Protect People = Protect Planet: World Humanitarian Day.
For climate science junkies and justice seekers alike, the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report is the equivalent of waking up on Christmas Day with all your sustainable, ethical, second hand or recycled charity card gifts laid before you.
The full 3,949-page report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the United Nations body charged with assessing the science related to climate change, unequivocally puts to rest the idea that human interference has had no bearing on our environment and resulting global temperature changes.
It is now undeniable.
“It is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land. Widespread and rapid changes in the atmosphere, ocean, cryosphere and biosphere have occurred,” say the 234 contributing scientists.
We are happy to take their word for it.
While dubbed a “code red for humanity”, the Report is the impetus needed to get global governments moving ahead of the COP26 meeting in Glasgow this October/November. Because if we don’t, the outlook isn’t good.
“Global warming of 1.5°C and 2°C will be exceeded during the 21st century unless deep reductions in CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions occur in the coming decades,” says the IPCC.
What will this mean?
“With every additional increment of global warming, changes in extremes continue to become larger. For example, every additional 0.5°C of global warming causes clearly discernible increases in the intensity and frequency of hot extremes, including heatwaves (very likely), and heavy precipitation (high confidence), as well as agricultural and ecological droughts in some regions (high confidence).”
And that is just the beginning.
Right, then. Work to do.
The fashion industry is certainly not exempt.
According to McKinsey & Company and Global Fashion Agenda (GFA), the global fashion industry accounts for 4% of the world’s total annual greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs), or 2.1 billion tonnes, “equivalent to the combined annual GHG emissions of France, Germany and the United Kingdom”.
McKinsey predicts that,
“If no further action is taken over the next decade beyond measures already in place, the industry’s GHG emissions will likely rise to around 2.7 billion tonnes a year by 2030, reflecting an annual volume growth rate of 2.7%.”
In short, under its current trajectory, the fashion industry will miss the 1.5-degree pathway by 50%.
This comes “as a result of shifting population and consumption patterns”. In other words, the world’s population will grow and people, driven by our culture of excess consumption, are expected to buy even more stuff.
But not just any stuff. The more sinister issue is the making of fashion in the wrong way, with the wrong materials and chemicals, in high volumes that cause not only environmental but human harm and largely end up in landfills*, and often the landfills of developing nations.
As Greta Thunberg noted in a recent Instagram post:
“The fashion industry is a huge contributor to the climate and ecological emergency, not to mention its impact on the countless workers and communities who are being exploited around the world in order for us to enjoy fast fashion that many treat as disposables.”
Around 70% of the fashion industry’s emissions come from upstream activities such as materials production, preparation and processing. The remaining 30% are associated with downstream retail operations, the use-phase and end-of-use activities, says McKinsey.
But, as with the IPCC Report, there is hope - not impending doom - if we commit ourselves - collectively - to a roadmap of accelerated GHG abatement. Now.
“We estimate that the industry can reduce its annual emissions to around 1.1 billion tons—or around half of today’s figure—but it will require significant additional effort beyond current decarbonization activities,” says McKinsey.
“This ‘accelerated abatement’ requires fashion industry stakeholders to reduce emissions across the entire value chain, from upstream production and processing, through retail operations, to the consumers themselves.”
Of course at Outland Denim, a brand founded to help some of the most vulnerable onto solid, sustainable paths of prosperity, we are very interested in the intersection of social and climate injustice. We have never felt that the two are inseparable as the world’s most vulnerable people on a social and economic level also bear the brunt of climate change.
According to the UN’s humanitarian office, the OCHA, “people living in low-income countries are at least four times more likely to be displaced by extreme weather compared to people in rich countries, despite being the least responsible for climate change.”
To further our commitment, Outland Denim has signed up to the B Corp “Net Zero by 2030” pledge, while we continue to utilise the least impactful raw materials**, packaging and manufacturing processes, and are 100% transparent about our operations through our annual Impact Reports; this is our social contract with you, our customers, and also the wider global community. (Read our 2020 Sustainability Report here).
This World Humanitarian Day, we are going a step further, wearing our “Sucker for Humanity” tees and joining #TheHumanRace, the UN initiative presenting us with a global challenge for climate action in solidarity with people who need it the most. This is aimed at putting the needs of climate-vulnerable people front and centre at the UN Climate Summit (COP26).
Run, ride, swim, walk or do any activity of your choice for a cumulative 100 minutes between August 16 and August 31 in solidarity with vulnerable people and to tell world leaders that they expect developed countries to deliver on their decade-old pledge of $100 billion annually for climate mitigation and adaptation in developing countries. If you don’t wish to take part physically you can ADD YOUR VOICE.
Today, you too can stand in solidarity with the world's most vulnerable people by using these hashtags in your social media activities #TheHumanRace #WorldHumanitarianDay.
*Australia is the second highest consumer of textiles per person in the world, after the United States of America. Each Australian consumes an average of 27 kilograms of new clothing per year and disposes an average 23 kilograms of clothing to landfill each year, or 93 per cent of the textile waste we generate. Source: https://www.environment.gov.au/protection/waste/product-stewardship/textile-waste-roundtable
**McKinsey reports that in 2030, after accelerated abatement measures have been applied, almost 63% of remaining GHG emissions are likely to come from the raw material production of the value chain where abatement is especially difficult without a move toward fully organic materials and at-scale adoption of sustainable materials to remain on the 1.5 degree pathway. Organic cotton is around 50% less emissions intensive than conventional cotton due to limited use of pesticides and fertilizers and more advanced farming practises.
World Humanitarian Day was designated in memory of the 19 August 2003 bomb attack on the Canal Hotel in Baghdad, Iraq, killing 22 people, including the chief humanitarian in Iraq, Sergio Vieira de Mello. In 2009, the United Nations General Assembly formalized the day as World Humanitarian Day (WHD).
This World Humanitarian Day 2021 we particularly acknowledge humanitarian workers on the frontlines in Haiti and Afghanistan.