The Australian grape and wine sector has committed to reducing its carbon footprint through an active mitigation policy, concentrating in the shorter-term future on reducing Scope 1 and 2 emissions. Life cycle analyses for the sector indicate that carbon emissions from grape growing and winemaking are small at 17% and 19%, respectively; the major contribution of 68% is to do with packaging and transport (Scope 3), primarily involving the use of glass bottles.
Diesel usage in vineyards is 41% of emissions and may be replaced with difficulty by vehicle electrification and/or hydrogen power. Replacement of winery grid-electricity use will account for 81% of emissions, with conversion to solar currently favoured. Opportunities exist to convert vineyard and winery biomass waste streams using pyrolysis to energy and biochar, the latter a form of sequestered carbon.
The remaining large carbon emission relates to the traditional use of glass packaging, with inherent weight and volume inefficiency increasing transport costs. Alternate packaging with a lower carbon footprint and enhanced recyclability offers promise. The retail sector has opportunities to engage in “replace, recycle, or reuse” practices to reduce this footprint. The wine sector shares an ethical responsibility to mitigate climate change, not least because of its impacts on grape and wine production.
Background to the study
The concept of a climate crisis is now well recognised, with climate scientists warning of the danger of not halting global warming. This arises because of the continued increase in carbon dioxide and other so-called “greenhouse gases”, which trap solar energy and hence warm the atmosphere. Such a mechanism is well-known to science. The Swedish chemist Arrhenius predicted in 1895 that the combustion of fossil fuels would lead to an increase in global temperatures. Modern scientists have shown that such warming can lead to changes in the climate by affecting all weather systems. Fossil fuel combustion has increased since the Industrial Revolution, with major gains to present readings since the 1950s. Atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide gas are now at historic high levels, causing grave concern regarding future temperature rises.
Among other agricultural industries, the production of grapes and wine is known to be very climate-sensitive, as evidenced by the specialisation of grapevine cultivars and wine styles in many of the world’s wine regions. An early report to OIV by the senior author of this article, R. Smart, predicted climate change’s impact on grape and wine production. These effects are now being reported in many countries, for example, with the timing of grapevine phenology and changes in grape composition, wine style and quality.
Wine region definition in Australia is characterised by the Geographical Indication System, for which temperature suitability was recently reviewed. This study demonstrated a significant temporal increase in the Growing Season Temperature (GST) index over the vast 15-20 years, challenging the selection of a period which represents ‘average’ conditions. The inclusion of a further region of increased temperature labelled ‘hot’ was necessary. While the wine sector has become more aware of the implications of climate change over the last two decades, early responses were for adaptation, especially of regional variety, although even this strategy proceeds slowly. Analyses of Australia’s varietal plantings illustrate more tendency toward so-called “international varieties” than those suited to warmer growing conditions. Management changes by producers to mitigate carbon emissions have been even slower to be adopted. However, the wine sectors of both Australia and New Zealand have recently and independently announced goals to become carbon neutral by 2050, and this contribution supports this intention.
Refer to the original article for detailed strategies to reduce carbon footprint in the vineyard, winery, packaging, and transport.
Richard Smart, Tony Battaglene and Richard Muhlack. Mitigation and adaptation strategies for a carbon neutral grape and wine sector. BIO Web of Conferences 56, 01021 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1051/bioconf/20235601021
This article has been adapted from its original form to fit this platform without altering scientific facts. The original article is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).