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TEXAS – US consultants Textile Exchange have called for trade sweeteners and other financial incentives to encourage the production and adoption of organic cotton, recycled polyester and other fibres it deems beneficial on its list of ‘preferred fibres’. In a document presented to COP26, supported by over 50 companies and organisations, Textile Exchange argued that by narrowing price premiums – for instance between conventional and organic cotton – trade mechanisms can be used “to incentivise the increased production and adoption of environmentally preferred materials.”

“This important but often overlooked policy lever can make these fibres more favourable than, or at least equal to, their conventional counterparts,” said Textile Exchange. “Using trade policy to incentivise better practice in materials sourcing can work alongside regulations and penalties to promote positive action instead.

“It has the potential to level the playing field financially for companies committed to sourcing environmentally preferred materials, without negatively impacting their supply chain or the farmers who grow the fibres.”

Textile Exchange defines “preferred materials” as those from certified, verified sources that can be traced from raw material to finished product, and that are connected to data-driven environmental impact reduction. “Organic cotton typically has a lower carbon footprint than conventional cotton, for example, as is the case with recycled polyester when compared to virgin polyester,” claims Textile Exchange.

Textile Exchange’s argument is that in a sector where growth is a given, only by using textile fibres with lower environmental impact will it be possible to hit emissions targets. The counter-argument to this is that not all are in agreement with the reliability of the self-declared list of preferred fibres of Textile Exchange.

In a press release, it said: “Global fibre production has almost doubled in the last 20 years from 58 million tons in 2000 to 109 million tons in 2020. While it is not yet clear how the pandemic and other factors will impact future development, production is expected to increase by another 34 per cent to 146 million tons in 2030 if the sector builds back to business as usual.

“With this continued growth, it will be increasingly difficult for the industry to meet science-based targets for climate and nature. This request provides governments with a tangible action to remove a key barrier to scaling environmentally preferred materials: increased cost.

“Since nearly all major fashion producing and consuming countries have signed the Paris Agreement, it is addressed to every government present at COP26. With the recognition that appropriate policy initiatives may differ by jurisdiction, in this critical moment at COP26, the apparel and textile industry urges policy-makers to consider working together to develop thoughtful trade policy mechanisms to incentivize the use of environmentally preferred materials. In turn, this would enable achievement of Textile Exchange’s industry goal of a 45 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the pre-spinning phase of textile fibre and material production by 2030, in line with the Paris Agreement.”

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