COP26: What does the Glasgow Climate Pact mean for apparel?
The world watched intently as 190 countries negotiated at the COP26 UN Climate Conference in Glasgow. Laura Husband shares a round-up of the final agreement and how the apparel industry and global supply chains can make a positive difference moving forward.
The COP26 Glasgow Climate Pact, which is based on limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, concluded on Saturday 13 November with all 190 countries agreeing to the Glasgow Climate Pact which finalised the outstanding elements of the Paris Agreement.
The Paris Agreement was born at COP21 where every country agreed to work together to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees and aim for 1.5 degrees, to adapt to the impacts of a changing climate, and to make money available to deliver on these aims.
The consensus at COP26 means all of the countries involved have agreed on the need to urgently accelerate climate action.
The Glasgow Climate Pact, combined with increased ambition and action from 190 countries, means that 1.5 degrees Celsius remains in sight and scales up action on dealing with climate impacts – but it will only be delivered with immediate global efforts.
COP26 President Alok Sharma explained: “We can now say with credibility that we have kept 1.5 degrees alive. But, its pulse is weak and it will only survive if we keep our promises and translate commitments into rapid action.
“From here, we must now move forward together and deliver on the expectations set out in the Glasgow Climate Pact, and close the vast gap which remains. Because as Prime Minister Mia Mottley told us at the start of this conference, for Barbados and other small island states, ‘two degrees is a death sentence’.
He added: “It is up to all of us to sustain our lodestar of keeping 1.5 degrees within reach and to continue our efforts to get finance flowing and boost adaptation. After the collective dedication which has delivered the Glasgow Climate Pact, our work here cannot be wasted.”
The COP26 agreement
The decisions made by the world leaders at COP26 will affect every facet of the global apparel industry from those growing cotton in the field to those using CAD systems to create digital samples that do not need to be physically shipped anywhere.
Given that the World Bank reported in 2019 the apparel industry is responsible for 10% of annual global carbon emissions, it is essential the apparel industry takes on board the COP26 agreement and works with governments to make a positive difference.
The decisions made at COP26 were divided into sections:
- Science and urgency
- Adaptation finance
- Finance, technology transfer and capacity-building for mitigation and adaptation
- Loss and damage
Science and urgency
The first section of the COP26 agreement means that both countries and global industries, including the apparel sector need to recognise the importance of the best available science for effective climate action and policy making.
The wider apparel industry needs to be aware of the alarm and utmost concern that human activities have caused around 1.1 degrees Celsius of warming to date and accept that impacts are already being felt in every region. The carbon budgets consistent with achieving the Paris Agreement temperature goal are now small and are being rapidly depleted.
The apparel industry does have a bad reputation for polluting the earth so it needs to work with governments and nations to address the urgency of taking action in this critical decade to reduce climate change.
This section of the agreement notes that climate and weather extremes and their adverse impacts on people and nature will continue to increase with every additional increment of rising temperatures.
This will affect every aspect of the apparel industry and will have a detrimental effect on those working with the raw natural materials.
The agreement points out there needs to be an urgent scaling up of action and support, including finance, capacity building, and technology transfer, to enhance adaptive capacity, strengthen resilience and reduce vulnerability to climate change in line with the best available science, taking into account the priorities and needs of developing country parties.
The global apparel industry has developing countries within its supply chains so this is an area where manufacturers and retailers might be able to help their suppliers.
The agreement urges developed countries to significantly scale up their provision of climate finance, technology transfer, and capacity-building for adaptation so as to respond to the needs of developing countries as part of a global effort. This includes the formulation and implementation of national adaptation plans and adaptation communications.
This is an area where the wider apparel industry can work closely with suppliers in developing countries to find out how they can make changes to improve operations and make them more climate-friendly moving forward.
The agreement is also asking multilateral development banks, financial institutions, and the private sector to enhance finance mobilisation to deliver the scale of resources needed to achieve climate plans, particularly for adaptation. It encourages parties to continue to explore innovative approaches and instruments for mobilising finance for adaptation from private sources.
This is an area where the apparel industry can show its support by investing in the resources developing countries need to stay on track with their sustainability targets.
This section of the agreement reaffirms the Paris Agreement temperature goal of holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
The entire apparel supply chain can do its part by addressing the changes that will be needed to ensure the apparel industry helps towards this temperate goal as opposed to making it worse.
This includes accelerating the development, deployment, and dissemination of technologies, and the adoption of policies, to transition towards low-emission energy systems such as rapidly scaling up the deployment of clean power generation. It also includes energy efficiency measures, such as accelerating efforts towards the phase-out of unabated coal power and inefficient fossil fuel subsidies.
Finance, technology transfer, and capacity-building
Developed countries are being urged to provide enhanced support, including financial resources, technology transfer and capacity-building, to assist developing countries with both mitigation and adaptation. This is in continuation of their existing obligations under the Convention and the Paris Agreement, and encourages other countries or parties to provide or continue to provide such support voluntarily.
The apparel industry continues to rely heavily on the resources and factories based within developing countries. By working more closely with developing country governments to aid financial and technological resources the apparel industry could help to improve developing country sustainability targets and at the same time improve the sustainability of the apparel industry itself.
Loss and damage
The countries at COP26 acknowledge that climate change has already caused and will increasingly cause loss and damage and that, as temperatures rise, impacts from climate and weather extremes, as well as slow-onset events, will pose an ever-greater social, economic and environmental threat.
Non-government organisations and private sources, which include industries such as apparel, are being urged to provide enhanced and additional support for activities that address any loss or damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change.
All countries at COP26 have resolved to move swiftly with the full implementation of the Paris Agreement.
The agreement recognises the need to ensure all transitions promote sustainable development and eradication of poverty, as well as the creation of decent work and quality jobs. This includes making financial flows consistent with a pathway towards low greenhouse gas emission and climate-resilient development as well as the deployment and transfer of technology, and provision of support to developing countries.
If the apparel industry can offer developing countries more sustainable and decent jobs as well as innovative factories and set-ups with low greenhouse gas emissions, this will benefit the apparel industry itself as well as help the COP26 nations with their goal of implementing the Paris Agreement.
The art of collaboration
The final section of the agreement recognises the importance of international collaboration on innovative climate action, including technological advancement, across all actors of society, sectors and regions, in contributing to progress towards the goals of the Paris Agreement.
It also recognises the important role that non-party stakeholders will play in the future of the planet. This includes civil society contributing to the goals of the Paris Agreement and highlights the importance of all industries, including the apparel industry, companies and people to work together on this wider goal that will ultimately benefit all of us.
If the apparel industry can master the art of collaboration both within the sector and throughout each part of the supply chain as well as outside of it such as open discussions with country leaders, it will be able to make a positive impact for all concerned moving forward.
Main image credit: MAURO UJETTO / Shutterstock.com
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