The world is watching as the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference, the 26th Conference of the Parties (known as COP26) starts in Glasgow – with a leading message of coming #TogetherForOurPlanet. At Centre for Sustainable Fashion (CSF) we asked collectively, what COP26 means to us, and how as changemakers in fashion we plan to take notice and action in this moment.
As CSF Director Prof. Dilys Williams noted, there is a need for “collective reimagining of climate justice and commitment to action. That is the promise of Cop 26. The world is watching, the negotiators need to make history, not write billions of people out of it.”
What is COP26?
It’s the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference, which is also known as COP26. A conference that will be attended by over 200 world leaders, with a focus on climate change and what countries across the world plan to do in tackling it. This year the event, which was postponed due to the Coronavirus pandemic is being held in Glasgow, Scotland.
What does COP26 represent?
Across the team, responses to this question highlighted just how much of an urgent opportunity COP26 presents for the world to rethink, strategize and act, to address the climate crisis and ongoing biodiversity loss. With soon-to-be irreversible damage to our eco-systems, CSF’s Head of Strategy Naomi Bulliard adds that COP is the last chance “for a collective and systemic commitment to prioritise the single biggest health and equity crisis we have ever faced.”
“COP 26 is humanities last call to act upon the climate emergency and reminds us that we continue to need the ultimate in human ingenuity, our capacity to love and our resilience and will to address it. While the endeavor of science has been to show us all that is, all that is possible; it is the power found in art and culture that galvanises our ability to co imagine the living of a future, that enables and honours all forms of life – we do not deserve to be here, if we aim for anything less”. – Professor Helen Storey
In reflection on previous COP conferences, CSF Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Laetitia Forst notes “The COP always feels like a stressful deadline, a target we might miss. And so far, targets have been missed. COP26 is imbued with an increased sense of urgency as we have felt the devastating effects of environmental and social depletion in the waves of crises of this past year. It is a moment to spotlight the huge weight of global decision making and fiercely push in the right direction.”
As CSF Researcher Prof. Kate Fletcher puts it, it is “a focus point for the light and heat of scrutiny especially on global leaders and the globally powerful.”
The representation of opportunity for change is evident when thinking about what COP26 represents, and with hopeful and positive change CSF’s Dr. Francesco Mazzarella notes it’s a time to “accelerate global action to tackle the climate crisis through collaboration between governments, businesses and civil society... leveraging the power of design activism in our local communities while contributing to building a resilient world.”
We remain hopeful, that as Knowledge Exchange Coordinator, Monica Buchan-Ng puts it – “after the event itself, it’s an opportunity to follow through on commitments with real, concrete actions and radical change.”
How can we be changemakers in fashion?
We can all be changemakers, be that in fashion or other sectors – put simply by Prof. Dilys Williams, “we can be changemakers by respecting all lives, human and more than human and by having the humility to listen with open ears and the commitment to act, each and every day, for the wellbeing of all sentient beings. In fashion, this relates to the relationships that we have with people around the world, as the clothes that we wear represent the lives of human and beyond human lives. How we value those relationships is played out in how we value fashion’s material and immaterial parts. We can come together, as the collective ingenuity of the fashion sector is world-changing and we have a very clear brief, set out by science, citizens and nature’s screams. Fashion can put earth and equity at the heart of its activities, but until the current license to do harm is taken away, until legislation supports restorative practices, all of the ingenuity in the world will be outsized by a lack of will to change at world government level.”
Collectively we can work to develop our knowledge of the relationship between fashion and nature with educational resources like our free online course Fashion Values: Nature adds Monica Buchan-Ng, because as Laetitia Forst notes, “creative practices give us the tools to represent an alternative vision” for the future.
“The fashion industry touches the lives of so many, whether you are involved in its production, you sell it or you wear it. It has a universal voice that has the power to not only raise awareness of the climate emergency but to demonstrate how we can adopt more sustainable lifestyles, celebrating a regenerative system that accurately values the skills and resources that go into making fashion.” – Sarah Needham, Knowledge Exchange Manager
Dr. Francesco Mazzarella notes that “as fashion educators, researchers, practitioners and citizens of the world, we can become change-makers and come together for our planet, by catalysing a range of fashion activist interventions, aimed at revitalising cultural heritage, tackling social inequalities, making local economies flourish, and enhancing environmental stewardship.”
How we are coming together for our planet during COP26
We are coming together with organisations and collectives across the world during COP26, with our team involved in an array of panel discussions, activities and happenings across both physical and digital spaces – full details will be shared on our social media.