Tuesday, 02 March 2021 12:30

Cutting Carbon: New "roadmap" to emissions reductions

Written by  Sophie Preece
Yealands Estate Yealands Estate

Governance is key to driving down greenhouse gas emissions across the life cycle of a wine product.

That’s one of the findings of a Toitū Envirocare report commissioned by New Zealand Winegrowers to give members guidance on how to reduce emissions. “The report provides a roadmap for where we need to go, but it is decisions around the governance table that determine when we set off,” says New Zealand Winegrowers (NZW) General Manager Sustainability Dr Edwin Massey.

Last year the NZW board committed to the industry becoming net carbon-zero ahead of the Government’s 2050 deadline, and the report provides “some first steps” members can take in their vineyards and wineries to manage and reduce emissions, says Edwin.

It looks at packaging, freight, electricity, transport fuels, and fertilizer and vineyard activities as five key elements, viewing them through the lens of scope 1 (direct company emissions), scope 2 (indirect emissions from purchased energy) and scope 3 (upstream and downstream emissions).

It also explains the concept of the dual “primary levers” required in any reduction project, with the activity level the first lever, such as kilometres travelled in a tractor, and emissions intensity the second lever, tackled in that example with a more efficient tractor and lower emission fuel source.

Edwin says the Toitū report shows it is not too hard to achieve reduction, “if you take it step by step”, with a “targeted approach”. He says consciousness around carbon emissions and reduction programmes is changing very quickly. “I think it is really becoming part of the everyday discourse of our industry.”

A second Toitū report, also commissioned by NZW, provides an assessment of land use greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of the wine sector in New Zealand. It says grape growing is a relatively low producer of emissions compared to a range of New Zealand’s primary sector land uses. “Forest growth is the most effective way to remove carbon, but the per hectare emission from growing grapes is comparable to cropping or kiwifruit and noticeably lower than sheep/beef and dairy,” the report says. That’s good news for wine, says Edwin. “While there is much work to do, the wine industry is in a bit of a sweet spot, in that it’s relatively low emissions in a relatively high value industry.”

GHG emission metrics from vineyard operations were estimated to be 3,000 kgCO2e per hectare or 270 kgCO2e per tonne of grapes, which equates to 0.07 kgCO2e per export dollar. That is “far lower” than the emissions per export dollar revenue earned by dairy, says the report. “Land use change is expected to become a part of New Zealand’s transition pathway to a low emissions economy – a move to planting grapes in those areas suitable for quality wine production and currently used for more emissions intensive land could help to reduce New Zealand’s emissions overall.”

However, the organisation found there was limited data from New Zealand viticulture, despite the key metrics recorded by Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand (SWNZ). “The lack of data collected on GHG emissions within the New Zealand wine industry makes the planning needed to achieve the 2050 zero-emissions target impossible,” says the report. This was a key part of the rationale to include a dedicated climate change section with the SWNZ questionnaire, Edwin says. “If you can’t measure it (GHG emissions) – you can’t manage it”.

A major focus of the SWNZ team in 2021 will be to engage members with the new questionnaire. This will include key industry events like Grape Days and also dedicated workshops and online content, says Edwin. “The very first questions is ‘are you part of a certified carbon accounting programme?’

To read the full reports, go to nzwine.com/members/sustainability/guides/climate-change/

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