Industries and the products they make, including the textile sector, can play a considerable role in the global effort to tackle climate change, and making them part of the solution while helping them stay competitive is a key challenge for policy makers, according to a report from the World Bank Group, CLASP and Carbon Trust.
The report, “A Greener Path to Competitiveness: Policies for Climate Action in Industries and Products,” helps chart the way for industries to remain competitive while implementing greener, more climate-friendly technologies and strategies.
“The unprecedented task presented at COP 21 in Paris to decarbonize globally introduces challenges, but also enormous opportunities for industries as they seek a greener path to production while remaining globally competitive,” said Cecile Fruman, director of the Trade & Competitiveness Global Practice at the World Bank Group. “Now is the time for companies and countries to act.”
Industries contribute more than one-third of direct and indirect global greenhouse gas emissions. Certain sectors, including iron and steel, cement, chemical and aluminum manufacturing are the primary contributors to climate change due to their inherent requirement for large amounts of energy.
The combined textile and leather sectors were ranked ninth highest for GHG emissions, coming in eighth highest in indirect emissions through consumption of off-site electricity and heat supply and tied for 10th for emissions through direct energy use.
New technologies can be critical to industry efforts to reduce GHGs, but aren’t always cost effective, the report said, and technology solutions must be complemented by institutional frameworks and policies that counter competitive disadvantages.
A Greener Path to Competitiveness recommends that industries continue to focus on cost-effective, energy-efficient options that have short payback periods, low transaction costs and easy-to-access finance. While many of these options have been implemented by leading companies already, it is estimated that significant economic potential, around 60 percent, for future energy efficiency savings remains.
To decrease GHG emissions while remaining competitive, the report calls on industry, government and consumers to also focus on technologies and interventions that are on the cusp of cost-effectiveness. Energy efficiency standards and labeling are one solution to reduce energy usage and GHG emissions. According to the report, adopting the most stringent minimum energy performance standard could reduce 9 percent of the global total energy consumption.
The report also suggests that governments should pursue policies such as removing distorting production subsidies or trade tariffs and putting a comprehensive price on carbon. Technology incentive programs can also be developed to find solutions that currently have a weak business case, for example, in the adoption of large-scale and capital-intensive carbon abatement technologies.
Apparel and textile products are also tied to the chemical industry through fiber and fabric production methods, as well as dyeing and finishing techniques, and the energy needed to produce the final products. The industry has increasingly turned to recycling and repurposing of materials to decrease waste and energy usage and create more environmentally friendly products.
The report noted that the sector “supplies and supports innovative solutions across virtually all sectors.” It serves a large number of end markets, including aerospace, automobiles, energy construction, fast-moving consumer goods, textiles, health, packaging, electronics and agriculture.
The industry is energy intense and utilizes a diverse range of complex processes spanning from small batch processes to large volume, continuous operations. The sector accounts for about 10 percent of global final energy demand, while using 30 percent of global industrial energy.