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NY bill holds fashion industry accountable for climate change effects

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A New York bill aims to regulate the fashion industry’s effects on climate change.

The Fashion Act would hold clothing and footwear companies accountable for their effects on the environment.

Fashion accounts for up to around 9% of global greenhouse-gas emissions, more than the aviation industry. The bill also creates a remediation fund for environmental, community or labor-related projects.

Rich Schrader, northeast government affairs director for the Natural Resources Defense Council, described how enforcement of the bill would work.

“The bill will create an enforcement mechanism that the attorney general in New York State will be responsible for,” Schrader explained. “It’s given a monitoring investigative and enforcement set of authorities. That’s to ensure the companies are in compliance.”

He pointed out the attorney general could fine companies not in compliance with the guidelines.

Fast fashion companies like Shein have only made things worse, studies have shown. The companies make clothes designed to be worn less than a handful of times before they’re tossed away, ending up in a landfill. Fast fashion is responsible for around 10% of global carbon dioxide emissions. The bill has been referred to the Assembly’s Consumer Affairs and Protection Committee.

A United Nations report found more than one-quarter of signatories to the Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action are working with lawmakers on climate-related issues and regulations.

Maxine Bédat, executive director of the New Standard Institute, said issues persist in greening the process of making clothes.

“The textile mills, which are the ones that would be responsible for decarbonizing, are not getting any price premiums from the brands that they work with to decarbonize,” Bédat noted. “There is zero incentive for them to decarbonize even though the technologies are there.”

She argued more collaboration is needed between brands and manufacturers to develop an incentive structure. Bédat sees the New York bill as the foundation to build on, which a federal bill could do. The FABRIC Act would establish safer working conditions for garment workers and improve industrywide sustainability.

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