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France to Measure Carbon Emissions of Wine Industry

January 30, 2008

One of France’s most renowned wine-growing regions is launching an initiative to determine how much greenhouse gas emissions the industry is generating.  The Bordeaux Wine Board (Conseil Interprofessionel des Vins de Bordeaux or CIVB) hopes this will bolster industry environmental standards.

The project, called “Bilan Carbone” in French, will take place over the next six months with results announced in September of this year.  The French Environment Agency (ADEME) will also take part.

“We know we produce 756 million bottles of wine per year and that 40 percent of that is exported,” said Laurent Charlier of the CIVB, in an AFP interview.  “This study should give a clear idea of what different methods of production or shipment mean, in terms of environmental cost,” he said.

Environmental consultant Jean Marc Jancovici will be working with the CIVB on the project.   Jancovici led a similar program in France’s Champagne region, and has previously worked with the French government, France Telecom, Sony, Alcatel and luxury goods company LVMH.

Roland Feredj, CIVB’s director, said the project was driven in part by France’s national environmental action plan launched last October.   However, economics also played a role.

“Everyone is concerned with the costs of (wine) production, so if we can find ways of saving money and reducing carbon emissions, that would be ideal,” he told AFP.

The study is estimated to cost approximately $70,000 (50,000 euros), and the overall program goals are to provide a comprehensive review of the emissions resulting from growing vines, making wine, bottling, storage and delivery of the wine.  Personnel, packaging, vine treatments and waste management will also be included in the review.

“We intend to find out the carbon emissions for making different styles of wine,” Charlier said. “And at what stages we need to concentrate our efforts to mitigate the emissions.”

One of the winemaking families taking part in the study group is the Despagne Family, who own a 750-acre vineyard in the Bordeaux region.   They have already initiated carbon reduction efforts, including planting 25 acres of sunflowers to be used in fuel production for tractors.

“We think it’s good and we are going to be part of the study group,” said Aymeric Fournier for the Despagne Family, in an AFP report.  While he welcomed the CIVB project, he cautioned that studying carbon emissions was a challenge.  

“This [project] will give us an overview of the situation but it is a complicated thing to do,” he said.

“We started seriously in the spring of 2007 — although we had already planted the sunflowers — to look at our carbon emissions but deciding how far to take each measurement is not easy,” Fournier said.

“For example, with any of the products needed for the vineyard we need to ask, how far has this come, how much carbon was emitted in its making? Or take the different cars and different distances that employees drive to work. It is a very detailed calculation,” he said.

The Despagnes are using a technique developed by Australian industry consultant Provisor and the Yalumba Wine Company to measure their greenhouse gas emissions and compare them with global standards.

“It is quite a piece of work but we are determined to go ahead with it. It helps so much to have this kind of framework. We were a bit stumped as to where to go next before we saw this,” Fournier said.

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