Last year’s Cop26 covered the vast spectrum of sustainability, with experts, figures and speakers from government and industry. The 2021 United Nations Climate Change Convention was held in Glasgow back in October. So who was there and what has happened since? Let’s explore whether statements have been truthful and backed up – and what can we, therefore, expect from COP27?
Some of the prominent and recognisable figures within the sustainable movement that attended last year were Ellen MacArthur of Ellen MacArthur Foundation, Boyan Slat of The Ocean CleanUp, along with luxury to high-street brands such as Stella McCartney, Burberry, Phoebe English, Mother of Pearl and Puma to name a few. These significant organizations and brands provide a level of hope for the fashion industry, with Stella McCartney being the first of her kind as a vegan luxury brand, Phoebe English only using textile waste, the rest should be following through to the cleaner path of fashion.
Sectors from the UK Government were also present, with the Energy and Climate secretary, the Chief Scientific Advisor, and the PM’s Finance Advisor. Other notable figures include author and sustainability expert Marga Hoek (The Trillion Dollar Shift) and carbon expert Mike Berners Lee (There is no planet B). Innovators included “green” entrepreneur Dale Vince, founder of Ecotricity and Sky Diamonds; and solar – powered aviation pioneer Bertrand Piccard who founded Solar Impulse Foundation. To an extent we feel relieved knowing that there is a tech and innovative force behind sustainability, however necessity and accessibility provokes certain debates. While Sky Diamonds being the lab – grown and sustainable alternative to unethically mined diamonds, and Bertrand Piccard demonstrating the immense potential of renewable energy and technology by flying 43,000km without using any fuel, what does this show about society’s attachment to capitalism? Can we use technology in creating greener spaces rather than greener products?
Specific pledges were made during the evening. A major deal to halt global deforestation was implemented and signed by the US, China and Brazil. Pledges were made in regards to The Paris Agreement. To limit the global temperature from rising to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels as they were in the 1990s, a move towards sourcing electricity from renewable and environmentally friendly sources by 2030, according to the Climate Crisis Advisory Group. Brands and businesses are encouraged to set science-based targets to net-zero across the supply chain.
Where was fashion in the conversation? A strong presence from the luxury sector did not guarantee a platform for representation of the trade union or supply chain workers. The conversation surrounding fossil fuels and agriculture was left out, despite fashion being the 7th largest economy. According to Fashion Revolution’s Transparency Index 2021, the fashion brands that attended the conference, not a single one discloses their annual production volumes. Merely 14% of brands, 34 to be exact, are transparent about this information. How will we achieve global carbon reduction without addressing the climate impact of consumption and production? It seems the conference is guilty of greenwashing.
With the main focus of the conference being towards carbon, the UN’s Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action also proposed a commitment to net-zero by 2050.
What has happened since? The UK government announced key areas of ‘cash, coal and cars’ to keep the global temperatures down, regarding the Paris Agreement. Electric vehicles sales have doubled last year, as manufacturers and consumers embrace cleaner technology, but the future for said technology is uncertain as the war in Eastern Europe is disproportionately affecting supply chains. “Green” campaigners argue that the government should shift their focus towards investing in public transport. According to the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), one of the quickest ways to decrease the demand for oil is making public transport cheaper or free of cost.
On the latter, there has been an unfortunate ongoing investment in fossil fuels. According to Mark Carney, co-chair of Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero has stated that it is upon governments’ responsibility to regulate and provide incentives that would encourage industries into cleaner direction. Following the conference, the Amazon has seen devastating deforestation levels from Brazil. According to recent data from Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research, more than 3,900 square kilometers of the Amazon was cleared in the first six months of 2022, which is five times the size of New York City. As a result, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is under scrutiny and called by international organisations to stricten laws on indigenous land protection and rights.
What has been fashion’s move since? As recently as 2019, the UK rejected bans on sending unsold and discarded to landfill, derisive of the uprising movements of reselling, refashioning and recycling. As of recent, the main attraction in fashion have been tech-based innovations, with digital fashion and NFTs dominating the platforms, sustainability falls by the wayside of social media.