Published 1 year ago.
About a 8 minute read.
Image: Matthis Volquardsen
From COP27, we see more and more business initiatives focused on not only reaching sustainability, but averting a climate crisis and achieving nature positivity — but have climate-fueled forest fires already nullified our chances at an effective carbon market?
Nanollose is leading the charge in forest-free textile alternatives with its tree-free rayon | Image credit: Nanollose
On Friday at COP27, leading companies including H&M, Inditex,
Stella McCartney, Ben & Jerry’s, HH Global and Kering announced
a collective commitment to purchase over a half-million tonnes of low-carbon,
low-footprint alternative fibers for fashion textiles and paper packaging. The
move aims to support the protection of the world’s vital forests and ecosystems
and reduce forest degradation pressures from fashion and packaging supply
Spearheaded by environmental nonprofit Canopy, this
commitment towards more sustainable, lower-carbon textiles — what Canopy calls
“next-generation solutions” — reflects a building urgency across industries to
accelerate the transition to nature-positive business models. Demand from major
brands is essential to attract the investment necessary to scale these
game-changing, next-generation alternatives on ecologically meaningful
Last year at COP26, protecting nature was at the center of
to deliver on global climate targets. But according to Forest 500
one-third of the world’s most influential companies have yet to make forest
conservation commitments — despite the scientific community’s warnings that at
least 50 percent of the world’s forests need to be conserved or restored by 2030
to ensure global temperature rises stay below 1.5°C.
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Every year, over 3.2 billion trees are cut down to produce fiber for packaging
and clothing, releasing vast amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere. Alternatives to
wood (the basis for popular textiles rayon and viscose) — such as agricultural
— are readily available and can be scaled in order to prevent the logging of
these forests at this untenable rate. Moving to next-generation solutions could
help avoid almost 1Gt of CO2 emissions between now and 2030.
“We are thrilled to advance this commitment with forward-looking partners who
are willing to challenge the status quo and in doing so provide a breakthrough
for these game-changing technologies,” said Canopy founder and Executive
Director Nicole Rycroft. “This commitment will allow us to take a historic
leap closer to the $64 billion of investments in sustainable alternatives
needed to ensure forest conservation for our planet’s climate and biodiversity
Canopy has been leading the movement to shift to sustainable alternatives to
virgin forest fiber in fashion and packaging supply chains for years. In 2020,
its Pulp Thriller
asserted that removing 50 percent of the forest fiber from pulp manufacturing,
and replacing it with next-generation alternative fibers would help us avert
catastrophic climate change. The four fashion giants that have signed onto this
latest commitment are already members of the CanopyStyle
— through which Canopy has rallied hundreds of fashion brands, retailers,
designers and viscose producers to find alternatives for forest-fiber
keeping ancient and endangered forests standing and out of our wardrobes.
CanopyStyle now includes more than 500 brand
partners, representing more
than US$857 billion dollars of annual revenue.
On the packaging front, Canopy launched
October 2019 — and its partners now include 341 companies including fashion
brands, personal care brands, printers and telecommunication companies, and
solution providers; and more companies are signing on every day.
For the most part, commercial-scale, next-gen production facilities don’t yet
exist (apart from the recent opening of Renewcell 1: the mill opened earlier
this month by Renewcell — Swedish makers of the
circular textile, Circulose (already
seen in Levi’s recycled denim
— with which Canopy has been working to help scale). The new commitment will
help unlock the investment needed to build 10-20 new low-footprint,
next-generation pulp mills; provide farm communities and cities with new markets
to replace the burning of straw residue and textile landfilling; and prevent an
estimated 2.2 million tonnes of GHG emissions from going into the atmosphere,
relative to the equivalent production of virgin forest fiber by 2025. These
purchasing commitments aim to change that by sending a clear signal to investors
that the market is ready to source these game-changing solutions as soon as they
“Canopy has showed true leadership by bringing the fashion and regenerated
cellulosic industries together with the purpose of reducing fashion’s dependency
on forests,” said Madelene Ericsson, Environmental Sustainability Business
Expert at H&M Group, which has had some
in its ongoing pursuit of sustainability and
“Innovative, low-carbon solutions — such as regenerated cellulosic fibers from
waste textiles, microbial cellulose or agricultural residues — will play a vital
role to help us reduce our impact on climate and protect forests, so no ancient
and endangered forests are put at risk to make fashion. These next-generation
solutions and collaborations like Canopy’s help us taking strong steps towards
our goal for all our materials to be either recycled or sourced in a more
sustainable way by 2030.”
The signatories have also committed to ensuring their respective supply chains
are free of ancient and endangered forests and are calling on industry peers to
follow suit by shifting towards sustainable, next-generation alternatives.
“We’re proud to be working with Canopy to create a more sustainable sourcing
strategy for our fiber-based packaging. Moving away from virgin fiber is part of
our larger strategy to reduce the footprint of our operations,” said Ben &
Jerry’s Global Sustainability Manager, Jenna Evans. “While it’s clear that
rapidly ending the age of fossil fuels is required to avoid catastrophic climate
change, companies still must do the hard work to ensure their packaging isn’t
contributing to deforestation as well.”
When compared to forest fibers, Canopy estimates next-generation solutions have:
95 percent to 130 percent less CO2 emissions
18 percent to 70 percent less fossil energy resource depletion
88 percent to 100 percent fewer land-use impacts
at least 5x lower impact on biodiversity/threatened species
Image credit: Climate Connect Digital
Meanwhile, while the rise in forest-conservation commitments, tree-planting
and nature-positivity goals are positive developments, it’s becoming apparent
that they may already be undermined by the conditions we’ve created.
On Wednesday at COP27, climate-tech company Climate Connect
Digital (CCD) released a white paper
quantifying the permanence risk posed by increasingly intense forest fires
around the world — but specifically, across the Indian subcontinent — which
will likely have a significant impact on nature-based carbon
and the voluntary carbon markets, which form the backbone of many
and corporate climate-action
A main focus at COP 27 is on fulfilling Article
— the Paris Agreement’s rulebook governing carbon markets. The CCD white
paper details how carbon stocks in forests are being impacted by rising
temperatures and intensifying forest fires across the Indian subcontinental
region — which illustrate the threat to the future health of both natural
ecosystems and carbon markets. Current climate trends and future projections are
alarming, as the average temperature trend for the last 40 years has seen a rise
of 0.5°C, leading to markedly increased weather volatility.
is a key tenet of carbon offset programs. In order for greenhouse gas (GHG)
emissions reductions to earn offset credits, have value in the carbon markets
and have a legitimate and lasting positive impact on climate, the GHGs must be
permanently reduced or sequestered. For high-quality offsets, permanence is
defined as at least 100 years of GHG reduction or sequestration.
The CCD study tries to estimate the impact of climate change over different
Indian regions by examining change in levels of pre-monsoon and monsoon
rainfall, increase in temperature over different parts of India and their impact
on forest fire patterns in the last 40 years. Based on its findings, it projects
the frequency, duration, and intensity of forest fires — which release not only
all of the carbon sequestered in the
and soil but also carbon monoxide and fine particulate
matter into the
atmosphere — to be exacerbated.
This poses major risks for nature-based climate-solutions projects and carbon
project developers. In turn, there will be a direct bearing on global carbon
registries, which will have to manage the buffers required for mitigating the
associated permanence risk.
Currently, around 20 percent of a project's carbon credits are set aside in a
buffer by registries at the time of issuance, to mitigate the permanence risk.
However, the study shows this level will likely be inadequate in the future and
have a knock-on effect on global markets — and highlights the need for similar
types of climate analysis to be conducted in other parts of the world.
To read more, download the full white paper here.
Published Nov 17, 2022 7am EST / 4am PST / 12pm GMT / 1pm CET