What the Fashion Industry Can Learn from COP28

Explore some of the learnings and considerations for fashion from COP28.

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The fashion industry has gradually been amplifying its presence at COP, but historically has not received the same level of attention as other sectors. This year, the industry was certainly more prevalent on the agenda, but often isolated from cross-sectorial discussions, and the programme was still not indicative of the substantial role fashion plays in influencing climate change.

Global Fashion Agenda (GFA) continued its commitment to advocate for the importance of the fashion industry on the COP agenda.  Explore just some of the learnings and considerations for fashion from COP28 below.

Collective Action for Decarbonisation

On 13 December, representatives from nearly 200 countries approved a global pact that explicitly calls for ‘transitioning away from fossil fuels’. What immediately preceded this historic agreement was two weeks of intense negotiations, presentations, activations, and discussions from some 85,000 participants at COP28 in Dubai – the largest COP to date. This agreement was, however, announced during the hottest year on record – which has been fuelling extreme weather events around the world – nearly 30 years after the first UN climate summit.

Despite the significance of this overdue announcement, many are left feeling disappointed by the compromises and loopholes contained in the latest text. Language around a complete ‘phaseout’ of fossil fuels was challenged and instead the text calls on countries to accelerate a global shift away from fossil fuels this decade in a ‘just, orderly and equitable manner’.

In light of this urgency to transition away from fossil fuels, fashion industry decarbonisation must be prioritised. Proactive industry participation through equity investment in new power generation capacity is critical to this facilitating cost-effective and rapid decarbonisation.

 

At COP28 on 5 December, GFA, Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners (CIP) and international fashion companies BESTSELLER and H&M Group revealed a financing mechanism to support the development of the first offshore wind project in Bangladesh. This project has the potential to significantly increase the availability of renewable energy in one of the fashion industry’s most important manufacturing countries. GFA initiated the companies’ commitment to invest and is now working to onboard other fashion brands to co-invest in the wind plant and potentially future energy projects. The project was highlighted during a session on collective financing at COP.

Read more about the project here.

Aligned Targets and Available Solutions

Today, there is a wealth of information that can help the fashion industry become more sustainable but, with so much information, it can be challenging to identify which actions to prioritise and the best way to implement them.

On the first day of COP28, GFA released the 2023 edition of The GFA Monitor — a report to guide fashion leaders towards a net positive fashion industry. The second GFA Monitor has been updated to include the latest guidance and insights from over 25 industry organisations in one cohesive publication – providing a converged overview of clear actions to take, credible tools, solutions, and proven best practices from pioneering industry practitioners that can be implemented today.

For the first time, the report includes new data insights drawn from over 900 industry participants in 90 countries of the Fashion Industry Target Consultation (FITC), which indicated a very positive sentiment from participants, but action and positive impact from that action is yet to be measured. Overall, the data reveals that the majority of the participants supported industry alignment on the 27 action areas proposed in the consultation and remarked that they are actively engaging with the industry to drive progress in the respective areas. The report further illuminates the level of industry ambitions per priority and the areas where more aligned action areas are needed.

Discover the findings and download the report here.

 

At COP28, GFA, in collaboration with UNFCCC, hosted a GFA Assembly discussing the industry’s progress towards a net positive future, spotlighting The GFA Monitor report. Key Sentiments form the roundtable included the need to develop an inclusive and holistic approach to ensure meaningful dialogue with all stakeholders, from policymakers and youth representatives to local communities and manufacturers, and to anchor actions in sustainable development. The panel also stressed the multifaceted nature of sustainability, considering not only carbon reduction but also waste management, end-of-life cycles, social justice, and the impact on workers’ rights, gender, and racial justice.

Watch the session on-demand here.

Material Innovation

One of the key pillars of GFA’s Fashion CEO Agenda framework is ‘Smart Material Choices’. Fibre production and consumption has substantial implications for people and the environment. Industry practices not only affect ecosystems, but also put farmers’, communities’ and workers’ well-being at risk. Fashion businesses and enabling stakeholders such as policymakers must collectively support an industry-wide transition towards preferred raw materials, scaled innovation and slow growth in annual production and consumption of finite materials.

During COP28, Textile Exchange released the 2023 Materials Market Report which helps inform the textile industry’s efforts to reduce emissions associated with raw material production in line with a 1.5-degree temperature rise pathway. The report shows that global fibre production increased from around 112 million tonnes in 2021 to a record 116 million tonnes in 2022. This is expected to grow to 147 million tonnes in 2030 if business continues as usual.

Fashion Designer, Stella McCartney presented ‘Stella McCartney’s Sustainable Market: Innovating Tomorrow’s Solutions’ concept at COP28. The exhibition showcased over 15 solutions in material innovation highlighting regenerative agriculture and bio- and plant-based alternatives to plastic, animal leather and fur, and traditional fibres. The space itself was 3D printed with PURE.TECH carbon-absorbing materials, which is said to actively remove harmful particles from the air.

Discover a curated selection of leading industry solutions in Global Fashion Agenda’s Innovation Forum here.

Loss and Damage Funding

The Loss and Damage fund agreement was seen as a major milestone at COP27 last year, but it was unclear how the promise would be fulfilled. On the first day of COP28, Parties reached an agreement on the operationalisation of the fund and funding arrangements. So far, $700m has been pledged to the loss and damage start-up fund, which will aim to keep up with the rising costs caused by extreme weather and slow-onset disasters in the countries most vulnerable to the climate crisis.

However, this sum is the equivalent of less than 0.2% of the irreversible economic and non-economic losses developing countries are facing from global heating every year. Plus, 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.

The fashion industry must also work to compensate the people it negatively impacts and prioritise reducing these consequences from the outset.

Policy’s Potential

If COP signalled one thing for fashion, it reaffirmed the power and potential of policy and legislation to transform the industry. The momentum from COP28 shouldn’t wane but instead fuel ongoing conversations, spur tangible policy engagement, solidify commitments, and above all, initiate immediate actions for a transformative pathway ahead.

A resounding message for all industries is the importance of cross-sectorial alliances, which were notably lacking for fashion on the COP agenda. Fashion is inextricably linked to a number of global industries and transformative progress is made even more challenging to implement without meaningful collaboration. It is time to break down silos, enable impactful partnerships, and drive progress on a greater scale.

GFA extends solidarity and gratitude to the activists, youth representatives, Indigenous Peoples, civil society members, Small Island States, and all of those who worked tirelessly at COP to amplify crucial messages on the agenda for the prosperity of our planet and its communities.

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