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22 April 2024

SBTi chief seeks to allay fears over Scope 3 policy shift

Climate-certification body the Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTi) has sought to diffuse tensions with its own staff over its proposals on carbon offsets. 

The SBTi had revealed plans to permit companies to use environmental attribute certificates to offset emissions from their supply chains, a decision that met with an angry response from some of employees. 

Staff at the organisation, which certifies companies – including food and beverage businesses – on whether they are on track to help limit global heating to under 1.5 °C, called for the statement announcing the offsetting plan to be withdrawn. They also pushed for the resignation of SBTi CEO Luiz Amaral and any board members who supported the initiative. 

In a statement, Amaral has now responded to their complaints, criticism echoed by environmental pressure group the Changing Markets Foundation, which called the move “outrageous”. 

He said: “I acknowledge and deeply regret the concern and distress this situation has caused and want to reassure my SBTi colleagues and stakeholders that the SBTi’s dedication to science-based decarbonisation, public consultation and standard-setting governance is unwavering. The SBTi standards have not changed.” 

However, Amaral admitted that the offsetting plan is being studied. 

“We are exploring changes to tackle the challenges that exist around Scope 3, including exploring responsible use of environmental attribute certificates (EACs) with the right guardrails and limits. A first draft paper will be published in July 2024 and, once the revision process is complete, I am confident we will have a more robust standard that will deliver greater impact,” he said.

12 April 2024

Suntory Holdings claims breakthrough on fuelling whisky distillation

Suntory Holdings has claimed a “world-first” in the use of hydrogen to fuel the distillation of whisky. 

The Japanese drinks giant carried out the trial at its Yamazaki distillery in Osaka. 

In a statement, Suntory Holdings said the test “proves that the new make spirits distilled at this trial have the same quality and taste as those produced by conventional natural gas”. 

The company used the hydrogen in the “direct firing” of the still. Suntory Holdings said using the direct-firing technique can heat the still at higher temperatures than if using indirect heating by steam coils. 

Direct-firing can also “enhance” the quality of the spirit and its “depth of character”, the spirits giant said. It added, however, that replacing gas with hydrogen in this process had been a “challenging step” in its quest to “decarbonise” its whisky production. 

For safety reasons, conventional natural gas was used to start and end the burning during the trial, Suntory Holdings said. 

The group is aiming to cut greenhouse-gas emissions at its sites in half by 2030, compared to a 2019 baseline. It is also targeting a 30% reduction in emissions “throughout the value chain” by 2030. 

By 2040, the company is aiming for net zero greenhouse gas emissions across its value chain. 

Suntory Holdings’ Beam Suntory arm is also looking to “decarbonise” its whisky production in Scotland and the Yamazaki trial was part-funded by the UK government.

27 March 2024

Climate change study warns wine regions at “risk of disappearing”

Climate change could cause 90% of coastal and lowland wine regions in Spain, Italy and southern California to disappear by the end of the century, a study claims. 

A review of the impact of climate change on global viticulture published in Nature Reviews warns climate change is impacting grape composition, yields and wine quality. 

The study, titled Climate Change Impacts And Adaptations Of Wine Production, suggested marketing wine by region rather than variety to encourage sales of lesser-known, climate-resistant varieties. 

“The emergence of new pests and diseases and the increasing occurrence of extreme weather events, such as heatwaves, heavy rainfall and possibly hail, also challenge wine production in some regions,” the researchers said. 

The paper warns vintners operating in already hot and dry regions could face rising temperatures and drought conditions that make the location economically unsuitable for wine. 

Mid-latitude wine regions, meanwhile, could be exposed to increased hail and spring frost events, it said. 

Coastal and lowland regions of Spain, Italy, Greece and southern California are at “risk of disappearing” by the end of the century due to excessive drought and extreme heat events. 

Wine quality is also under threat, the report suggests. If temperatures are too low wines tend to have a green and acidic profile, while excessive heat brings out high alcohol with lower levels of acidity. Grape phenolic compounds, such as tannins and anthocyanin drop in high temperatures, impacting wine structure and colour. 

However, the research notes some of its projections are “overly pessimistic” as they do not account for the possibility of growers adapting to conditions and the “exact extent” of climate change’s impact