That Climate Week NYC coincides with global fashion month carries both a striking and poignant message. Despite the fashion industry's collective commitment to move towards net-zero emissions, it remains a significant contributor to pollution, largely due to its reliance on fossil fuels.
The week commenced with the launch of the Fossil Fuel Fashion Campaign, featuring panel discussions as a central element, albeit with a need for greater actionable solutions. Hosted at NYC's Morgan Library by The Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the event gathered prominent figures, including Ugandan climate justice activist Vanessa Nakate, Eco-Age Founder Livia Firth MBE, Eco-Age Policy Director George Harding-Rolls, Harjeet Singh from the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty Initiative, Rachel Kitchin from Stand.earth, and Cameren Bullins from The Rockefeller Brothers Fund.
The Fossil Fuel Fashion campaign underscores the intrinsic connection between the fossil fuel industry and fashion. It highlights the direct link between the rapid growth of fast fashion and its heavy reliance on synthetic fibers derived from fossil fuels, emphasizing that one cannot exist without the other.
Vanessa Nakate, a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and climate justice activist, emphasizes how fashion perpetuates global inequality, particularly between the Global North and the Global South. She stresses the urgency of a swift and equitable transition away from fossil fuels within the fashion industry to achieve climate justice.
The campaign outlines three essential calls to action: a fair phase-out of fossil fuel-based materials, commitment to science-based climate targets, and unwavering support for systemic legislative action. Mr Harding-Rolls underscored the pervasive presence of fossil fuels in fashion, from supply chains tainted by oil-derived polyester to the environmental impact of discarded plastic clothing.
Synthetic fibers, notably polyester, primarily sourced from oil and gas, are projected to account for 73 percent of fiber production by 2030. These materials also represent a significant revenue stream for the fossil fuel industry, allowing it to persist despite global decarbonization efforts.
"As someone who has been campaigning against overproduction and overconsumption fuelled by the fashion industry for many years, I welcome a campaign that finally unveils how fossil fuels and corporate greed are once again the driving force behind exploitation of people and planet," said Livia Firth. "Through our closets and the clothes, we wear every day, Big Oil is drowning the world in fossil fuels.”
The Fossil Fuel Fashion Campaign plans to carry forward its mission through a series of activations, including events in Brussels, COP28, and the World Economic Forum in Davos. Its aim is to leverage policy interventions, innovation, business solutions, and grassroots campaigning to drive a phase-out of fossil fuels from the fashion industry.