A variable future thanks to climate change

Professor Patrice Geoffron furnished Tuesday’s Symposium with an exclusive report on hypothetical futures for the wine industry

A busy day at the first ever Vinexpo International Symposium discussing the impact of climate change on the wine industry peaked with an exclusive presentation by Patrice Geoffron, Director, Centre of Energy and Climate Change Economics, Paris- Dauphine University.

“ Most of what will dictate the future of the wine industry will be defined outside the wine industry. Two centuries ago the level of net carbon was zero. Now we are around 35-40 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide with oil coal and gas emissions representing 81% of this. It is striking because trying to implement the Paris Agreement will imply removing something like 80% of carbon dioxide. There is no precedent for this.”

Geoffron continued with a series of hypothetical scenarios, based on varying levels of commitment to the Paris Agreement, and the economic effects these would have on the winemaking industry. “Worst-case, winemaking could eventually move outward to regions like the north of Scotland, “ he said. “We just have to be more efficient.”

It seems even lowering carbon dioxide emissions could provoke instability. “Ten years ago we did an experiment on what climate change would mean for wine consumption. We observed a growth in wine consumption around 2007 and it stabilised after. We could look at the same consumption numbers in the future in a bigger crisis. So… bad times could lead to increased demand, and vice versa.”

“The best-case scenario promises intense competition, developing regions, newer regions, more diversity. There will also be more pressure from financiers and consumers as they become more discriminating of winemakers based on their environmental performance and sustainability portfolio.”

Ultimately, his conclusion was that, regardless of which of his future scenarios will transpire, wine will always be produced and consumed. “In fact” Geoffron said, “I think the wine sector is a unique asset to the climate change debate. Wine is produced in half the nations of the world, so it could be much more vocal, a ‘whistle-blower’ and a test of the speed of change. Those of us here at Vinexpo Bordeaux can leverage the acceleration and implementation of real global effort on climate mitigation. It’s naïve to think we could use wine to change the world from one year to the next; but it can play a very important part”.

Photo: Patrice Geoffron, Economics Lecturer at Paris-Dauphine University