.

Thank­fully, 2018 has seen that chang­ing.


The tex­tile in­dus­try is amongst the most pol­lut­ing in­dus­try glob­ally–sec­ond only to oil and gas, which doesn’t say much. The sec­tor’s ab­so­lute GHG emis­sions are cur­rently at 1.2 bil­lion tonnes an­nu­ally, which ac­counts for up to 10 per cent of to­tal emis­sions. Ac­cord­ing to re­search, it is feared that if things were to re­main as is, the tex­tile in­dus­try could in­crease its emis­sions by 60 per cent over the com­ing decade, leav­ing lit­tle chance of be­ing able to keep tem­per­a­tures be­low 2°C, let alone the 1.5°C needed to keep our planet safe for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions.

To say that the United Na­tions is deeply in­ter­ested in fash­ion might seem like an in­con­gru­ous fact. How­ever, the two are no longer work­ing in mu­tu­ally ex­clu­sive spheres, and are now work­ing closely to­gether to tackle the im­pact of fash­ion on the cli­mate and vice versa.

Ear­lier this year, there was a gath­er­ing at Bonn, Ger­many of well-known names in the global fash­ion and tex­tiles in­dus­try rang­ing from Hugo Boss, Adi­das and Puma to var­i­ous mem­bers of the sup­ply chain such as yarn man­u­fac­tur­ers, re­cy­clers as well as rep­re­sen­ta­tives of as­so­ci­a­tions work­ing to­wards en­vi­ron­men­tal sus­tain­abil­ity in the fash­ion world.

Over two days, they ex­plored how to make fash­ion a sig­nif­i­cant stake­holder in the United Na­tions Frame­work Con­ven­tion on Cli­mate Change. The di­a­logue touched upon po­ten­tial en­vi­ron­men­tal tar­gets for the in­dus­try, new busi­ness mod­els that met the triple bot­tom line, and cre­at­ing a di­a­logue within the sup­ply chain about the need for such mea­sures.

Over the course of the year, this di­a­logue has re­sulted in the cre­ation of a Fash­ion In­dus­try Char­ter for Cli­mate Ac­tion, to be launched at the end of 2018 at the COP24 in Ka­tow­ice, Poland.

The char­ter it­self is aligned to the Paris Ac­cord’s goal of net zero car­bon emis­sions by 2050 and aims to lever­age col­lab­o­ra­tive mech­a­nism to make it a re­al­ity. The char­ter in­cludes tar­gets for re­duc­ing emis­sions, pol­icy changes within the sup­ply chain and the cre­ation of a plat­form, and looks to cre­ate a di­a­logue among stake­hold­ers to meet GHG tar­gets and get mov­ing on cli­mate ac­tion.

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