Wine Industry Steps Up Its Carbon Footprint Work

    The wine business is on a mission to gauge its emissions of greenhouse gasses as pressure builds from regulators and markets in California and worldwide to emit less of the compounds blamed for global climate change.

     According to the North Bay Business Journal, agriculture as a whole is low on the list of economic sectors the California Air Resources Board is targeting initially for mandatory reporting of 2008 emissions starting next year, as part of the phase-in of Assembly Bill 32, called the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006.

     However, wineries and trade groups in Australia, California, New Zealand and South Africa aren’t waiting. The groups, including the San Francisco-based Wine Institute, are backing development of global industry protocols for wineries, winegrape growers and other related companies to determine their total emissions contribution, commonly called a carbon footprint, based on the World Resources Institute’s International Greenhouse Gas Protocol.

     The Winemakers’ Federation of Australia recently released draft protocols and a software tool for measuring direct and certain indirect emissions of these gasses, such as carbon dioxide largely from combustion and fermentation, methane from decomposing waste and nitrous oxide from fertilizer.

     Part of the urgency for having these tools in place is so the California wine industry can start reducing emissions early to prepare for the emissions cap-and-trade system discussed in AB 32 implementation meetings late last year.

     Under such a system, emissions for certain business sectors would be capped at a certain rate per year, so organizations that emit less can sell their allowance for the difference to a company that emits more. Who would be capped, and how the carbon credits would be traded is still unclear, according to Pat Sullivan, vice president of SCS Engineers and one of the certifiers for the state-created footprint clearinghouse California Climate Action Registry.

     “Many have a vision about selling all these credits, but if they are in a growing industry, they will need the credits,” Sullivan said. “The real value is not in selling credits but in having them themselves.”

     The Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance has been working with the registry in aligning that group’s protocols to determine how large a wine operation’s footprint actually is, or how many emissions sources are considered, according to Chris Savage, director of global environmental affairs for E&J Gallo Winery and co-chairman of the Wine Institute’s Environmental Working Group.

     Another reason for urgency in getting out a carbon footprint calculator for the wine business is to contribute to the United Kingdom’s product labeling version of AB 32, Publicly Available Specification 2050, which is set to be finalized in the next couple of months.

Posted in Wine and the Environment
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