How fashion can avoid blowing up the Paris Agreement
This year, a clear picture will emerge as to how committed fashion is to sustainability.
Brands have signed en masse to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, buying carbon offsets and developing new sustainable materials — all profound shifts for an industry entrenched in its ways. The jury is still out as to whether this means genuine transformation, but it won’t be for long. “[Fashion is] at a crossroads where one direction leads to a rapid scale-up of implementation that’ll turn it into a real climate leader,” says Liz McDowell, director at environmental organisation Standearth. “The other direction leads to more commitments, but without real implementation…ultimately would be large-scale greenwash.”
An informal survey of experts suggests that the industry has done a masterful job of dabbling in innovation and running pilot projects, but hasn’t yet brought any of it to the scale that’s needed. Today, the fashion industry produces about 8 per cent of the maximum carbon emissions possible if the rise in global temperatures is to be limited to two degrees Celsius. On its current path, the industry could produce more than 26 per cent of those emissions by 2050, according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. And for all the commitments made in 2019, progress may have slowed.
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