The Indian government has taken a firm step towards dominating the global textile market by introducing the production-linked incentive system recently.

By Amit Kumar Singh Parihar and Divya Banerjee

The recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has demonstrated the inadequacy of efforts to keep the global temperature rise to an allowable limit of 1.5°C. Shared consensus and streamlined our efforts toward the broader goal of decarbonization. The need to join the Race to Zero is undeniable by all sectors of society, with pledges from businesses, cities, states and regions. Decarbonizing supply chains is a major opportunity for countries to put commitments into practice, as it presents a game-changing opportunity (Net-Zero Challenge: The Supply chain Opportunities, 2021).

According to Cushman & Wakefield’s (Global Manufacturing Risk Index – 2021), India has emerged as the second preferred manufacturing destination over other countries, including the United States and the Asia-Pacific region. The redesign of the supply chain resulting from green technology will help to adapt to climate change mitigation measures. India’s industrial sector, as the most energy-intensive sector with its 42.7% share (MoSPI, 2019) of total energy consumption, has the second highest potential for decarbonization. Moreover, within industries, the textile industry, which contributes significantly to economic growth and jobs, has great potential for decarbonization through the implementation of energy efficiency measures and clean technology. India is the second largest producer of textiles and apparel in the world, and the fifth largest exporter of textiles, and is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 12% in the future (IBEF, 2021). After agriculture, the sector adds a whopping 4% to the country’s GDP and is the second largest source of employment with around 45 million direct workers (Trends in Textile Engineering and Fashion Technology, 2018). The textile industry in India covers the entire manufacturing value chain from fibers to garments, which consists of players of all sizes, from large companies to small and medium-sized companies and is spread across clusters across the country. The Indian government has taken a firm step towards dominating the global textile market by introducing the production-linked incentive system recently. This growth can be modernized and accelerated while improving the livelihoods of millions through the use of decentralized renewable energy.

However, the textile industry, including the production of all the clothing people wear, contributes to about 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions due to long supply chains and energy-intensive production (World Bank, 2019). Clean technology interventions in this sector will help advance climate change mitigation and help industries improve their overall profitability, thus ensuring long-term sustainability. The manufacture of decarbonized clothing can generate 90 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions savings (Comparative Study of Energy Assessment of Garment Industries, 2006).

While the large textile industries have progressed by implementing clean technology interventions due to their access to the PAT scheme and zero net commitments, MSMEs (MSMEs) still face technical, financial, institutional and social barriers. To meet the challenges, there is a range of initiatives that include capacity building, awareness programs and financial subsidies organized and supported by bilateral and multilateral institutions. However, some challenges remain and impede large-scale energy transition in this sector due to barriers to accessing financing, insufficient political incentives as well as lack of technical awareness. Improvements in energy efficiency and the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources could save about 1 billion metric tons of emissions reductions in 2030 across the textile value chain. (Fashion in Climate, 2020). Thus, there is an urgent need for comprehensive scalable solutions and holistic ecosystem-based approaches that take advantage of multi-stakeholder partnerships in order to combat the many obstacles that have plagued energy transformation in the sector.

Paving the Way Forward: Potential Opportunities and Approaches

Potential technological options for decarbonizing the textile sector are energy-efficient boilers, waste heat recovery systems, air-to-fuel ratio controls, energy-saving motors and compressors. However, the widespread adoption of these possible solutions requires the following interventions:

  • Adopt a holistic approach to achieve a large-scale transition, ensuring that aspects related to the sustainability and scalability of the interventions are included.
  • Empowering and strengthening local ecosystems by ensuring skilled technology suppliers, technical assistance, and training to build a skilled workforce focused on gender empowerment.
  • Policy interventions to create an enabling environment for energy efficiency and the widespread adoption of clean technology.
  • Green Collaboration and Partnerships: Coordinated, coherent efforts from all stakeholders lead to rapid transformation. Brands actively engage with manufacturers in their value chain to roll out clean technology interventions at scale. Similarly, SMEs across industry groups are getting technical assistance and demonstration support for wider adoption of torch lights in sectors. These measures of cooperation can be further enhanced by green partnerships that bring together a wide range of players from technology, finance and energy.
  • Innovations in business models – demand aggregation, market transformation, and ESCO financing-based approaches that address barriers to rising cost and initial investment.
  • Program interventions that include the proposed approaches can help the country achieve its nationally determined contributions and net-zero ambitions while making industries more sustainable and resilient. Transitioning to a system based on clean energy can take risks and face the crises of tomorrow, and it is one of the major challenges that industry and government have to address today.

(The authors are from the Institute for Sustainable Communities. Opinions are subjective)

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