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Champagne is the first wine-growing region in the world to have assessed its carbon footprint in 2002/2003.
The carbon footprint represents the quantity of greenhouse gases (GHG) resulting from all the Champagne sector’s activities, from the production of resources to the end consumers.
A rapidly changing climate
The consequences of climate change are already being felt in Champagne. Between 1961 and 2020, temperatures increased by an average of 1.8°C. Spring frosts are tending to cause more damage than before, due to an earlier budburst. Harvesting is generally taking place ever earlier in the year: on average, it now starts 20 days earlier than 30 years ago!
These are all facts that should galvanise us into taking concrete action, both to reduce the carbon footprint of the Champagne industry and to adapt as much as possible to climate change.
The first wine-growing region in the world to have assessed its carbon footprint
In the early 2000s, Champagne conducted an environmental audit of all its processes. It was the first wine-growing region in the world to assess its carbon footprint in 2002/2003. Since then, this has been updated every 5 years (2003, 2008, 2013, 2018), in its entirety, to regularly monitor the pace of emission reductions.
The assessment measures the impact of such Champagne-making tasks as vine cultivation, wine production, packaging or waste and by-product management, etc. As an example, here is Champagne’s latest Carbon Footprint:
Contrary to what you might think, the core business, linked to the vineyard and wine, represents less than 15% of its greenhouse gas emissions, while the purchase of goods and services accounts for more than 50% of its carbon footprint.
That finding prompted Champagne to adopt an ambitious carbon plan as early as 2005. In 2015, the second Champagne Carbon Plan took over with the objective of reducing the Champagne region's overall emissions by 25% by 2025. Champagne's carbon footprint has already decreased by 15% between 2003 and 2018.
Did you know?
Champagne-related tourism is also taken into account in the calculation of the sector's carbon footprint.
A daily consideration given the size of the task
Collective mobilisation is required to reduce CO2 emissions and contribute to carbon neutrality. All stakeholders, at all levels, must do their bit. Meaningful change will be achieved through all the actions combined, whether on a small-, medium- or large-scale. Such an approach calls for considerable investment, not least financial. And the Champagne industry is aware that this is a long-term endeavour. It is progressing slowly but surely, keeping a humble and realistic stance.
Accordingly, Champagne’s second Carbon Plan (2015), still in practice today, is grounded in the collective efforts of 120 representatives of the industry’s different stakeholders (growers, Champagne Houses, institutions, related companies, service providers, research, banks, marketing, etc.). Six main themes have been defined: sustainable viticulture with a focus on machinery, sustainable oenology with a focus on the eco-design of packaging, buildings with a focus on energy efficiency, freight and passenger traffic, circular economy and governance.
A set of short, medium and long-term actions
To converge towards these ambitious carbon emission targets, a series of specific measures have been implemented industry-wide:
Scrapping of energy-intensive frost control systems, especially those based on combustion;
Strong reduction in the use of mineral fertilisers;
Research and development on wine-making machinery: electric tractors, robots, etc.;
Eco-design of trellising equipment: locally sourced wooden stakes from sustainably managed forests;
Eco-design of packaging: streamlining of Champagne bottles, boxes and packages, etc. From 2011, bottle weight has thus been reduced by 7%, from 900g to 835g, which has paved the way to 8,000 fewer tons of CO2 emissions every year (the equivalent of a fleet of 4,000 vehicles);
Improvement of energy efficiency in Champagne cellars: sustainable construction, collective energy saving and measurement scheme, LED lighting, etc.;
Use of bio-based products to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels;
Implementation of an online carbon calculator, accessible free of charge on the Comité Champagne's extranet, for all professionals in the sector;
Study of transatlantic cargo-sailboat options for large-scale export;
Collective mobilisation through focus sessions on the carbon issue during industry meetings, general meetings among them;
Improvement of the recovery of waste and wine biomass energy;
Revegetation, planting of hedges and trees allowing a better absorption of CO2 and storage of carbon in soils (compost).