Wine regions on both sides of the Atlantic taking lead on climate change

As international leaders gathered in Paris for the COP21 talks that could set the path for international action on climate change, local businesses and communities are working to reduce their footprint on the planet – particularly those whose wellbeing is directly tied to the land. Winegrowing regions are among those taking the lead to understand and fight the effects of climate change. We advocate that all efforts must employ the approach of sharing this responsibility both locally and globally.

Napa Valley and Champagne are just two examples of regions already making strides. Our experiences operating in different environmental, political and regulatory atmospheres within the same industry show the impact communities can make by implementing initiatives that address local challenges.

{mosads}Wine producers are in a unique position to understand climate change, having an intimate connection to the land and the fruit it bears. Place is important to the production of the world’s finest wines. The specific region where the grapes are grown creates distinguishing characteristics for every bottle crafted from that particular place. Whether in the northeast of France or the northwest of California, weather has long been part of the daily decision-making of wine producers and grape growers and climate can be a source of unpredictability for these farmers.

Champagne, the wine region located in the northeast of France, has launched carbon reduction and environmental sustainability initiatives over the last 15 years. The region has instituted community-wide solutions, decreasing its carbon emissions in vineyards, production facilities and worldwide shipping, thus reducing its carbon intensity by 15 percent since 2003. By 2050, the region hopes to cut its footprint by 75 percent. This effort has included more than 40 specific initiatives, like the introduction of a new standard bottle, which is only two ounces lighter, but reduces carbon emissions at a rate that is the equivalent of taking 4,000 vehicles off French roads every year. In addition, Champagne launched an environmental certification that institutes best practices region-wide in the vineyards, leading to 50 percent reduction in the use of vine protection products and fertilizers; treatment of 100 percent of all winery wastewater; and the recovery and re-use of 100 percent of by-products and 90 percent of waste.

Five thousand miles on the other side of the world, wine producers in Napa Valley have come together to find solutions in their region. In addition to a completing a multi-year study of more than 12,000 points of weather and temperature data to determine the effects of climate change specific to Napa Valley, the industry has also committed by 2020 to full participation in the region’s stringent and independently certified environmental programs, Napa Green Land and Winery. Participating wineries are improving their efficiency, quantifying and saving water and energy and reducing waste – all of which decreases the winery’s carbon footprint. Today, more than five million cases of wine are produced annually at these facilities and the numbers are growing. Participating land owners minimize erosion and soil loss, reduce harmful inputs and runoff, encourage biodiversity and work to restore wild lands and the health of creeks and the Napa River. More than 37,000 acres/15,000 hectares or 40 percent of the region’s vineyards have already been certified by outside, third-party regulators.

While the climate, terroir and techniques might differ, Champagne and Napa Valley are taking steps to fight climate change without hurting business. In fact, many of the producers in our regions see these initiatives as having economic as well as environmental benefits. Other wine regions around the world are also taking action, developing their own policies to support local sustainability.

The global wine community is not alone in taking climate change seriously and making fundamental changes. There are many others deploying initiatives that are having an impact. As world leaders convened in Paris this past weekend, we asked them to commit to a comprehensive international climate change agreement that will complement and build on these local approaches, signaling to all that this is a global priority.

Reiff is the president and CEO of the Napa Valley Vintners, representing 530 wineries in Napa Valley. Perrin is directeur général of Comité Champagne, leading the Champagne appellation with over 15,000 growers and 300 houses.


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