Climate change is real and is happening around us every day all over the world. As our speakers today will confirm, evidence of climate change is clear and incontrovertible. Its effect on the environment and on human lives and livelihoods can no longer be ignored.
Looking out of the window today in July, I am not sure I can say that summer has yet arrived. Wet summers are not unheard of in Porto, but unusual weather heightens our awareness of the much greater changes that operate on a global scale.
As grape farmers, we are especially sensitive and vulnerable to the multiple impacts of an increasingly unpredictable climate. Violent rainstorms cause erosion and flooding. Unstable air causes destructive hail. Prolonged drought weakens our plants, dessicates our crops and destroys yields.
But these effects can be diminished if everyone plays their part.
Today we are launching the Porto Protocol. This wine industry initiative is more than just a call to action. It is a binding commitment by its signatories, from whatever area, to make a greater contribution to mitigating climate change.
The Porto Protocol has two major objectives.
The first is to ask everyone to do more to help than they are doing at the moment. Too often we think that the problem is for others to solve or that our individual contribution will not matter. And why bother? Surely some scientists will develop the solution and we can all continue as we are. This will not happen and we must all start to do more – every contribution, no matter how small, helps.
The second objective is to create a platform where participants can share their ideas, achievements and experiences. Many companies have worked hard to develop solutions that they are applying to their businesses, often through hard work and careful research. We need to share between us the solutions that are making a difference, stimulate new ideas and inspire others to take action. There is no time, and no need, to reinvent things. If we share our successes and experiences we will all benefit.
I have been asked if this is just for the wine industry and the answer is no. However, the wine industry can take a lead. This is because the wine industry has four main attributes that differentiate it from other beverages:
Firstly, it is has enriched the economies and environments of many remote areas of the world. The Douro Valley without grapes would be empty, La Mancha in Spain would be a desert and many other examples exist across the globe. This is because the grape vine can survive in hostile conditions and, as such, support economic activity in places that would otherwise have none.
Secondly, across the world, the growing of grapes for wine is often the work of families. Family ownership tends to foster long term thinking. Medium term is really the next 5 to 10 years, long term is the next generation.
Thirdly, wine is the world’s only branded agricultural product . It has a unique ability to communicate with the consumer. Its rich natural and cultural heritage means that it has interesting stories to tell. The wine industry talks directly to consumers and consumers listen.
Finally, wine is closely bound to a sense of place. A wine depends for its distinctive character on its ‘terroir’, a unique combination of vine, climate and geography. It cannot be made anywhere else than its place of origin. Consumers may not care about the technicalities of production – who is really concerned about a wine’s pH or how long it has been aged in wood? What matters is that the wine tastes good and that the producer is taking care of the environment. Wine growers are custodians of exceptional places, many classified as world heritage. Consumers know this and they care.
Today, at this Summit, we are launching the Porto Protocol. This will be followed by a conference in March 2019 called Climate Change Leadership – Solutions for the Wine Industry, where we will focus on real examples of what companies are doing to mitigate climate change.
The objective of the Climate Change Leadership conference is not to re-state the need for action. It is to discuss concrete ideas, share real experiences and provide effective solutions which have been shown to work, on whatever scale. And they need not be limited to the wine industry. Indeed, for the Porto Protocol to make a real difference, we need participation from individuals, companies and organisations from all areas, in Portugal and around the globe. The wine industry may be the starting point and is well placed to initiate and mentor the process. However, 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.
This conference is only eight months away and there is no time to lose. I would urge you all to support this important initiative in any way you can so that together we can make a difference in tackling climate change and its growing impact on our everyday lives.