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Perspectives: Climate protection today

The climate deal

The focus was on actively shaping climate action when the representatives of almost 200 countries met at the COP26 Global Summit in Glasgow last winter. The goal was to join forces in a bid to intensify global measures taken to find a solution to the climate crisis. In this context, the textile and clothing industry plays a pivotal role.

January 2022

Science shows that collective steps must be taken now if the fight against climate change is to succeed. The roughly 200 participating countries met at COP26 Climate Change Summit in Glasgow to speed up action. Their common goal is to reduce global warming to under 2 degrees Celsius, preferably limiting the increase to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels. In concrete terms that means that politics need to take more and more radical action to reach the sustainability goals set out by Agenda 2030 and ratified in the Paris Agreement. Climate protection has a primary role in this context and is the target of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 13. The industrial countries have the obligation to create circular global value chains, push innovation and assume direct responsibility by tackling the negative impact of global warming. And action is needed now considering that the impact of global warming is already being felt everywhere around the world. Extreme weather events are increasing, crops are failing, forest fires are occurring more frequently - to name just a few examples.

A milestone for the industry

The textile and fashion industry is one of the dirtiest industries worldwide. For this reason, the Fashion Charter for Climate Action ramped up its targets as part of the climate summit. The Fashion Charter has been signed by companies like Burberry, H&M, Adidas, Kering, Chanel and Nike, who plan to collectively step closer to the goals of the Paris Agreement. The updated Charter now calls on companies to set "Science Based Targets" and halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 as part of the overall goal to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. A significant step forward compared to the former target, which only called for an overall 30 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

Reducing emissions - but how?

Insetting versus Offsetting. One way to compensate emissions is to offset the carbon footprint as calculated in the Life Cycle Assessment by investing in environmental projects, a process called "offsetting". Serious offsetting specialists such as Climate Partner offer international certification showing how action taken influences the climate. Neonyt, Messe Frankfurt's leading community platform for fashion, sustainability and innovation, cooperated with Climate Partner as early as January 2020 in a bid to offset all the emissions created by the event. Compensations of this kind should be critically scrutinised and assessed on a regular basis in view of the criticism the approach is receiving. Critics argue that the crux with offsetting is that emissions are not reduced, as they should be in the first place, but are simply substituted elsewhere out of context. This is where "insetting" comes into play, with its principle of reducing emissions within a company's own supply chain. Examples for insetting are the use of green electricity, making environmentally friendly adaptations to buildings, electric mobility, low-carbon industrial processes and the expansion of recycling operations. Innovation pioneers and Heimtextil exhibitors like Trevira CS and Antex are focusing on new procedures that use ocean waste like fishing nets and PET bottles to produce recyclable yarns.  

Saying yes to circularity. The main objective of circularity is to prevent the production of waste altogether and ensure that no unsold goods or used clothes end up in landfills in the first place. The closed loop also takes into consideration the release of plastic microfibres and toxic substances produced in wet, dyeing and finishing processes. Freudenberg and Lenzing, also both exhibitors at Techtextil, have been credited with introducing successful circular innovations. Together, the two companies launched Comfortemp Lyocell, a sustainable high-performance thermal insulation padding material that uses eucalyptus wood from sustainable forests and decomposes 100 per cent in roughly two months.

The cost of carbon. The carbon emission allowances principle is quite simple. If you harm the environment you pay, if you avoid producing emissions, you benefit. In 2021, a fixed price for carbon dioxide emissions was introduced. The current price of 25 euros per ton will be gradually increased to 55 euros per ton by 2025. After this introductory period, pollution rights can be bought at auction, the total amount of allowances is based on climate targets.  The comprehensive pricing system provides incentives to companies to push innovation and research and develop new ideas to help the climate because, if emissions become more expensive, there will be more room for developing carbon-neutral products and new business models in the international market.

Together for the future

Time is short but if the industry stands united and takes swift action, it is still possible to change the direction.  If political regulations are put in place to speed up the implementation of climate protection measures, companies form up collective initiatives, carbon emission allowances are introduced and greenhouse gas emission are reduced along company supply chains, we will get closer to the goal of stopping global warming. Steps like providing updates on reduction plans contribute to reaching the SDGs. “This is an important milestone for the Fashion Charter, as it increases the ambition level in an effort to align the industry with 1.5 degrees. It is a signal that we need to work closely together with our peers, our supply chain, policymakers and consumers to get on the track to net-zero,” says Stefan Seidel of Puma, co-chair of the Fashion Industry Charter Steering Committee. One thing, however, is certain: there is still a long way to go to reach the goals of the Paris Agreement. The responsibility rests with everyone, whether it is consumers, companies, trade show organisers or politicians. But there are already signs of change, things are moving in the right direction.

With its Texpertise network, Messe Frankfurt has been shedding light on the latest sustainable development in panel discussions, press conferences, SDG lounges and other events worldwide every year and uses its global reach as leverage for a positive transformation in the industry and raise its awareness of the importance of the SDGs. These efforts to speed up innovation and change in the textile and fashion industry are a drop in the proverbial warming ocean but they contribute to reaching the sustainable development goals by 2030.

Alisa Keil

#Climate #Climate neutrality #Sustainable Development Goals #Paris Agreement #Supply chain #Insetting #Texpertise Network #Messe Frankfurt

Picture: Markus Spiske


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