Al Gore tells wine industry to act on ‘global emergency’ of climate change

Hundreds of wine industry representatives attended a climate change leadership conference in the city of Porto - a follow-up to the Porto Protocol launched with former US President Barack Obama last year.

The conference, held from 5-7 March 2019, was organised with the Fladgate Partnership, owner of Taylor’s and Croft Port houses, to discuss solutions to the challenges posed by climate change.

In the closing speech of the conference, former US Vice President and Nobel Laureate Al Gore highlighted the ‘global emergency’ posed by climate change to the planet’s resources – from water, topsoil and forests to biodiversity and the integrity of our oceans.

The energy trapped in the atmosphere by man-made global warming, he said, was equivalent to exploding 500,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs per day, 365 days a year. Mankind was treating the planet’s atmosphere like an ‘open sewer’, he added.

Recalling extreme weather events around the world in recent years, including wildfires in Portugal and California, Gore compared watching the news in the early 21st century to ‘something out of the Book of Revelation’.

He called on wine industry leaders to show the new generation of consumers that they were committed to change by signing up to the Protocol.

‘We have a moral responsibility to act,’ says Adrian Bridge, CEO of the Fladgate Partnership. ‘We have no time to waste.’

Bridge conceived of the conference as a way to galvanise wine producers into collaborating and sharing information. While acknowledging a growing trend towards more sustainable practices, he believes that the wine industry as a whole has not yet woken up to this issue. ‘We know what the problem is and we need to find solutions.’

The conference brought together producers such as Miguel Torres of Bodegas Torres, Margareth Henriquez of Krug, Katie Jackson of Jackson Family Wines, Cristina Mariani-May of Banfi Wines and Gilles Descôtes of Bollinger, along with leading wine climatologist Greg Jones and other researchers, scientists and communicators.

‘I’m convinced that the wine sector can be a leader in responding to climate change’, says Jones.

Torres and Jackson Family Wines recently announced a new working group of wineries aimed at reducing carbon emissions in the industry. 

A number of wine sector initiatives were showcased at the conference, including California’s first ‘Self Sustainable Winery’ at UC Davis, advances in water-saving technology from around the world, research programmes to protect biodiversity in wine regions and investments in renewable energy.

‘No one is going to buy one more bottle of wine because of the changes that you make’, said Torres. ‘You’re doing this for the future’.

Read Rupert Joy’s feature on wine and the environment in the April 2019 issue of Decanter, on sale now. 


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