A number of well-known fashion brands such as H&M, M&S and C&A are supporting initiatives in Bangladesh that encourage the use of more recycled materials in clothing production. This initiative is targeted to significantly reduce global warming emissions resulting from the industry by 2030.
The Circular Fashion Partnership, a project announced this week, brings together more than 30 international brands, Bangladeshi recycling companies and garment manufacturers to reuse textile waste from clothing factories to make new products.
If successful, this initiative could be replicated in other countries, such as Indonesia and Vietnam, and help reduce emissions generated by the fashion industry on a broader scale, said the Global Fashion Agenda (GFA), the non-profit organization leading the new scheme.
In 2018, the sector's greenhouse gas emissions totaled more than 2 billion tonnes, a figure that will need to be halved by 2030, to be in line with global climate goals, according to the GFA.
"Reducing environmental impacts such as greenhouse gas emissions and circular systems can go hand in hand," said GFA spokeswoman Alice Roberta Taylor in her written emailed comments.
The partnership will reduce carbon emissions from clothing production and demand for raw materials, which include fossil fuels, by reducing the amount of waste and increasing the use of recycled materials, wrote Alice Roberta Taylor.
Under the 2015 Paris climate accord, nearly 200 countries agreed to cut greenhouse gas emissions to zero by the middle of this century and limit the rise in global average temperatures to well below 2 degrees Celsius.
According to 2020 research by GFA and McKinsey & Company, the fashion industry generates 4 percent of global climate warming emissions. This figure is equivalent to the combined annual emissions of France, Germany and the UK.
But in 2019 the UN Environment Program said the fashion industry's contribution to global carbon emissions had reached 10 percent, or more of all international aviation and maritime shipping combined. This industry is also declared as the second largest water consuming industrial sector in the world.
Bangladesh is a lowland country and is considered highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change such as increased flooding, storms and sea level rise. The country is also the second largest clothing producer in the world whose economy is heavily dependent on the garment industry.
So far, most of the waste from the garment industry is exported or recycled for less valuable uses, the GFA said.
Miran Ali, director of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, said it was time for the fashion industry to move away from a linear business model of the take-make-dispose model and towards a circular, more sustainable approach.
Because Bangladeshi factories produce large volumes of goods, the waste is standardized, making it relatively easy to handle, he said. "Therefore, Bangladesh can become a global leader in the circular economy," he said in a statement.
Last year, the Green Climate Fund, a body set up to help developing countries adopt clean energy and adapt to climate change, approved a separate project to help reduce emissions in Bangladesh's garment sector by enabling more efficient use of energy.
H&M, one of Bangladesh's biggest industrial clients, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation that it is working to transform its entire business model to be "completely circular and climate positive."
To achieve this, the Swedish clothing manufacturer is targeting its supply chain to be climate neutral, or meaning not contribute to global warming - and only use recycled or other sustainably sourced materials by 2030.
Meanwhile, earlier this month China just launched a carbon trading system designed to reduce emissions. The world's largest polluting country is also taking steps towards decarbonizing the economy by 2060.
The trading scheme will for the first time allow provincial governments to set pollution limits for big business and allow companies to purchase rights to produce pollutants from sectors or other people that produce lower carbon footprints.
The program, which was originally set to launch in 2017, is expected to reduce overall emissions by making it more expensive for power companies to pollute. This system is expected to go beyond the European Union system to become the largest emissions trading scheme (ETS) in the world.
The official Xinhua news agency said the rules for managing carbon emissions trading came into effect. Thus, more than 2,200 power companies across the country can start trading their emission quotas. Every year, the electric energy sector in China is estimated to emit more than 26,000 tons of greenhouse gases.