Champagne is planning to set ambitious targets for reducing the region’s carbon dioxide emissions.

In 2003 the Champagne producers’ association the CIVC (Comité Interprofessionel du Vin de Champagne), launched a survey to assess how far champagne production contributes to global carbon dioxide emissions.

A preliminary analysis of the data suggests the industry could reduce emissions by 20-30% over the next 10 years without serious technical disruption.

Arnaud Descôtes, CIVC environmental officer, describes the survey as ‘Champagne’s Kyoto’.

The survey looked not just at the industry itself, but at the whole lifecycle of the product, including transport of personnel and bottles, the energy used to construct equipment, and manufacture of packaging. ‘The packaging alone is responsible for 30% of emissions’, Descôtes told decanter.com.

Working groups will be set up in 2005-06 to look at each area of impact and to draw up formal targets for the industry.

In the past, the Champagne region was criticised for using household waste from Paris as compost. Many vineyards were covered in shreds of unsightly (and inorganic) plastic sacking known as ‘bleus de ville’, and there were rumours of soil contamination.

Use of household rubbish ended in the 1990s, and the industry has done much to clean up its act, transforming a perceived weakness into an area of strength.

In 2001-2003, the CIVC carried out an extensive analysis of the environmental impact of Champagne production, from initial clearing of vineyard land through to bottling. A series of guides on reducing pesticides and other treatments, and managing waste and winery effluents were sent out to Champagne’s 15,000 producers.

Descôtes said while it was clear they had a ‘moral duty’ to protect the environment, there were ‘sound economic reasons’ for what they were doing.

‘First, there is champagne’s image: environmental considerations are increasingly important to consumers. Then there is the inevitability that energy costs will increase and the likelihood that carbon emissions will be taxed in future. Our aim is to anticipate stricter regulations, rather than having to react to them.’

Written by Rupert Joy