UN climate change executive secretary Simon Stiell said in his closing speech at COP28: “Whilst we didn’t turn the page on the fossil fuel era in Dubai, this outcome is the beginning of the end.”

Stiell added that all governments – as well as businesses – need to turn the pledges made into “real-economy outcomes, without delay”.

While the overall message of the agreement has been welcomed, sector bodies AAFA and USFIA said there was more to be done, as they looked away from governments and towards private businesses for the changes needed.

What does the COP28 agreement say?

For the first time, the agreement calls on all parties to transition “away from fossil fuels in energy systems,” to achieve net zero by 2050.

The agreement also states that global greenhouse gas emissions need to be reduced by 43% compared to 2019 levels by 2030, to help limit global warming to 1.5°C.

The deal calls on all parties to take action towards achieving a tripling of renewable energy capacity and a doubling of energy efficiency globally by 2030.

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Efforts towards the phase-down of “unabated coal power” and the phasing out fossil fuel subsidies are also encouraged.

Nations are encouraged to share “ambitious economy-wide emission reduction targets” covering all greenhouse gases, all sectors and categories, aligned with the 1.5°C target by 2025.

How will these changes be funded?

Six countries pledged new funding for the Green Climate Fund, which now totals a record $12.8bn, including funding from 31 countries. New pledges totalling $188m were also promised to the Adaption Fund and further donations were made to the Least Developed Countries Fund and the Special Climate Change Fund.

However, in his closing speech, Stiell added that the project was currently less than half funded and called on parties to address the shortfall. The agreement states that COP29 must see governments establishing a new climate finance plan that reflects the scale and urgency of the challenge.

How has the apparel sector responded to the agreement?

AAFA’s sustainability director Chelsea Murtha told Just Style that the organisation welcomed COP28’s ambitious goals. She added: “The industry has welcomed SB253, California’s climate emissions disclosure requirements, and we are supporting members on implementation. Guided by our Threads Protocol, we will continue working with governments to adopt smart and effective policies, such as those that bolster renewable energy infrastructure, enable the scaled use of recycled and next generation materials and support the industry on its transparency journey.”

While there are well-intentioned actions by the fashion sector to lower its carbon footprint and help to meet the temperature target, previous data has suggested it will struggle to do so if it continues on its current trajectory.

Fashion industry experts have also previously emphasised the need to shift away from discussions towards implementation and tangible actions at COP28.

USFIA’s president Julie Hughes also welcomed the agreement to transition away from fossil fuels. She told Just Style: “It is important that world leaders came together and for the first time agreed to transition away from fossil fuels. Though obviously there is a lot more to be done.”

Hughes also noted that the pledges left room for businesses to address climate concerns without legislation. She added: “While USFIA is still assessing the outcome of COP28, it is clear to me that the real progress will continue to come from the private sector and not from governments.

“We see this already with the many fashion brands and retailers who are committed to sustainability and circularity initiatives. Our shared goal is to do what we can to make the world a better place for our customers, our colleagues and our suppliers,” Hughes added.