The Outcomes of COP26: Textile Exchange and an Open Letter to Stella McCartney
2 weeks ago, we discussed the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP26, and the targets for world leaders to work towards. But amongst many other things, the fashion industry can be hugely damaging for the environment, causing demands from organisations to reduce the effects from fossil fuels that the industry has. Annually, the industry consumes 98 million tonnes of non-renewable resources and is the second largest consumer of the world’s water supply. The amount of greenhouse gases emitted each year between France, Germany and the UK combined equates to the same amount emitted by the fashion industry. In the last 20 years, global fibre production has nearly doubled from 58 million tonnes to 109 million tonnes, inspiring action at the conference.
Organisation Textile Exchange submitted a trade policy request at COP26 to incentivise the use of less carbon intensive materials like organic cotton and recycled fibres which have a much lower carbon footprint. The non-profit organisation’s request is supported by more than 50 brands, suppliers, retailers, NGOs, and industry associations, and comes after their aim to accelerate progress towards its industry goal of a 45% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from textile fibre and material production by 2030, aligning with the Paris Agreement. Textile Exchange has a history of positively impacting our climate by pushing these materials cross the industry, but this trade policy request is specifically to work amongst governments to recognise the essentials for incentives, which in the past for a 2018 project has been tax credits and/ or suspension and duty reductions of imported products.
As well as this, designer Stella McCartney has taken action during COP26 by creating a pledge to eliminate the use of animal leather and fur. “To protect our shared future, I pledge to consciously reduce the amount of animal-based products I consume in order to combat the climate and biodiversity crises. I call upon all industries to join me in this effort by ending the use of animal leathers and fur.” However, the Confederation of National Associations of Tanners and Dressers of the European Community (COTANCE) have written a letter to the designer in response to her pledge. Whilst her beliefs are respected, COTANCE challenge her due to the fact that animal skin and hides will forever be around, as long as people are eating meat. Not only that but, the pledge actually opposes circular fashion. President of COTANCE, Manuel Rios, addressed that the leather industry recycles 8 million tonnes of hides and skins annually, so if this was to stop, 5 million tonnes of greenhouse gases would be generated from their decomposition which equates to the yearly emissions of over 1 million average cars. On top of that, the production of other clothing to replace leather could produce high amount of carbon emissions and therefore contribute to pollution.
“Livestock must be part of the solution for reaching the COP26 objectives, and leather is part of the equation. Of course, tanning must be performed according to the state-of-the-art. And we censure tanners who do not respect essential social and environmental standards. Such standards exist and have been made freely available, among others, by COTANCE, IULTCS and UNIDO.” – Manuel Rios to Stella McCartney.
As a brand that creates products using leather, we support the statements made in the letter to Stella McCartney, as we use a particular type of leather (veg tan) that does not use toxic chemicals in the process. As stated by the president of COTANCE, meat consumption is an issue that will be around for the for the foreseeable, so attempting to end the use of leather will not reduce the environmental effects and will potentially cause consumers to purchase more items that will contribute to global warming.
The efforts throughout COP26 are mixed, not to mention the variety of responses from world leaders. The final Glasgow agreement includes a promise of increased inclusion of indigenous communities in the UN climate convention process, and more than 100 world leaders have committed to end and reverse deforestation by 2030. However, unsurprisingly, China and India objected to the goal of phasing out polluting coal power and refused to sign a deal setting a date for ending the sale of petrol and diesel vehicles. As well as this, the $100 billion needed that was originally promised by developed countries to finance clean development and adaptation in poor countries is yet to be coughed up.
The trade policy request from Textile Exchange could be impactful, however the result from the conference has been disappointing due to the lack of commitment from countries and of course the pledge made by Stella McCartney. At Scarlet Destiny, we hope that the promises that have been made are impactful enough to meet the targets and to limit the temperature of global warming to 1.5 degrees.
What are your thoughts on the outcome of COP26?
Information sourced from: textileexchange.org, leather.org, @nicholasrobin78 (Instagram)
Image 1 sourced from: Jurgen Jester, Pixabay
Image 2 sourced from: Jim Black, Pixabay
Image 3 sourced from: m0851, Unsplash
Image 4 sourced from: Patrick Perkins, Unsplash
Image 5 sourced from: Mika Baumeister, Unsplash