On February 14, Delta Airlines became the second major U.S. airline to set a significant goal for going carbon neutral, following Jet Blue, who made a similar commitment last year.
Delta Airlines announced that they will pledge $1 billion over the next decade to achieve their goal of becoming a carbon-neutral company by 2030. Delta said that the company-wide initiative would begin next week, on March 1st, 2020.
The aviation industry contributes a significant amount of greenhouse gases globally. In the announcement for the new pledge, Delta acknowledged that their industry accounts for two percent of global carbon dioxide emissions. And in the U.S., airplane travel accounts for three percent of our total greenhouse gas production.
“There is no substitute for the power that travel has to connect people, which our world needs today more than ever before. As we connect customers around the globe, it is our responsibility to deliver on our promise to bring people together and ensure the utmost care for our environment,” said Ed Bastian, Delta’s CEO. “The time is now to accelerate our investments and establish an ambitious commitment that the entire Delta team will deliver.”
Delta plans to accomplish their commitment over the next decade by focusing on a three-tiered approach.
First, Delta will target their own carbon footprint. They plan to reduce their company’s carbon emissions through increased efficiency and by decreasing their use of jet fuel. This will include “an ambitious fleet renewal program, improved flight operations, weight reduction, and increased development and use of sustainable aviation fuels.”
Second, Delta will focus on carbon removal. They will expand their existing commitment to removing carbon emissions from the Earth’s atmosphere by investing in projects and technology that are currently under development. These carbon-removal activities will include areas of “forestry, wetland restoration, grassland conservation, marine and soil capture.”
Third, Delta will seek stakeholder engagement to further the initiative. The company wants to build stronger relationships with their employees and global partners that are focused on carbon-reduction goals. Through an expanded network striving to reduce greenhouse gases, Delta plans to maximize their impact globally.
“There’s no challenge we face that is in greater need of innovation than environmental sustainability, and we know there is no single solution. We are digging deep into the issues, examining every corner of our business, engaging experts, building coalitions, fostering partnerships and driving innovation,” Bastian said. “We are on a journey, and though we don’t have all the answers today, we know that our scale, along with investments of time, talent and resources will bring meaningful impact to the planet and ensure the sustainability of our business for decades to come.””
The recent announcement comes as Delta seeks to build off their prior accomplishments in sustainable practices. In 2018, Delta improved their fuel efficiency by 1.23 percent compared to the year before. And since 2013, the company has purchased and retired almost 9 million carbon offsets. These changes have, in part, led Delta to reduce their absolute greenhouse gas emissions by 11 percent since 2005.
It’s wonderful to see a leader in American aviation take a stand for a cleaner future. Take a look at our Business Spotlight series for more stories of the private sector doing more to address environmental concerns that affect everyday people.