The Green Wine Future 2022 conference was the most ambitious event of its kind, says New Zealand Winegrowers Sustainability Advisor Tessa Chilala in summarising the "exhaustive programme".
You organised the first World Conference on Climate Change and Wine, held in Barcelona, in 2006. How has the wine world's response to clmate change evolved in the 16 years since 2006?
We have come a long way since 2006, there is much more awareness, and nobody denies the climate crisis anymore. It has become obvious that we are facing the most challenging times in history, for our society as a whole and for each industry. Unfortunately, the problem of the climate crisis has been politicised, and there is a tremendous fragmentation and lack of unity when it comes to adopting the right policies and strategies. Sadly, many organisations, nations and multinationals tend to give more importance to their economic interests even if it goes against the environment. On the other hand, the wine industry has shown tremendous leadership because numerous initiatives have started around the planet, including conferences, research projects, foundations, associations, etc. These are trying to find tangible solutions to the climate crisis and for protecting our planet. What we need is to work together, more united, and put more pressure on politicians and policy maker to do the right thing.
How does this conference address the change in perspective? And what will it tackle?
In the original conferences and the initial editions, most of the focus was placed on climate change, or global warming, as it was known in those days. This year we are focussing on many more aspects, such as sustainability, biodiversity, carbon footprint, sustainable tourism, marketing, consumer perception, economics, sustainable working conditions and many others. I have insisted to the scientific committee led by David Furer as the programme director, that the event must provide tangible and proven solutions, keeping in mind both adaptation but especially mitigation. We have learned a lot since the conference started 16 years ago on what the industry needs, and which are the most relevant topics. The way in which we are approaching the conference is rather innovative. We have asked our speakers to provide us with video footage of the topics they will be talking about to have a much more visual and practical conference.
Green work or green wash? How does the modern consumer tell the difference and what's your message to the Industry?
These are two biggies at this year's conference and that is why we have joined forces with Greenpeace. There's too much green marketing and green washing out there. On the other hand, unfortunately the perception of many consumers is that organic and sustainably made wines are more expensive and of less quality. There will be panels addressing the issue of green washing plus a keynote by a representative of Greenpeace and we are tackling the issue of consumer perception, marketing, promotion, and so forth, from different angles and by several experts. But most importantly, we are trying to involve the retailers, sommeliers and the people working with the consumer. Sustainability and the climate crisis must take into consideration what the consumer wants, as well as what restaurants, supermarkets and shops need. Sustainability without the consumer and the retailers on board is a dead end.
Pancho Campo with former United States Vice Presdent Al Gore at the Porto Climate Change Leadership Summit, 2019.
What does the global wine industry need to do to authentically and effectively address climate change, within the sector and beyond?
Adaptation, but most importantly mitigation. Too many efforts are directed to adapting vineyards and oenological practices to a changing climate but that is not going to solve the climate crisis. Mitigation is what really is going to have the long-term effects, but this requires new policies and that we all adopt a new way of thinking about out planet and our environment. Mitigation is about reducing our carbon footprint, making more and better use of renewable energy, reducing the use of water, promote biodiversity, implement sustainable practices at all levels, promote green premium initiatives, develop a sustainable business model, etc. Unfortunately, many people believe that by producing organic, biodynamic or natural wines they are fighting the climate crisis, which is a misconception and not enough.
What are some great examples of change in New Zealand and around the world?
Unfortunately, I have never been to New Zealand but visiting your country is at the top of my list. In fact, one of the documentaries that we are recording for the Planet Future Foundation will take me to your country in 2022, provided the pandemic allows us. New Zealand is highly regarded internationally as one of the most sustainable nations and your wine industry has made a name for itself when it comes to the production of environmentally friendly wines. Changes that are being implemented around the world that I believe are helping the environment and to fight the climate crisis include a much better use of the hydric resources. Wineries are using more and more renewable energy and regenerative and organic viticulture are being widely used. But what I personally believe is the most important change is that the industry, in general terms, does not deny climate change anymore, like when we started the conference, and is willing to consider changing its practices to more sustainable ones.
What are you most excited about when you look ahead at the Green Wine Future conference?
There are many aspects of this conference that have motivated Mike Wangbickler, David Furer, and I, who are the three partners behind the event. Firstly, the fact that it’s going to be a truly global event broadcast from eight different time zones - it’s a challenge but very exciting. Secondly, knowing that we have managed to reduce considerably our carbon footprint by not flying people around the globe and not using large conference centres with tremendous energy waste gives us a sense of satisfaction because we are being coherent with the topic of the conference. But I think what excites me more is that during Green Wine Future we will officially present the Planet Future Foundation, which is a project of mine that I have tried to launch for the longest time and finally it has seen the light. It’s my crusade to contribute to the fight against the climate crisis and my legacy to my children and to our society.
What speakers should we look for?
The wine professionals attending the event, from New Zealand and other parts of the world, can be sure that they will find the latest information on environmental issues and the climate crisis, solutions and strategies that are being implemented around the world, inspiring speeches, and presentations. We have more than 100 speakers, most of them the leading names of the wine industry but also experts from other areas of business and society because we believe it’s important that we learn from other industries, and we share knowledge that could be applied in the wine industry. Having the likes of legendary oceanographer Sylvia Earle and actor Sam Neill is a real honour; as well as different ministers and dignitaries, politicians and leaders from the most important organisations.
What do you hope speakers at a Green Wine Future conference 2032 will be speaking about?
I worry about the future because the values of our politicians, policy makers, CEOs of many large corporations and governments are not necessarily the ones that will address the climate crisis the way it should be. I wish that in these 10 next years the above-mentioned people finally tackle this crisis from the four angles any such issue should be addressed: the science, the economy, the political and the sociological and not giving more importance to one above the other. I wish that our industry, our leaders, and our society accept that it is time to act, that we cannot wait, that we drop our personal interests, setting aside our differences and learning to work together to solve the biggest threat that humankind has ever faced. I honestly wish in 10 years we could be discussing the success of the measures and actions being implemented and how to continue on the right path. Unfortunately, after seeing how many leaders have behaved with the pandemic or the war in Ukraine, I am not so optimistic anymore.
Green Wine Future