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LONDON – The global fashion industry will need to cut its carbon emissions in half by 2030 to meet science-based climate targets. New McKinsey research claims the global fashion industry’s current decarbonisation pathway will see it fall way short of climate targets. The study aligns with research from Stand.Earth published this past week which shows the global fashion industry will fall way short of climate targets unless it takes dramatic action to eliminate fossil fuels from Asian supply chains.

The McKinsey report claims the apparel and footwear industry was responsible for 2.1 billion tonnes of CO2 emissions in 2018 – about 4 per cent of the global total. It suggests that if no further action is taken over the next decade beyond measures already in place, the industry’s CO2 emissions will likely rise to around 2.7 billion tonnes a year by 2030, reflecting an annual volume growth rate of 2.7 per cent. “This would more than double the maximum emissions required to align with the 1.5-degree pathway,” says the McKinsey study.

It claims that to align with the 1.5-degree pathway over the next decade, the fashion industry would need to reduce annual emissions to around 1.1 billion tonnes, around half of today’s figure. In practice, the consultants say this means embracing “accelerated abatement.”

“The immediate focus of accelerated abatement should be upstream operations, where around 60 per cent of emissions savings are possible, in particular from increased use of renewable energy, through collaborative efforts supported by brands and retailers,” the research claims. “Actions relating to brands’ own operations have the potential to deliver around 20 per cent of the reduction, with the remainder coming from changes in consumer behaviour. By 2030, these efforts will need to have created a significantly reformed fashion landscape, in which, for example, one out of five garments are traded through a circular business model.”

The study claims many of the required actions can be delivered at a moderate cost. “Around 90 per cent of the accelerated abatement can be delivered below a cost of around USD50 per tonne of GHG emissions,” claim the consultants. “Around 55 per cent of the actions required will lead to net cost savings on an industrywide basis. The remaining actions will require incentivisation in the form of consumer demand or regulations to deliver abatement.

“Additionally, around 60 per cent of the abatement will require upfront capital, where brands and retailers will need to support and collaborate with value chain players to invest for the long-term benefit of society and the environment.”

Karl-Hendrik Magnus, senior partner and co-leader of apparel, fashion & luxury group, McKinsey & Company said: ““The world has changed – consumers are looking for more sustainable companies and brands. Bold action is required if the fashion industry is to meet the ambitious target of aligning with a 1.5oC pathway in the next ten years. The good news for the fashion industry is that many of the required actions can be delivered with beneficial economics.”


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