Estimates of the emissions of the clothing sector vary from 2% to 10% of global emissions, with some people seeming to hedge their bets by going for both figures, claiming that the sector accounts for “1.2 billion tonnes CO2e or 10% of global emissions” – 1.2 billion is two percent, not ten percent.
In general, there is a lack of reputable numbers, but 10% does seem too high, as it would mean that clothing would take up almost all of the emissions generally attributed to the whole industrial sector, apart from iron, steel and chemicals.
However, clothing emissions are definitely significant.
At the EU level, one estimate puts it at 4% of household emissions, and the UK consumption statistics released by DEFRA put it at about 2%. In both of these cases, clothing is estimated to make up a similar or greater proportion to electronics.
Where are the emissions coming from?
Everyone agrees that most of the emissions of clothes happen during the production of the fabric. One analysis divided emissions to the point of sale as set out below: