Scientist Patrice Geoffron’s climate change fears

Patrice Geoffron’s climate change clarion call to wine industry

Patrice Geoffron, Director of the Energy-Climate team at Paris-Dauphine University, is set to deliver a wake up call to the global wine industry at Vinexpo’s agenda setting climate change symposium.

How is climate change already affecting the wine industries of different countries?

The wine sector has been facing challenges due to climate change since the 1980s, but it is since the 2000s that it has become a major issue for the whole industry. It already is a major problem in southern Europe (which accounts for 50% of world wine production), so the overall sector must be on alert.

What do you expect to see in the next 10-20 years?

The issue is not only which winegrowing techniques you need to follow and which grape varieties you should be working with, but also the significance of wine in the more unstable, chaotic world we live in. Our planet is faced with new extreme weather events, but also with economic and geopolitical shocks, migratory crises, and an overriding sense of uncertainty.

(…)IF TEMPERATURES INCREASE BY MORE THAN 2°C BY 2050 (…) THEN WINE PRODUCTION WOULD BE VERY DISRUPTED, MADE WORSE BY SHOCKS TO THE GLOBAL ECONOMY AND THE SUBSEQUENT IMPACT THERE WOULD BE ON ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION.

What will be the economic impact of climate change?

The economic impact will depend on the implementation of the Paris Climate Change Agreement. If it fails, then temperatures could increase by more than 2°C by 2050. If they do then wine production would be very disrupted, made worse by shocks to the global economy and the subsequent impact there would be on alcohol consumption. On the other hand, if the Agreement is a success, our climate would not be different to the one we know today. This could actually be a benefit to wine production, with the emergence of new regions, particularly in northern Europe, alongside all the progressive changes that need to take place in all the traditional production regions and countries.

Do you think businesses need to see the economic and nancial value first before making real steps to tackle climate change?

The two are not incompatible: viticulture will increasingly need to meet consumers and financiers expectation around the carbon footprint of wines. Actors in the wine world must anticipate a form of “discrimination” if they do not meet their environmental potential. It would be surprising if wine could escape such pressure in this changing world.

Do you have examples of what financial benefits there are for companies that take steps towards tackling climate change?

Wine producers have always had to make profitability decisions based on factors that can only be measured in the long term. Committing to the “sustainability” of a vineyard, in very uncertain times, is a long-term challenge. It’s not only a financial challenge, but also about preserving a cultural heritage.

When it comes to driving sustainability, which areas do you think would be the quick wins for the wine industry?

The overall environmental effect has to be assessed throughout the wine supply chain. Wine’s carbon footprint also has to take into account the tasks that go on outside the vineyard and winery in terms of bottling, packaging, and long-distance transport. Winegrowers can take steps within the perimeter of their wineries, but they must also take care of the CO emissions that are involved 2 in getting their wines to market.

WINEGROWERS MUST EXPLAIN, OVER AND OVER AGAIN, THAT CLIMATE CHANGE IS A REALITY AND THAT ACTION CANNOT BE POSTPONED.

Do you think the wine industry is in a unique position to make a big contribution towards sustainability and the changes it can create right through its supply chain?

Winegrowers are in a position of being able to see the changes that have been taking place in their vineyards for several decades. Wine is produced from 7.5 m hectares and in half of the world’s countries. It is unparalleled among human activities. It is how those wines are produced and consumed that will determine the success of the Paris Agreement. Winegrowers must explain, over and over again, that climate change is a reality and that action cannot be postponed.


Patrice Geoffron Director, Center of Energy and Climate Change Economics, Université Paris Dauphine