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friday 22 march

World's Leading Wine Experts Share Tried and Tested Solutions to Mitigate Climate Change

Climate change is a huge subject that touches everyone. Many of us cannot even conceive the dangers inflicted on our planet by climate change. Time is running out, we need to take charge now!


World's Leading Wine Experts Share Tried and Tested Solutions to Mitigate Climate Change
Solutions to mitigate climate change from world leaders of the wine industry

In the northern coastal Portuguese city of Porto the world of wine gathered to discuss and offer solutions to mitigate climate change as world leaders in the industry took to the stage to share best practices from the vineyard to the consumer. Adrian Bridge, CEO of Taylor's Fladgate Partnership and the event's organiser, noted that “many companies were already doing much to tackle the problem” but also that he believed very strongly that, “the wine industry can take a leadership position,” in this fight. 

Implementing renewable energy resources, using and reusing rainwater, reducing water consumption in irrigation, adopting lighter packaging and bottles, reducing fossil fuel use, and studying vineyards and soils to optimise the natural aspects of the terroir were among the measures highlighted by the different speakers to reduce greenhouse gas emissions caused by the wine industry. All were emphatic in stating that only collective action could lead these efforts to achieve optimum results in the future, and stressed that knowledge sharing and investment in research and innovation would be crucial determinants in this evolutionary process.

The opening two sessions included speakers from leading wine companies such as LVMH, Banfi, Torres, Concha y Toro and Sogrape. Miguel Torres of Familia Torres, Cristina Mariani-May of Banfi and Margareth Henriquez of LVMH looked chiefly to how changes can be effected in the winery to fight emissions. Most of all, more implied than implicit, was the need for the big companies within the wine industry but also the industry as a whole to ‘be leaders’ and set an example in the fight against climate change. 

Miguel Torres highlighted the initiative Torres & Earth, implemented in 2007 which allocated € 15,795,000 for research and investment in renewable energy and for the optimization of the lands. This effort, translated into measures such as preservation of native species and reforestation, collection and treatment of rainwater, use of renewable energies and reduction of consumption of diesel fleet by hybrid or electric solutions, implementation of vines at altitude and adaptation of wineries to self-sustaining models, had a direct impact on the reduction of CO2 emissions per bottle by 26.8%, but the objective is to reach to 30% in 2020.
In session two, Kimberley Nicholas of the University of Lund, Antonio Graça of Sogrape and Gerard Casaubon of Concha y Toro looked at how vineyards can be adapted. The most immediate solutions, according to the American researcher, are the increase of renewable energy, the optimization of the management of the use of nitrogen, the adoption of lighter packaging and the alteration of commercial air transport by sea and rail, with lower levels of fuel fossil. In the wine production and marketing cycle, Kimberly Nicholas points to the vineyard and packaging as the major contributors to the release of greenhouse gases (34% and 38%, respectively, in the production chain). For the Director of the Research and Development Department of Sogrape, the main ally for this climacteric challenge is the vineyard, the study of its genotypes and its resilient integration in the different terroirs. An herbicide-free agriculture, the utilization of rainwater. The vineyard of the future, said Chilean Gerard Casaubon, Director of R&D of Vina Concha Y Toro with training in agronomy and oenology, comes from the clonal selection of species, the use of plant-based materials and the ability to guarantee the biodiversity of the surrounding system. "Biodiversity is an effective source for capturing CO2." 

Consumer Expectations and Marketing Awareness was addressed by Paul Willgoss, Marks & Spencer's Director of Food technology and António Amorim, CEO of Corticeira Amorim (world's leading cork company), moderated by Wine Intelligence Co-founder and CEO Richard Halstead. Finally, the importance of the New Generations such as Millennials and Baby-Boomers was addressed and how they can contribute to change the world. It’s enough to listen to the Swedish 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, to realize that a cry of hope is out there and we should be listening to this. According to Richard Halstead, Millennials have a different attitude to life and to alcohol. “They are more environmentally aware and prepared to pay more for sustainable, organic or biodynamic products”.

António Amorim confirmed that the present and the future reside in the Millennial generation, consumers who, according to the former President of the Portuguese Cork Association, are more aware and responsive to positive attitudes on the part of the brands. "They may not buy the most expensive wine but buy a wine that brings them good associations," he said, referring to organic and biodynamic wines that are expected to grow 15% in sales between 2020 and 2022. "You have to be consistent and transparent throughout the process. Consumers want us to show them the arguments for them to support this environmentally conscious and sustainable position. " Amorim went on to say, "We have to make company certification a priority, there are investors keen on this and they send auditors just to assess how sustainable a company is. We cannot get out of this summit thinking that we can only do a little better, but we should rather set structural goals for 5, 10 years and rethink the business philosophy of each one. "

On the subject of plastic and recycling, Jane Muncke, Executive Director and Head of the Scientific Department of the Food Packaging Forum, focused on the importance of choosing good packaging, not only from the environmental point of view but also from public health. "Plastic pollution kills species, affects the ocean, the terrain simply does not disappear over time. It is broken down into very small particles that are not natural and seriously damage the ecosystem," she says. In addition to many of these particles migrating to food, the risk of absorbing toxic properties from the outside environment is real. At the same time that food and beverage nutrients are absorbed by plastic, there is a constant migration of elements from the outside to the packaging and, consequently, to food. The risk increases with exposure of the plastic to high temperatures, with long retention times in packaging, the size of the packaging and the type of food they contain. "Plastics persist in the environment and contaminate food with hazardous chemicals, so they are not an ideal packaging material." Recycling, in Muncke’s view, is not a very effective or linear response, since plastic can absorb chemicals, and thus cannot be recycled without this posing a risk to public health and the environment. Avoiding its use is therefore extremely important.

Climate Change on a global vision 

More than 850 people from 30 nationalities attended the second edition of Porto Summit 2019, which took place in Porto's old customs building, and saw Al Gore among its star attendees. The former U.S. vice president and 2007 Nobel Peace Prize laureate warned of the already visible consequences of climate change, and praised Portugal for assuming a leading role in issues such as solar and wind energy.

Adrian Bridge, Managing Director of Taylor's and host of the Climate Change Leadership Summit in Porto, opened the ceremony by stressing that: "For those of us involved in the wine business, the climate is the foundation of what we do, and the only natural resource we cannot do without. During these two days, we have had the chance to share near-term solutions so that we can make a difference in the fight against climate change �" a reality that is affecting not only the wine industry, but many other sectors as well. We can all do more tomorrow than what we have done so far."

At the opening of the session, Adrian Bridge took the opportunity to stress once again that everyone is important in this process of change and that "we can do more tomorrow than what we have done until today." This is also the premise of The Porto Protocol, which already has 130 subscriptions of companies and citizens active in sharing concrete examples and from which all can benefit directly and indirectly. Cooperation, sharing and innovation are the driving forces behind this initiative, which extends beyond the borders of the wine industry. "When future generations ask what we have done to help fight climate, we will be able to look them in the eye and tell them that we have not stood idly by and we have done our part to secure the future of this planet", concluded the CEO of Taylor's before giving the floor to Afroz Shah.

With a natural relaxation the UN's title of Champion of the Earth 2016, Afroz Shah, Indian lawyer of 36 and environmental activist, revisited the process of cleaning the beach of Versova in Bombay, from where he gathered, with the help of thousands of volunteers, more than 5 million tons of litter from the beach in 86 weeks. "There are steps that require no effort at all, just changes in habits. What can and cannot be done begins within ourselves. It is time for action and decisions. No one wants to live on a planet that is incompatible with human life," said Shah.

The word was then given to Kaj Törok, CRO and CSO of the multinational Max Burgers, the first company in the world to present a positive ecological footprint. Founded in 1968 in the northern Swedish town of Gallivare, the hamburger brand - which in the meantime dropped the prefix "ham" - began to analyze the problem more seriously in 2008, "we realized that we were part of the problem of climate change and we assumed that we had to be part of the solution. " Among the various measures promoted is the inclusion of carbon footprint information in each menu sold, so that customers can base their choices on this data as well", the use of 90% renewable packaging and the establishment of concrete targets to reverse the carbon footprint. To this purpose Max Burgers introduced the plan the world's first climate-positive burgers, a plan where the ecological footprint was measured from the farmers 'land to our guests' hand. With the help of this plan, and by planting 1.5 million trees in Africa, Max Burger's positive footprint has been set at 110%.

According to Kaj Törok, the environmental footprint of each hamburger is distributed as follows: 10% comes from transportation, 10% from packaging and consumables, 5% from energy, 11% from vegetable matter, 53% from meat of beef and 11% based on other foodstuffs of animal origin. The target for 2022, says the CRO and CSO of the Swedish company, is to reduce sales to beef menus by 50%: "for every beef menu we sell, the second should be without red meat." Consumer habits point to this trend by showing a sharp decline in demand for hamburgers with a stronger carbon footprint for the more environmentally sustainable. "We have to do as much as we can," he concluded, "nobody can do everything, but everyone can do something."

Al Gore, former USA vice-president, awarded Nobel Peace Prize 2007 and well-known climate and environmental activist, took the stage for what was the most anticipated talk of Climate Change Leadership. In an enthusiastic presentation, the global leader also called for international cooperation as a solution to climate change, commending the platform that the Climate Change Leadership Summit is based on. He did not spare words by stating "we are facing a global emergency." Pointing his finger to fossil fuels as "by far the greatest source of human pollution. Every 24 hours we are sending 110 million tons of emissions into the atmosphere, with the accumulated energy equivalent to the explosion of 500,000 Hiroshima bombs per day. "Environmental storms, the continuous increase in average temperatures - are already weighing more heavily than cold days and 14.5% of the Earth is in this range "- prolonged droughts, deforestation, polar decay, sharp ocean pollution - Al Gore recalled that plastic was found in the Fossa das Marianas - and the migrations forced by the environmental changes were the subject of deep reflection, criticism and sense of urgency.

Al Gore made the transition from the speech to the wine industry, "which has already shown that it can do more than other sectors to mitigate climate change," and for initiatives such as The Porto Protocol, which, according to the former vice president of the United States, provides an extraordinary tool for serious, informed and committed international cooperation with future generations. "Everyone can make a difference," was the message he left at the end of an impassioned and inspiring presentation.



Michele Shah

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