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Friday read: Pancho Campo – The wine world and climate change

Friday read: Pancho Campo – The wine world and climate change

Friday read: Pancho Campo on the wine world and climate change

By Andrew Catchpole

Published:  06 May, 2022

Ahead of the virtual Green Wine Future 2022 conference this May, Andrew Catchpole invited organiser Pancho Campo to explain how he became a driving force for climate action and why the globe’s environmental problems are also very much those of the wine trade.

Tell us a little bit about your Foundation.

My family created the Planet Future Foundation with two main goals. Number one, to show the world how important protecting the most sensitive areas of the planet is. This is even if it has nothing to do with my business. This has been divided into four categories: Greenland’s Arctic glaciers and Greenland, the marine environment and coral Reefs, the Amazons and other great forest and jungles, and areas in danger of flooding and extreme drought.

I travel to these locations to record 45-minute documentaries on the climate crisis in those areas, the solutions being implemented, and strategies that institutions, organisations, and corporations can adopt to adapt to the climate crisis.

The second goal [is]All educational programmes will be brought under the umbrella of this foundation.

When did it occur to you to make a shift?

It all goes back to when my father was young. When I was eight years old, I used tell him that the weather and climate controller was the most powerful superhero on the planet. He used to laugh, but I was always interested in the weather because it’s so hard to control. It was between 2002-2003. I’m a keen skier so we used to go skiing with our friends in Spain. We would see how the season changed, sometimes with lots of snow, but also lots of episodes of very dramatic climate changes, which then made for a very short season.

I was also pursuing a Master of Wine degree. So one day, I put two and two together and said, ‘hold on, you know, if we need quality grapes to produce quality wine and grapes are under the influence of sunlight, ultraviolet radiation, rainfall, humidity – those are the parameters that the climate crisis is changing – there must be a direct relationship between the wine industry and the climate crisis. The first World Conference on Climate Change and Wine was organized in 2006.

How receptive is the wine industry?

The early days of the wine industry were a time when the industry was very strong. Because in 2006, although it was a very small event, it attracted the attention of the mainstream media (apart from the wine media), such BBC 4, Discovery Channel, National Geographic – they all went to Barcelona for an event that was actually a failure because we had 200 seats and we only managed to fill 80. But it was noticed and had an impact.

We were, apparently, the first industry to recognize climate change in a scientific way. It attracted the attention also of Vice President Al Gore, and his group, Climate Reality Project. So his office, about two weeks after the event, they reached out to me to say, ‘you know, the Vice President has shown a lot of interest in your conference; you are the first industry that is tackling climate change in an event of this category’.

I convinced him that he would be my keynote speaker for the second edition. I was extremely fortunate because the second edition was only 18 months away. In those 18 months, he released his movie. [An Inconvenient Truth]He won the Oscar and the Nobel Peace Prize. When he traveled to Barcelona, he was most likely the most famous human being on Earth. That made our conference a huge event. In 2006, there were 80 participants. This year, we had more than 600 people from 70 different countries.

What are the greatest challenges?

I believe there is a lot greenwashing in wine industry. There are many companies that claim they are sustainable and they are doing everything possible to adapt and mitigate the climate crisis. It’s easy to see the bottom. This is number one.

Number two is a significant fragmentation of the [wine]The world is not a unified group of people and strategy. You’ve got the guys from International Wineries for Climate Action; you have the Porto Protocol, you have guys in California… I think the industry needs to get together, and that was the first goal of Green Wine Future, to try to unify the wine industry around the most pressing issue that we have, not only as a wine industry but also as a society or as human beings. This mission has been completed to around 80%.

Is the wine business going to get there in the time it takes to meet climate change goals?

I think it’s not only the wine industry; all of us are already very late. The more I travel, I realize that the glaciers in Greenland and Iceland have melted. We will never be able get them back. The species that have disappeared, there’s no way back, the amount of coral reefs that are dying because of an increase in temperature and change in [ocean]pH is going to make it very difficult, if not impossible, to recover.

While many initiatives are being made in the wine industry for adaptation, not much is being done for mitigation. It is important to understand that adaptation will solve the problem at the winery or vineyard, but not the climate crisis. You can help the industry by using different canopy management, biodynamic viticulture or regenerative winegrowing, but it won’t solve the climate crisis.

At the same time that adaptation is put in place, you’ve got to work on things like reducing your carbon footprint, making better use of your water resources, investing in renewable energy at the vineyard level and the winery level – that is what is going to affect the climate crisis. Unfortunately, the wine industry has been very short-sighted when it comes to ‘adaptation, adaptation, adaptation’ – what can I do to preserve my vineyard, and what kind of management can I use to protect it from the sun? What can I do in my winery to reduce alcohol and prevent acidity from dropping? It’s fine for wine, but not for the planet.

What about shipping to far-flung destinations?

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It is very difficult. The largest producers are located in [terms of]There are many bubbly producers. I’ve mentioned this to Cava producers, to people in Champagne, and they say ‘if we use thinner bottles, they will explode’. My answer is, ‘are you going to tell me that in the 21st century, you cannot develop a technology to make those bottles lighter or to have some kind of stronger glass without increasing the weight?’.

Another thing is that the wine industry relies heavily on travel. Plus, wine critics travel every other year to visit the same wineries. We must accept that there will be sacrifices, less travel around the globe, and less attendance at in-person events. The beauty of the pandemic was that it has made us all so adept in the use Zoom and Hopin and all of these technologies. We should take advantage. This is why we insist on Green Wine Future being a 100% virtual event. It’s not because of the Spanish pandemic.

The problem is how do I talk about sustainability without bringing Barack Obama from Washington DC in his private jet? [or event in]Oporto, plus 60 additional speakers from Australia, Chile, New Zealand, Australia, Chile, and California. Our carbon footprint was outrageous for the Climate Change Leadership in Porto.

Why is Green Wine Futures 2022 not focusing on speakers from the wine world?

Some of the most prominent names in the wine industry, such as Katie Jackson, Gerard Bertrand and Miguel Torres are here. We also have the minister from New Zealand of agriculture and the minister from Panama of tourism talking about the importance sustainable tourism; Trudie Stiler, the CEO at Patagonia, the clothing company; and Sylvia Earle, an oceanographer, the female Jacque Cousteau.

You don’t need to be narrow-minded. Let’s look at what works. [others are]Doing so, you can apply it to wine tourism and explain why it’s important to protect the oceans and coral reefs and forests. And maybe we can extrapolate lessons that other industries are implementing – we can say, ‘maybe with a little tweak here and there, we can apply it in our vineyards’.

Green Wine Future 2022 will be held from 23 to 26 May and will feature over 150 speakers, including scientists, journalists, and world leaders.

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