Key Takeaways for Fashion From COP27

By Constance Beswick

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November saw some 35,000 participants convene for COP27 in a bid to accelerate action, share ideas, solutions, and build partnerships and coalitions.

The conference, which took place in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, saw a landmark agreement on a loss and damage fund but fell short in crucial areas such as the phasing out of all fossil fuels.

The fashion industry came into focus for a number of discussions and commitments taking place over the two-week period and we have collated seven of the key activities and takeaways for fashion from COP27.

A call for holistic industry targets

On 8 November, Global Fashion Agenda (GFA) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) launched a public Fashion Industry Target Consultation to identify and align the industry around a set of holistic sustainability targets. Through this new Consultation, GFA and UNEP endeavour to really push the industry forward in a unified route of travel that represents industry-wide views and considerations.

Read more about the Consultation and how to participate here.

Linked to the consultation, stakeholders discussed ‘Circular Systems for a Net Positive Fashion Industry’ in an event on 12 November, where GFA was joined by speakers from UNECE, ISKO, Ellen MacArthur Foundation, RCGD Global and UNEP.

Find out more about these discussions here.

The Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action

The Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action was first launched at COP24 in Poland in 2018. Now, the Fashion Charter is signed by over 100 companies and 43 supporting organisations, GFA is proud to be amongst these organisations. The Charter includes signatories such as our Strategic Partners, Kering, H&M Group, Target, PVH, and Nike. Signatories and Supporting Organisations of the Charter work collaboratively to deliver on the commitments outlined in the Charter, which was updated at COP26.

Building on GFA’s partnership with the UN Climate Change Secretariat (UNFCCC), our CEO, Federica Marchionni, contributed to the COP27 event by UNFCCC’s Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action: ‘Fashion Industry on the Race to Zero: Building a better future for the industry, people and planet’.

Watch the full UNFCCC event.

Canopy’s joint commitment

33 fashion firms including H&M, Inditex, Kering and Stella McCartney are amongst the inaugural signatories of a Canopy-led commitment to purchase more than half a million tonnes of ‘next-generation’ alternative fibre for the textiles and paper packaging sectors.

Retailers agreed to purchase 550,000 tonnes of alternative fibres made from waste textiles and agricultural residues instead of forest fibres. According to Canopy, every tonne of clothing produced using these alternative fibres will save between four and 15 tonnes of carbon.

Loss and Damage

The Loss and Damage fund agreement was seen as a major milestone that was long since overdue and the result of 30 years of tireless advocacy. Loss and damage finance is the money provided by high emissions nations to compensate the countries bearing the brunt of the climate crisis for the results of extreme weather events. The agreement of a new fund is a significant breakthrough although there is not yet an outline on how this promise will be fulfilled. Moreover, as crucial as this money is, it is merely dealing with the symptoms as opposed to the cause of climate catastrophe. The root of the problem must be resolved to prevent the need for loss and damage.

We know that the fashion value chain spans the globe, with ripple effects on many communities. The latest series of IPCC reports signalled that whilst everywhere is affected by climate change -with no inhabited region escaping the consequences – the vulnerability of ecosystems and people vary considerably based on factors including inequity, marginalisation, colonialism and governance.

The industry must follow suit in the uptake of similar initiatives to compensate the people it negatively impacts and prioritise reducing these impacts from the outset.

Fossil fuel reliance and decarbonisation

The final COP27 agreement text does not include a commitment to phase down all fossil fuels but rather includes the same commitments from the Glasgow conference a year earlier. A non-negotiable, to prevent some of the worst-case climate scenarios, is ensuring we keep global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees, in line with the Paris Agreement. A number of countries pushed for the final COP27 agreement to reference the need to peak emissions in 2025. According to the IPCC, this is the deadline for maintaining the 1.5C emissions goal. However, this failed to make the final text.

Despite disappointment this should serve as a bellwether to the industry that it cannot continue its reliance on fossil fuels . Fashion is a major energy consumer and The GFA Monitor outlines that current operations mostly rely on non-renewable energy sources, such as petroleum, gas, oil, and coal. Our Fashion On Climate report revealed that if the fashion industry does not accelerate its response to climate change, by 2030 it will produce around twice the volume of emissions required to align with the Paris Agreement global warming pathways towards net zero emissions by 2050. As commitments and ambitions come into fruition, the industry must be prepared for changes throughout supply chains.

On 11 November, GFA hosted a panel on ‘Alliances for a new era: Decarbonising the fashion value chain’, convening representatives from Crystal Group International, BESTSELLER, Zalando and GFA. Watch the discussion.

Representation

As COP27 commenced, a picture was circulating around the internet showing world leaders gathered in Egypt. There was a notable lack of women in the photograph. Of 110 leaders present, just 7 were women. BBC analysis found that women make up less than 34% of country negotiating teams at COP27, despite the fact that women are often the hardest hit by the implications of climate change. Climate change exacerbates the existing results of deep-rooted gender inequality.

Shirley Djukurna Krenak, an Indigenous woman of the Krenak people of Minas Gerais, Brazil, told the BBC that Indigenous women in particular have always fought for environmental protection.

Whilst a record number of Indigenous peoples participated in COP27, several Indigenous activists and leaders told Axios that they were excluded from decision-making dialogues. Representation cannot simply entail accommodating the presence of people, they must also be listened to.  Together we must respect the central and fundamental role Indigenous peoples play in conserving a healthy planet and the intimate cultural and spiritual methods through which they do so.

The intricate web of issues that emerge as a result of climate change are complex and can be overwhelming, but we cannot expect to better our understanding without listening to the voices of the communities on the front lines of the climate crisis.

Looking ahead

Every COP sees us tread closer to those crucial planetary tipping points, with increased urgency at each edition. COP27 was hosted against the backdrop of three key UN agencies releasing damming reports for the trajectory of our planet, with UNEP finding that under current goals, there’s no credible pathway to 1.5 °C in place. In fact, current policies put us on a decisive route to 2.8°C temperature rise by the end of the century.

Hollow promises will not suffice. Change must be systemic, meaningful and enacted quickly and diligently, particularly by the fashion industry which accounts for up to 4% of global GHG emissions. We must not draw a line under COP27 but rather, continue the conversations, engage with policymakers, increase the binding commitments, and most crucially start implementing changes immediately to accelerate a meaningful transformation.

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