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UN Fashion Industry Charter Renews ‘Net-Zero’ Commitment, Urges Government Action

A year after the United Nations rallied industry heavyweights to sign the Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action, brands such as Adidas, Burberry, Gap, H&M, Inditex, Kering, Levi Strauss, Puma and Stella McCartney have reiterated their support for achieving the collective goal of net-zero emissions, in line with the terms of the 2015 Paris Agreement, “no later” than 2050.

A joint communiqué, issued Monday and endorsed by more than 70 companies, acknowledged that current solutions and businesses models will be “insufficient to deliver on the climate agenda” and limit global temperature increases to a further 1.5 degrees Celsius, which would mitigate the worst effects of climate change. Instead, the fashion industry must “embrace deeper, more system change” to bring low-carbon solutions to scale.

As part of the charter, signatories have pledged to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions in their supply chains by 30 percent by 2030 and to phase out coal-fired boilers and other sources of coal-fired heat and power generation in Tier 1 and Tier 2 factories and mills by 2025.

“We reaffirm our strong commitment under the charter…to work collaboratively to develop emission-reduction pathways, work programs and tools necessary to achieve our emission reduction targets [and] to invest in sustainable production and related technologies,” the communiqué read.

The brands also called for the leaders of major fashion production and consumer markets to partner with the charter to promote the “rapid phase out” of non-renewable energy by providing guidance in the form of government roadmaps, incentives for research into biomass-based alternatives and “credible and legally recognized” green tariffs and power purchase agreements for manufacturers and suppliers.

“Political support in these countries, in the form of enabling conditions, is needed to achieve effective, just and sustainable climate solutions,” the communiqué noted.

Stand.Earth, an environmental nonprofit that has taken the fashion industry to task for leaning on “false solutions” to meet their climate commitments, praised the charter for moving the conversation “on the right track” but urged more companies to follow up with ambitious, time-bound and science-based targets.

“We applaud the UN fashion charter’s work to incentivize renewable energy in nations where coal-fired power is the standard method of powering mills and factories, and we hope to see its signatories get to work right away in transitioning their global supply chains off dirty fossil fuels,” Liz McDowell, director of the Filthy Fashion campaign at Stand.earth, said in a statement. “The world is literally on fire—there’s no time to wait.”

A report published by the group in October found that only two out of 45 major fashion companies—Levi Strauss and American Eagle—have announced targets that align with the Paris Agreement’s goal to cap temperature increases at 1.5 degrees Celsius. The rest have made commitments that would “put the world on a path” to 2 degrees or more of warming, paving the way for higher sea-level rises and more frequent extreme-weather events, including droughts, storm surges and hurricanes.

Stand.Earth name-checked brands such as Disney, Primark, Louis Vuitton, Macy’s, and Nordstrom—“and even ‘green’ brands like REI and L.L. Bean”—for “completely failing” to take any kind of meaningful climate action in their supply chains.

“As the world’s fourth largest polluter on the planet, the fashion industry has an enormous responsibility to clean up its emissions, and the creative ability and consumer demand to rapidly transform the sector,” said Maya Rommwatt, a climate campaigner at Stand.earth, said.

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