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Climate action is needed to protect the wine industry

Climate action is needed to protect the wine industry

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Drought, heat extremes, wildfires, power outages, smoke. In the last four years these have become part of our normal experience here in Napa Valley — and in all winegrowing regions in the western United States.

As we look to the future of our multi-generational, agriculturally based family winegrowing businesses, we recognize climate change as the existential threat to our current and continued success. We thus implore our government to adopt a carbon fee and dividend policy similar to the bipartisan Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (H.R. 763), which gained 85 co-sponsors in the last Congress.

We are farmers first. We are, thus, deeply attuned to our natural environment, and we are exceptional stewards of our land. From organic farming practices, carbon sequestration, and solar power, to significant investments that decrease our water usage and carbon footprints, we are passionate about doing our part to promote a healthy environment and climate. Congressman Mike Thompson, who is leading provisions via the Green Act to expand the use of renewable energy through Federal tax incentives that promote clean energy technologies, states that “it is important to continue to work together to lessen our carbon footprint, dramatically reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”

Beyond what we do locally, Robin Lail and Beth Novak Milliken are both actively engaged with the Porto Protocol and are among the 115 wineries and wine organizations from across the country that has signed the Wine Industry’s Climate Declaration. In addition, Spottswoode is among the first six applicant members of International Wineries for Climate Action (IWCA). This organization is dedicated to actively reducing carbon emissions in the wine industry and has also signed the Climate Declaration.

Why are we so passionate about these issues? Because our present and future business survival literally relies on a healthy natural environment and a relatively stable climate.

Putting a price on carbon is a pro-business approach to curbing carbon emissions, and such a policy is the most effective step in bringing about immediate change. We all respond to economic incentives — as articulated by University of California, Berkeley Haas School of Business Professor Laura Tyson in an environmental summit hosted by Morgan Stanley this month, “Government has to be responsible for setting incentives for the private sector to invest in safeguarding our public good.” She cited broader global adoption of a tax on carbon emissions as perhaps the most effective mechanism to curb climate change.

With the Biden Administration rejoining the Paris Accord and prioritizing climate change as the existential threat that it is, now is the time to act. Action such as that envisioned in the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act of the last Congress offers us an amazing opportunity to immediately decrease our carbon emissions. It is effective; it is good for the physical and economic health of all Americans; it is good for the economy via job creation; it is bipartisan, and it is revenue-neutral. It also allows us to send a message to the world that the United States is back. It demonstrates that we accept our responsibility for our significant contributions to the carbon emissions that have brought about and continue to cause climate change. We can once again lead by setting the best possible example. The opportunity that America now has to play a crucial role in the fight against climate change is exhilarating.

We have stated that climate action is pro-business. Please understand that the status quo is anti-business. All of us are deeply dependent on a healthy natural environment. Being in agriculture, we feel this daily, personally and directly. A bill similar to the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act of 2019 would unleash economic powers equal to the existential challenges of Climate Change. This is in keeping with capitalism, on which our country’s economy thrives, and thus demands and deserves our most fervent support.

We thank you for doing all you can to allow small multi-generational, agriculturally based family businesses like ours to thrive now, and into the distant future.

Robin Lail, Lail Vineyards

Beth Novak Milliken, Spottswoode Estate Vineyard & Winery

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