By now you will definitely have heard of COP26, the climate conference taking place in Glasgow at the moment. But what actually is it? And what will it mean for the future of the fashion industry?
COP26 is an annual conference of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and this year is the 26th iteration of the meeting. From its inception in 1994, the annual conference is hosted by the United Nations with 197 member-state countries from all over the world.
The conference aims to find ways to tackle climate change across the world, and this year's meeting is taking place at a critical juncture, with temperatures set to rise to above the tipping point of 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels by 2030. If this temperature is reached there will be catastrophic consequences for our planet, including increased wildfires, significant sea level rise and huge increases in droughts in many countries. This will lead to an unstable planet with decreasing levels of vital resources, including food and water. The impact of climate change has become even more obvious in the past year, with an increase in disastrous events like the flash flooding in Europe and China, wildfires in Australia and America and the global pandemic.
This year COP’s key goals include:
- Securing global net zero by mid-century (bringing the amount of carbon created by a country down to zero)
- Adapt to protect communities and natural habitats
- Mobilise finance, with developed countries promising to mobilise at least $100 billion in finance per year to help secure global net zero
The issues of COP26
Although COP26 will hopefully be a turning point for the climate crisis, it has many critics, including the youth activist Greta Thunberg, indigenous groups, particularly from South and Central America who are not being consulted on deforestation of the rainforest, and youth activists who feel they are disproportionately represented in comparison to old white men. Many of these groups believe COP26 may even hinder the fight against global climate change.
What the fashion industry needs to do
Fashion is one of the most polluting industries in the world, causing water pollution, soil degradation and billions of tonnes of waste to be sent to landfill every year. The increased use of fabrics such as polyester has also led to an increase in the petroleum industry in recent years. The industry is also complicit in the exploitation of millions of people. Our world leaders must include the fashion supply chain within their policies to manage climate change effectively.
The campaign group Fashion Roundtable sent an open letter to world leaders asking them to cooperate in achieving 5 key ambitions to achieve positive outcomes for the planet:
- Collective action to achieve net zero emissions by no later than 2050
- Resourcefulness in waste elimination
- Increase the responsibility of businesses towards their global supply chains
- Support skills and development in education to encourage children to learn the necessary skills to make, repair and reuse their clothes
- Frame solutions to the climate emergency around business models, with a shift in focus from profit and loss to a transition into the well being economy
These 5 key ambitions set out to reduce the production of clothing and limit the number of textiles that are thrown away every year. They would seem to be easily achievable by 2030, but they will not be realised without the help of our world leaders. Unfortunately the fashion industry is under-represented in COP26, with many progressive brands and research companies being unsuccessful in their bids to communicate with leaders the issues fashion is causing the planet.
How you can support the fight against climate change
Despite what politicians tell us, an individual using less plastic is only a drop in the ocean in terms of fighting climate change. The climate crisis has been created by large corporations, with the complicity of world leaders. There are a number of more effective ways we as individuals can fight for a more sustainable future:
Write to your MP
Many campaign groups including Fashion Roundtable have letters ready to be sent to your local MP who can take your concerns to parliament to fight for change.
Campaign to defund the private sector
The We Own It Campaign aims to bring companies that should be public-owned, like water, electricity and rail, back to public ownership, where they will no longer be profit driven. This includes water companies that are releasing raw sewage into our rivers, with no rivers in the UK currently safe for bathing.
Groups like Plastic Free Hackney and Surfers Against Sewage host regular litter picks, where you can help make our green spaces a better place to be. Every branded piece of litter found is recorded, enabling the biggest polluters like McDonald’s and Coca Cola to be held accountable for the pollution they create.
Flight climate change with your money
The theme of this year's COP26 is finance, as many of the world's leading banks, pension funds and insurers heavily invest in fossil fuels. Each month we unwittingly give money to these destructive companies. Make my money matter offers advice on where you should keep and invest your money that guarantees the planet will be put first.