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A service for political professionals · Tuesday, June 18, 2024 · 721,059,770 Articles · 3+ Million Readers

Governments call for a Global Textiles Policy Dialogue

The clothing and textiles sector matters for global and local economies, representing millions in jobs and US$1.5 trillion in revenue. It, however, struggles to address its contribution to climate change, nature loss and pollution.  

At the sixth session of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-6), governments called for the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to facilitate a Global Textiles Policy Dialogue, aiming to create a space to empower governments to foster circularity across the value chain.  

The importance of global policy coordination on textiles was highlighted in UNEP’s 2023 report, Sustainability and Circularity in the Textile Value Chain - A Global Roadmap.  

Recognizing the urgency of scaling up policy efforts that minimize negative impacts of the textile value chain on nature, people and economies, the Netherlands Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management and Türkiye Ministry of Trade, with support from UNEP, convened a high-level UNEA-6 side event, Connecting the Threads: A coordinated policy response to transform the textile value chain and offer solutions which preserve nature.  

At the event, Mustafa Tuzcu, Türkiye’s Deputy Minister of Trade, called for UNEP to “bring and convene a wide array of governments in an inclusive policy dialogue to facilitate the transition towards a climate neutral, resource efficient and circular textile sector”.  

 

Panellists acknowledged that tackling the negative environmental impacts of the textile value chain requires a systemic change with lifecycle-based and upstream policies, such as products designed with resource efficiency and circularity principles. To succeed, solutions need to be economically viable for industry and attractive enough for consumers. “To bring about policy coherence, we must find sustainable ways to balance consumption and production within a frame of human rights, environmental and sustainability laws,” said Ligia Noronha, United Nations Assistant Secretary-General and Head of the UNEP New York Office.  

“If a just transition is to be achieved, international cooperation is of absolute importance,” said Afke van Rijn, Vice Minister for the Environment and International Affairs at the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management in the Netherlands. “We are happy to share our experiences and work together on strengthening the dialogue and create new standards in the textiles industries. A global policy dialogue allows for more international coordination for policy implementation and to share experience and knowledge on different policy initiatives”.  

Recognizing the need for global cooperation 

“The growing popularity of ultra-fast fashion, low-quality products and very low prices, is contributing to an explosion in textile waste,” said H.E. Arnaud Suquet, France’s Ambassador to Kenya and UNEP Permanent Representative. “We need to start thinking collectively about the issue of textile waste […] and France is ready to get involved.” In 2008, France introduced an Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) scheme which has helped to increase textile waste collection. A draft law on ultra-fast fashion aims to develop a legal definition, discuss financial penalties for such products within the EPR scheme, increase awareness of its negative impacts, and ban its advertizing.  

“Not only are we interested to learn from the success stories of other countries, we also want to learn from their failures,” said Lydia Essuah, Director of Policy, Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation at the Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation of Ghana. Essuah also highlighted the importance of engaging with local governments, manufacturers, retailers, waste management companies and non-governmental organizations to effectively address the challenge posed by textiles waste and second-hand clothes. 

Tunisia’s Minister of Environment Leila Chikhaoui Mahdaoui, highlighted the importance of the textile industry to her country’s economy. The industry represents more than 5 per cent of national gross domestic product and 29.3 per cent of the total workforce in 2021. To transform the textile value chain, Mahdaoui advocated for research partnerships and knowledge transfer in emerging technology in textile materials, production and recycling, alongside enhancing access to finance and the establishment of internationally agreed durability labels.  

Sagar Shah, Manager of Kenya’s Alpha Knits Ltd, welcomed “policies encouraging skills development and training programmes […] as well as the development of certifications.” Bahar Guclu, Deputy Director General of Türkiye’s Ministry of Trade underlined the need to consider the socio-economic impacts of textiles regulatory frameworks, and shift from price-driven to value and sustainability-driven competition.  

Harnessing climate, biodiversity and pollution frameworks 

Participants emphasized the need for the Global Textiles Policy Dialogue to leverage existing policy work on climate change (Paris Agreement), biodiversity (Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework) and pollution (Global Framework on Chemicals).  

“It is very important that we continue to work through the existing international policy tools […] such as the Stockholm Convention on chemical regulation,” said Sweden’s Minister for Climate and the Environment Romina Pourmokhtari. She referred to the proposal Sweden and France made within the European Union, to include textiles in the Basel Convention to improve traceability of waste or second-hand textile imports and exports.  

Speakers agreed that the Global Textiles Policy Dialogue should be government-led and inclusive. “UNEP would be happy to support such a policy dialogue,” said Noronha.    

 

For more information on the Global Textiles Policy Dialogue contact:   

Claire Thiebault, UNEP Programme Officer  

Bettina Heller, UNEP Programme Officer 

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