COP26: What does the Glasgow Climate Pact mean for apparel? - Just Style
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COP26: What does the Glasgow Climate Pact mean for apparel?

16 Nov 2021

Just Style reveals what the COP26 Glasgow Climate Pact, which is based on limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, means for the world and how the apparel industry and global supply chains can make a positive difference.

COP26 concluded in Glasgow 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 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 concerted and 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’.

“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.”

What was agreed at COP26 and what does it mean for apparel?

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
  • Adaptation finance
  • Mitigation
  • Finance, technology transfer and capacity-building for mitigation and adaptation
  • Loss and Damage
  • Implementation
  • Collaboration

COP26: What does science and urgency mean for the wider apparel industry?

This section of the COP26 agreement means that countries and global industries, such as the apparel sector need to recognise the importance of the best available science for effective climate action and policymaking.

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, and carbon budgets consistent with achieving the Paris Agreement temperature goal are now small and 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.

Adaptation

This section 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.

Adaptation finance

The agreement urges developed countries to urgently and 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, including for 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, and encourages parties to continue to explore innovative approaches and instruments for mobilising finance for adaptation from private sources.

This again is an area where the apparel industry could show its support by investing in the resources developing countries need to stay on track with sustainability targets.

Mitigation

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, including by rapidly scaling up the deployment of clean power generation and
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

This section of the agreement urges developed countries to provide enhanced support, including through financial resources, technology transfer and capacity-building, to assist developing countries with respect to both mitigation and adaptation, 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 again has a role to play in this as it relies so heavily on the resources and factories that are based within developing countries. The apparel industry could work more closely with developing country governments to aid financial and technological resources that will improve 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 loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change.

Implementation

All countries at COP26 have resolved to move swiftly with the full implementation of the Paris Agreement.

This section of the agreement recognises the need to ensure just transitions that promote sustainable development and eradication of poverty, and the creation of decent work and quality jobs, including through making financial flows consistent with a pathway towards low greenhouse gas emission and climate-resilient development, including through deployment and transfer of technology, and provision of support to developing countries.

If the apparel industry can offer developing countries sustainable and decent jobs this will not only benefit the apparel industry itself but will improve the sustainability of apparel and help the COP26 nations with their goal of implementing the Paris Agreement.

COP26: What does collaboration mean for the apparel industry?

This section of the COP26 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 of non-party stakeholders, including civil society in contributing to progress towards 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.

Ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26), Just Style’s editor Laura Husband hosted a panel with the apparel industry on the challenges and opportunities for tackling climate change right now.