Carbon Neutral Is The New Black

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (PICC) issued a special report earlier in 2018 that global warming is likely to reach 1.5°C between 2030 and 2052 if it continues to increase at the current rate (IPCC, 2018). And yeah, 2030 is only 11 years away. In order to prevent warming past 1.5°C, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions would need to be reduced by about 45% (from 2010 levels) by 2030, and then reach net zero by 2050. That requires making some serious change.

As we know, the fashion industry has a pretty bad rap for being a major contributor to climate change. Definitely on Santa’s naughty list. I mean we can’t have the North Pole melting can we? But on December 10th, fashion industry leaders participated in the United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP24), and have made a change that just might be good enough to land them back on the nice list. Nearly 30,000 people converged in Poland over a two-week period in December to find solutions to the biggest global climate challenges and solutions that we face as a global community. Now fashion industry leaders are stepping up to be part of the solution.

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During COP24, 43 fashion industry leaders signed onto the Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action. This is a big deal because it is an industry-led collective agreement to prioritize addressing the root cause of climate change over business as usual. Original signatories of the Charter include Adidas, Burberry, Gap, H&M, Levis, PUMA, Target, and Stella McCartney, to name just a few. The Charter contains a set of recognized truths, and 16 principles of commitment to get serious about addressing the impact the fashion industry has on global climate change.

Combined, the Charter signatories have agreed to reduce GHG emissions by 30% by 2030. It is particularly significant for one of the companies – Maersk, a global logistics company – to reduce transportation emissions. The companies have also committed to transparently publishing the emissions data. While reducing emissions 30% by 2030 is a respectable goal and good first step, according to the IPCC we need to reduce emissions by 45%  – not 30% – by 2030 to limit global warming to 1.5°C. This means other industries would have to reduce emissions by 60% in order to “make up” the difference.

In addition to reducing GHG emissions, the signatory brands will also support the movement towards circular business models, and educate consumers about the carbon footprint caused in the use and end of life phases of products. They will encourage a change in consumer behaviors to extend the useful life of products and lower their environmental impact.

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The goals agreed to during the Paris Agreement aim to reach carbon neutrality around 2050. While the charter doesn’t expressly commit to net zero emissions by 2050, the brands will be working to lay the groundwork to meet that goal. Part of that includes setting a de-carbonization pathway for the fashion industry. They will also analyze ways to change their business models to make systemic change and apply low-carbon solutions.

While ideally the Charter would have aimed to reduce emissions by 45% by 2030, I still applaud these industry leaders for coming to the negotiating table and wanting to be part of the solution. I’m looking forward to seeing what kind of impact the immeasurable commitments such as consumer education and business model change have on consumer habits in the years to come. You can read the full Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action here. It’s only 7 pages and most of it is bulleted lists, so you totally got this. The Charter is open for other brands and fashion industry stakeholders to sign on in the future. What other brands do you think should sign onto the Charter? Do you think a commitment to reduce GHG emissions by 30% is enough, or should they aim for 45%? Let me know in the comments!

XO Kristen

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