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Climate Change: Paris, India

Submitted by-Subhash Bhutoria & Twinkle Sharma

On October 2, 2016, India became the 62nd nation to ratify the Paris Climate Change Agreement. Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi, during his speech at the opening of UN Conference of Climate Change in Paris had set the ambitious targets for ourselves to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions by 33% and operate at least 40% of installed capacities on non-fossil fuels, by 2030. To achieve this prodigious target, India may have to disrupt leading industries including textile and garments, by discouraging practices, which leads to Green House Gas (GHG) emissions and encouraging use of renewable energy.

India is amongst the leading producer of textile fibers and yarns and has 60% of the global market share in looming capacity. It is worth mentioning that textile and apparel industry is one of the oldest sectors in Indian economy and in the present times, contributes about 5% to the nation’s GDP and employs over 100 million workers and professionals. Undoubtedly, textile and apparel sector plays a prominent role in the Indian socioeconomic structure and consequently, is an active and constructive participant in climate change issues.

In past few years, fast fashion has driven this industry into mass production of raw materials, mostly through conventional treatment processes and less efficient equipment. To meet the demand, the industry has also increased use of synthetic fibers and chemical dyes, which inevitably leave pollution footprints. In the ever-growing need to produce more, faster and cheaper, the industry has neglected the social and environmental values and sustainability factors. The use of fossil fuels in the entire manufacturing and supply chain and production of GHGs in the production cycle has made the textile and apparel industry the second largest polluter, second only to the oil industry.

India is now under a self imposed obligation to reduce the GHG emission. However, the archaic laws and legal framework may not support this robust ideology. Interestingly, soon after the ratification, on October 10 2016, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change introduced amendment in the Environment (Protection) Rules, 1986 in respect to textile and garment units. However, the said amendment did not carry out any change in respect to emission norms for textile and apparel industry. Being wary of its international obligations on climate change, Central Government may consider further amendments in the law, particularly to regulate GHG emissions. It is worth mentioning here that textile and garment industry is placed in the red category and hence it becomes crucial for the industry to prepare for the change.

Besides adhering to the regulations, textile and garment industry should aim at reducing its dependence on fossil fuels. Electricity, which plays vital role in the processes, is a concurrent list matter, involving equal attention from both center and state governments. Various schemes are put in place by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy and the State Governments to promote use of solar projects. The draft Renewable Energy Act, 2015, which is yet to see light of the day, has promising provisions to promote use of decentralized and stand alone renewable energy applications, including off-grid systems for electricity generation, to be used for commercial and industrial purposes. In fact, the proposed legislation also deliberates upon incentivizing use of decentralized renewable energy by its consumers. As a major stakeholder, it would be worthwhile for the textile and garment industry to make representation in line with the proposed statute.

Bangladesh is a classic example of how climate change has impacted and will continue to impact the textile and garment industry. For a sustainable growth, it is imperative that the industry should suo moto introduce Eco-friendly techniques, processes and systems at every stage of production and supply of fabrics and garments. Quite akin to the national sentiments, the textile and apparel industry should set an ambitious, yet achievable target to reduce pollutant footprints.