The wine industry takes the initiative in combatting climate change with the Porto Protocol
25 July 2018

The Porto Protocol, signed at the close of the Climate Change Leadership Porto Summit, which brought together wine industry leaders and scientists such as climate expert Professor Mohan Munasinghe, is a commitment to developing and sharing solution driven practices to mitigate climate change. The Summit was addressed by former US President Barack Obama.

Porto is one of the world`s great wine capitals and the gateway to Portugal`s most discussed wine region, the spectacularly beautiful Douro Valley. Wine production, like all forms of agriculture, is increasingly vulnerable to climate change and unpredictable weather conditions. In late May this year, unusually intense hail storms destroyed large areas of vineyard in Bordeaux and Cognac. Last week, it was the turn of vineyards in Switzerland to suffer damage from hail. In the Douro last year, grape harvesting began in early August, exceptionally early, following on several months of extremely dry weather. This year, on the other hand, there has been an unusual about of rain in the Douro…

In his speech to the Summit, held in the Coliseu, Cassiano Branco`s splendid Art Deco concert hall, Adrien Bridge remarked that “evidence of climate change is clear and incontrovertible.” Wine, he observed, is not only an agriculture product, but a cultural one. Wine production tends to be multigenerational and family-based and it is important to build a sustainable future for the generations to come. Even more, wine is one of agriculture`s few branded products and as such, Bridge believes, is in a unique position “to talk directly to the consumer, and consumers listen.” In short, the wine industry, and in particular its leading brands, can lever brand awareness to contribute to mitigating climate change.

The 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change was one of the culminating achievements of the Obama presidency and, in recent months, the former President has been steadily opposing the Trump administration`s decision to pull the US out of the agreement. Obama was in Porto for a few hours as the keynote speaker at the Climate Change Leadership Porto Summit, a considerable achievement for the Summit`s organizers as Obama only accepts very few invitations of this sort. In a scarcely veiled allusion to the current US administration, Obama commented that despite changes in legislation, businesses in many countries were leading the way with climate change initiatives. He urged the wine industry to play a proactive leadership role in this movement, in its own interest and that of the planet, commenting that the industry needed however to adopt a more organized approach.

The Porto Protocol will be a tool to engage not only the local wine industry, but all wine industry actors to mitigate the effects of climate change. It will provide a platform for sharing best practices so that the largest number of producers can benefit from what companies are doing to minimize the impact of change. “The Porto Protocol is an open platform, a dynamic database of ideas, a shared resource from which we can all benefit, whatever our area of activity,” said Bridge.

A follow-up conference, Climate Change Leadership – Solutions for the Wine Industry, will be held in Porto, in March 2019.