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Retailers accelerate shift to forest friendly fibres at COP27

(Source: Reuters)

Retailers including H&M, Kering and Inditex will purchase over half a million tonnes of low-carbon alternative fibres for clothing and packaging to help reduce global emissions, they said Monday.

The announcement by 33 brands, printers and producers coincides with COP27 climate talks taking place in Egypt until the end of this week to seek to step up ambition on curbing global warming.

Fashion accounts for about 10 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions, World Bank figures show.

Global emissions have continued to increase even as temperatures this year reached record levels.

A UN report in October showed emissions were likely to rise 10.6 per cent by 2030 from 2010 levels.

Retailers agreed to purchase 550,000 tonnes of alternative fibres – made from waste textiles and agricultural residues instead of forest fibres. Every tonne of clothing produced using these alternative fibres will save between four and 15 tonnes of carbon per tonne of product, NGO Canopy, which convened the group, said.

Over 3.2 billion trees are cut down each year to produce fibre for packaging and clothing. Moving to low-carbon alternatives could help the industry to avoid almost a giga-tonne of CO2 emissions between now and 2030, Canopy said.

Canopy founder Nicole Rycroft said the shift could “kickstart the transition” from supply chains based on using resources that end up in landfill to a more circular approach.

Lower carbon fibres make up a tiny fraction of the 7.5 million tonnes of man-made fibres produced each year, which Rycroft said was in part because of the challenge of accessing finance to scale new technologies.

“Moving towards more sustainable alternatives for our materials plays a crucial role [reducing] our absolute emissions by 56 per cent by 2030 and achieving net-zero by 2040,” Cecilia Stromblad Brannsten, head of resource use and circular impact at H&M Group, said.

The agreement will help to unlock finance for 10-20 low-footprint pulp mills to produce these alternative fibres by securing offtake agreements from retailers, Canopy said.

Inditex has committed to using 100 per cent sustainable cellulosic fibres by 2023.

For daily comprehensive coverage on COP27 in your inbox, sign up for the Reuters Sustainable Switch newsletter here

  • Reporting by Virginia Furness; Editing by Matt Scuffham and Barbara Lewis, of Reuters.

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