As heat waves, drought, wildfires and other extreme weather events ravage vineyard areas around the world, climate change has become perhaps the most urgent issue for many wineries.
While many in the wine trade are adapting to this new reality individually, an international group of wineries is seeking to systematically—and reduce—carbon emissions. Founded in 2019 by Miguel Torres and Katie Jackson, of Familia Torres and Jackson Family Wines respectively, International Wine Climate Action has a stated goal of taking “a science-based approach to reducing carbon emissions across the wine industry.”
Member wineries, now numbering over three dozen large and small, have pledged to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 in line with the United Nations’ “Race to Zero” campaign. The organization released their annual report this week.
“The release of IWCA’s second Annual Report shows the need for urgent global action,” IWCA president Miguel A. Torres said. It highlights “how winery members are taking action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”
The organization measures greenhouse gas emissions in three categories. Direct emissions under the company control (such as fuel used for company business) and indirect energy emissions (such as electricity sources) constitute 15% of a winery’s GHG emissions in the IWCA model. The balance, called Scope 3, relates to purchased grapes, wine bottles, other packaging materials and transport to distributors and consumers. Wineries must submit to a third-party audit of these activities; GHG calculators are available on the IWCA website.
While the annual report does not include data over time for all the wineries, it does show that Jackson Family Wines has reduced their scope 3 emissions by 22% since 2015 by lightweighting bottles and packaging materials, Familia Torres reduced theirs by 12% in the last years simply by reducing bottle weight, and Yealand Estates in New Zealand has cut GHG emissions in half over the past three years in part by bottling in destination countries to reduce shipping weight.
Nigel Greening of Felton Road in Otago, New Zealand is optimistic about the goals.
“We will get to net zero emissions,” he says. “We will do that without resorting to buying offsets. It will be our principal focus for the next decade and we will make better wine as a result—not because we alone can fix the climate crisis, but because we have learned to care more about everything we do.”
Tyler Colman, PhD, is a longtime contributor to Wine & Spirits and the author of Wine Politics: How Governments, Enviornmentalists, Mobsters and Critics Affect the Wines We Drink. He blogs at DrVino.com.
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