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Climate Change and a Sustainable Future for Canberra District Wine Industry

Climate change is a widely discussed topic and it has become a subject of concern especially for the environmental scholars. It is a subject that has been discussed in diverse contexts such as urban development, agriculture and tourism. Quite unique to all these discussions is the fact that climate change is considered as a threat to humanity. The effects of climate change are diverse and affect all sectors such as agriculture and business. Problems arising from climate change are continuously increasing. The business environment has changed as a result of challenges arising from climate change that are continuously increasing (Ray 2013). Just like the business sector, agriculture and tourism also face the challenges arising from climate change and there are some major changes that have emerged from adaptation. Wine industry has a direct impact on the economy of a nation. The sustainability of wine industry will depend on how this sector will adapt to the challenges of climate change. This essay will discuss climate change and a sustainable business future for Canberra District wine industry. In this context, this essay will discuss extensively the current state of Canberra District wine industry, strategic challenges to its sustainability, major stakeholders and the strategic responses to climate change. Arguments will be supported by relevant academic resources.

Climate change has been defined in so many ways owing to its effect on different aspects. While others have attributed climate change to human activities, others perceive that climate change has resulted from natural processes. For example, the Rajya Sabha Secretariat (2008) attributes climate change to human activities and he defines it as changes occurring in earth’s global climate or that of a given region over a period of time that can range from decades to millions of years. According to him, climate change is a term used to describe all alterations in the status of atmosphere that have occurred over long periods of time. This term can also be defined using a description which formed the basis of the United Nations Framework Convention’s Kyoto Protocol. This description affirms that climate change is all that pertains changing of systems such as rainfall patterns, cloud cover, distribution of animal and plant species as a result of human activities causing increased greenhouse gas emissions (Reddy & Wilkes, 2012). Despite the fact that this term has been defined differently from different perspectives with diverse attributions, a common perception to all who have defined it is that it involves climatic changes spurred by human related activities either directly or indirectly (Rajya Sabha Secretariat, 2008).

Sustainability is also a widely contested concept just like climate change and it is an old term which dates back to ascend of mining and industrialization (Reddy & Wilkes 2012: 27). Since its emergence, the term has been connected with other concepts such as the corporate social responsibility. Sustainability is defined as;

‘An approach to production and consumption characterized by principles such as taking a long term orientation, balancing the needs of current individuals with those of future generations; recognizing that our activities are part of a complex system in which environmental, social and economic activities are interdependent and being aware of social, economic and environmental impacts of our activities’ (Reddy & Wilkes 2012: 25).

It is common to note other concepts such as climate change, fair trade and corporate social responsibility being connected to sustainability. It is quite clear that these discussions stem from three major fields which form the pillars of sustainability and they include; economic, social and environmental disciplines (Barkemeyer, 2010). The coverage of sustainability has since extended beyond the conventional limits. A recent analysis on media for a ten year period ranging from 1990 to 2000 indicated that there has been a remarkable increase in the coverage of climate change in the context of sustainability (Barkemeyer 2010: 10). Notably, the other two pillars of sustainability have not been covered in the same measure as that of climate change.

The history of wine making in Australia dates back to more than 200 years ago. Today, Australia is one of the largest producers and exporters of wine in the world. For several years now, it has become an industry leader in winemaking, wine marketing and viticulture. In the early days, Australian wine industry relied on exports with original and main export market being United Kingdom (Brostrom 2009: 19). In addition to British market, Australia also exports its wines to United States, New Zealand, Netherlands, Germany and Canada. Australia produces red and white grape varieties used in making wines. Australian wines are labelled according to the red and grape varieties it produces. Canberra District is one of the wine producing regions in Australia. It has a cool climate favourable for growing of grapes used to produce wines. Although this is the case, climate change impacts could alter its growing season destabilizing a successful and sustainable business future for Canberra.

The wine industry in Australia has added unique characters to its industry through introduction of research, innovation, experimentation and issues of sustainability over the last few years (Brostrom 2009: 20). This has contributed to increase in wine consumption levels in Australia but not as high as those in Europe. In 2007, stakeholders in the wine industry identified the challenges and possible strategies for the sustainable growth. A year before, that is 2006; the industry did a review and changed its name to Wine Australia. Furthermore, it also modernized its logo (Brostrom 2009: 19). The understanding of Australian wine industry and collaboration benefits between stakeholders has enabled it to achieve the current growth in immeasurable ways. Boutique winemakers and wine corporations heads regularly holds conferences. Wine industry also involve itself in image building and in Australia, Australian Wine Export Council does this job in Europe and other regions (Giuliani, Morrison& Rabellotti 2011: 78). The average nominal export price for Australian wines has fallen since turn of the millennium. This was made worse by the global financial crisis of 2008. Moreover, strengthening of the Australian dollar has since complicated the work of wine exporters. In order to maintain competitive advantage, grape growers and winemakers in Australia have since been forced to develop new strategies. Innovation thus has been identified as crucial to economic survival of Australian wine industry. In the last 20 years, wine industry in Australia has improved in its competitiveness due to large investments in wine marketing, wineries, and vineyards. In addition, knowledge in production has been created and disseminated (Giuliani et al., 2011: 79).

Canberra District wine industry just like any other wine region has its challenges and issues. It is sensitive and prone to exposure of climate and weather risks. Moreover, the industry has a significant adaptive capacity. Canberra wine region is one of the New World Wine regions and one of the young Australian wine regions. The distributions of wineries in the district are found within its three distinct sub-regions (Hall et al., 2012: 82). In the recent years, Canberra District wineries have consistently produced table wines of high quality from its cool climate. The increase in demand and interest as well as higher production in Canberra wineries has significantly boosted the industry leading it to involve itself in tourism industry. Indeed, Canberra District wine region has seen increase in cellar door visitation hence rise in cellar door sales. All these results are significantly threatened by strategic challenges pose by climate change. Climate change can be said to be inevitable and wine industry is vulnerable to it due to infrastructural challenges that vineyards and wineries create since it cannot be moved. The effects of global warming means that few decades to come the world will be a much warmer place necessitating establishment and adoption of minimisation strategies such as better energy efficiency. The discussion of climate change effects on the wine industry started around two decades ago but no real concrete steps have been made to mitigate their impacts.

The wine regions of Australia are distinguished because of their climate; hot inland, warm and cool regions while climate characterise individual vintages. Canberra District wine industry is distinguished for its cool climate. Changes in climate will influence individual vintages first due to their influential climatic characteristics. Wine styles are then affected and lastly the suitability for growth of grapes in a region is threatened. Climate change will no doubt affect Canberra District wine industry. Hayman and Thomas (2013: 5) in their research, asserted that reduction of water quality and quantity, extreme temperature events changes and mean temperature changes are most likely to be the origin of climate change threat to the wine industry in Australia. The wine industry in Canberra will thus have many strategic challenges in its bid to be competitive in wine industry. Temperatures are predicted to rise by 2oC by 2030 and in 2050 by 6o C will have huge effects on Australian wine regions (Allen 2010: 12). Impacts of these expected changes include faster ripening of grapes which will bring picking times forward to warmer days of the year and change of wine flavours and styles being produced. In addition, the regions which are now cooler will change to warmer regions. The cool Canberra District wine industry climate will be warm and may become too hot for grapes growing. The most important effects of these climate changes are increased concentrations of grape sugar, lower acidities, advanced temperatures and harvest times (Ramon 2010: 1844). In extreme hot temperatures, metabolism of vine may be inhibited which leads to reduced metabolite concentrations. This may affect the wine colour and aroma (Ramon 2010: 1844).

Extreme hot temperatures have its own downsides to the wine industry in Canberra. Grape growers in particular will have to deal with extreme weather events such as flash-floods, heat waves, extended drought, and frosts and hail which degrade the quality of soil. Furthermore, increase in temperatures leads to rise in proportion of fruits which ripe in a shorter time. This will result into compressed harvesting period in Canberra consequently exerting pressure on vineyard management and facilities. Adaptation to climate change is a difficult strategic challenge for the wine industry in realisation of its business future. To remain sustainable, efficient and effective methods need to be put in place. The producers of wine in Canberra are implementing corrective measures that reduce greenhouse gas emissions by using alternative sources of energy (Hayman & Thomas 2013: 5). Although this is one of the effective methods, it may be costly in the short-run but it is beneficial to sustainable business future. It had been suggested by Climate Commission in 2011 that water temperature sensitive crops such as wine grapes should adapt to changes in climate or move their locations to places with growing conditions agreeable to their production. This is an enormous challenge to Canberra District wine region as relocating vineyards has logistical difficulties as well as being costly.

Climate change effects can be catastrophic but if definitive measures are put in place it can be contained. Changes in climate alter viticulture practices and can spatially alter potential areas for wine production (Lereboullet, Beltrando & Bardsley 2013: 273). Loss of employment can occur in wine industry if changes in climate are not addressed. This result from the fact that lower production means losses hence industries might be forced to lay off some workers to stay in business. All the stakeholders in the wine industry can response to climate change challenge by making decisive choices. Reduction of emissions and increase of efficiency have been implemented in Canberra District wine industry in response to climate change. Many wineries are now using lightweight glass bottles, others tetra packs and plastic bottles (Allen 2010: 14). The wineries in Canberra are also offsetting carbon emissions they generate through trees planting. Canberra District wine industry has adopted waste management systems which are environmentally friendly in dealing with climate change effects.

Wine industry is one of the sectors that contribute to growth of Australian economy in a number of ways. It a source of employment for many people both directly and indirectly. It is a source of foreign exchange for the country through exports of wine. Its contribution to the economic growth is threatened by changes in climate. Production of grapes, quality and flavour of wine are all dependent on climate (Hayman & Thomas 2013: 6). Other agricultural products are distinguished from wine as style and flavour of wine is impacted to a large extent by climate. The climatic challenges that affect grape growing and wine production and quality include the following: the quality of grape is sensitive more than most other crops to temperature change. A rise in average temperature significantly changes the quality and style of wine in any particular region (Webb, Whetton & Barrow 2007:2).The increase of frequency and severity of heat stress in the growing season affects the wine industry production levels. Lastly, climate change increase carbon dioxide levels that directly affect production of grapes and water use. Techniques, tools and strategies for tackling these climatic changes in vineyards and at wineries in Canberra District are therefore needed in adapting to changing climate.

Adaptive challenges in context of climate change in Canberra wine industry is the main factor that will affects its future sustainability. In reducing climate change impacts, Canberra District wine industry needs to evaluate various adaptation strategies. In essence, the industry has limited options (Webb et al., 2013: 6). The industry may opt to preserve the current wine styles it is using based on a given well known varieties that is grown on particular climates. The industry then adapts to climate change by relocating to cooler regions of the present day. Alternatively, Canberra District wine industry may opt to maintain the current infrastructure it has and change varieties to those better adapted to climates that are warmer. Shifting of viticulture has its own complications hence may not be suitable adaptive strategy. Appellation system is not utilised in Australia like in Italy and France (Webb et al., 2007: 6). Appellation system involves production of wine by a region using a restricted variety list. Depending on the climatic conditions, many varieties grow in each wine region producing styles of wine which are different in variety. This strategy can be adopted in Canberra as a way of mitigating climate change impacts in the wine industry. Categories can be constructed in which a production preference for a particular variety that is within a temperature range is grown in certain regions based on their characteristics. At the wineries, techniques for maintaining composition, style and quality of wine from grapes which are grown under different changed climatic conditions should be prioritised in Canberra. The industry players should also integrates greenhouse emission management with effective and efficient production of grape and wine.

In conclusion, a change in climate is a long term problem that spans over a longer timescales. While it is becoming clear that changes in climate has happen already and effects on natural environment already identified, the future holds the main risks. Therefore, exploring options for tackling climate change will be solely based on scenario analysis since the future is unknown as well as dependent on the choices yet to be made. In evaluating possible future actions and strategies in a bid to combat changes in climate in a sensible manner, multi-baseline scenario approach may be the right way. In general, climate change that results from increased greenhouse gases concentrations are projected to happen. In Australia and especially Canberra, this represents a warmer climate. The increase in heat has adverse effects on wine industry in Canberra. Wine industry practitioners still have time to adapt as mean temperature changes are expected to be gradual. Even though this is the case, extreme events such as extreme drought and rainfall, heat waves and flash floods are expected to increase in their severity and frequency in future. This will have the greatest effect on the wine industry in Canberra thus proper adaptive strategies must be instituted quickly. In choosing adaptive strategies in light of climate change, it is apparent that Canberra District wine industry has limited options. It is therefore imperative for all the stakeholders to come together and put mechanisms in place that will counter climate change using reasonable time scales. In this way, Canberra District wine industry will be almost certain of having a sustainable business future.


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