Delta Hopes To Become First Carbon Neutral Airline

Filed Under: Delta

Airlines are increasingly talking about the environment. Who knows whether it’s because they actually care, or whether it’s because they think it’s what they need to talk about. Regardless, it’s a step in the right direction.

While airlines have long given customers the option to offset their travels, some airlines are taking it a step further. For example, in the past few months we’ve seen some airlines announce major carbon offset schemes.

Here in the US, JetBlue was the first airline to announce a comprehensive plan for reducing emissions, as they’ll start offsetting all of their domestic flights, and will start operating some flights with sustainable aviation fuel.

Well, now another US airline is joining them. Delta has just announced that they’re committing $1 billion to become the first carbon neutral airline globally.

Delta to become first carbon neutral airline globally

Starting March 1, 2020, Delta Air Lines is committing $1 billion over the next 10 years to mitigate all emissions from its global business, both in the air and on the ground.

As Delta CEO Ed Bastian describes this project:

“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. The time is now to accelerate our investments and establish an ambitious commitment that the entire Delta team will deliver.

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. 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.”

Delta explains that the aviation industry accounts for about 2% of global carbon dioxide emissions, and that 98% of Delta’s emissions come from aircraft.

Delta is focusing on the following efforts to become carbon neutral:

  • Carbon reduction: Reducing Delta’s carbon footprint through enterprise-wide efforts to decrease the use of jet fuel and increase efficiency. Areas of focus include an ambitious fleet renewal program, improved flight operations, weight reduction, and increased development and use of sustainable aviation fuels.
  • Carbon removal: Investing in innovative projects and technology to remove carbon emissions from the atmosphere that go beyond the airline’s current commitments, and investigating carbon removal opportunities through forestry, wetland restoration, grassland conservation, marine and soil capture, and other negative emissions technologies.
  • Stakeholder engagement: Building coalitions with our employees, suppliers, global partners, customers, industry colleagues, investors and other stakeholders to advance carbon reduction and removal goals and maximize our global impact.

Delta isn’t sharing many details as of now

There are two things I believe about Delta as a company:

  • They want to do good by all of their stakeholders, because doing good is good for business, and it’s why they’re so successful; they have a genuine drive to take care of their employees, customers, and the communities they serve
  • Perhaps even more so than their desire to do good, Delta wants to look good with whatever they do, no matter what cost it comes at

Delta is making a bold claim here, saying that they plan to be the first carbon neutral airline globally. However — and maybe I’m missing something — I don’t see anything in the press release actually supporting this? Also, didn’t EasyJet become the first airline globally to be carbon neutral last November?

What exactly is happening starting March 1, 2020? Is that when Delta is starting some projects, or are they actually directly carbon offsetting their flights as of then? It’s not clear based on the press release, unless I’m missing something.

Of course simply carbon offsetting flights isn’t the final solution, because that’s even a controversial practice, given the methods some airlines use with this. However, as of now I only see Delta saying they’re going to invest $1 billion over the next 10 years, without any promises of what exactly they’re going to do.

Let’s keep in mind that Delta has one of the less fuel efficient fleets out there as of now. The airline has a practice of operating older planes and maintaining them well. That’s perfectly logical from a business perspective, but I would imagine their per-seat emissions are higher than some competitors.

Bottom line

I commend Delta for this initiative, and for making this something that they’re going to focus on over the coming decade. We haven’t heard anything from American or United yet, so it’s not surprising to see Delta leading the way as usual.

That being said, I don’t see very many concrete commitments from Delta here. That’s not necessarily a terrible thing, since battling climate change goes beyond directly carbon offsetting flights. They’re committing to something now, and over the coming months and years I’m sure we’ll learn a lot more.

But I’m also confused by how they can claim to become the first airline globally to be carbon neutral based on what they’ve revealed so far?

  1. Reading between the lines.

    Now DL is now including carbon offset in your fares.

    Those extra money we make and spent would offset tax.

    Environment is the best cover to conceal income.

  2. Typical Delta!!! Brainwashing and brilliant marketing PR with a bunch of unsubstantiated or unsupported promises.

  3. DL won’t be the first carbon neutral airline. In Vancouver, Harbour Air has been Carbon Neutral for years, and of course easyjet is as well.

  4. Non-productive leftists found NGOs, stage ‘protests’, make pseudo-science claims to extort money from Big Business. Big Business has to hire PR agencies (which ironically are owned by other not-really-productive leftists).

  5. All fine and dandy, but just a press release of what they propose to do. Wouldn’t get me to fly them over another airline regardless if their price and schedule weren’t competitive. The planting of trees is good but what elitists do to rationalize the use of private jets. Why not plant trees and fly commercial?

  6. Fantastic news!

    They should concentrate on their direct scope emissions over offsetting, but I’m looking forward to more concrete announcements.

  7. I get a kick out of how gullible some must be if they fall for this crap. Yet, they are also the ones who think eating meat and burning wood are the reasons for climate change, so not very surprising….

  8. Delta generates nearly $50 billion per year in revenues. $100 million per year amounts to a fraction of 1 percent but is still far more than most of its competitors can spend.

    The term “global airline” might not be set in stone but I would think it would have to include airlines that actually fly to multiple – at least 3 maybe – continents. I don’t see any of the other airlines mentioned as doing that.

    As for details, Lucky just partnered with an organization that is planting trees. The world would hardly be in worse shape if Delta dumps even half of its $100 million per year doing the same thing.

  9. Climate change denial folks in a pot of boiling water: “This is TOTALLY fine! What a hoax!”
    Guess what? You are the minority, by a long shot.
    I’m glad that airlines are trying to do something to reduce their/our carbon footprint. It’s a start.

  10. Delta is just getting ahead of the curve. Pure strategic move. Recent article about how U.S. airlines are worried about the flight shaming movement in Europe taking hold here.

    “Robin Hayes, chief executive of New York-based JetBlue Airways, told industry analysts during a conference call recently that it’s only a matter of time before Americans follow the lead of their Swedish counterparts to find more environmentally friendly alternatives to commercial air travel.”

  11. If Delta wants to save climate, the best way would be stopping all flights immediately. Everything else is just PR measurements.

  12. Now if only we had a robust national HSR system that could drastically cut down the need for 20/day flight frequencies to cities less than 500 miles away.

  13. “Delta explains that the aviation industry accounts for about 2% of global carbon dioxide emissions”. So Delta announces that they will do “something” about it. Meanwhile China is building a new coal fired power plant every week, and merely promises to “think about doing something” by 2030 (maybe). But no one mentions that, as it’s not PC to criticize authoritarian regimes, who everyone knows won’t bother to listen to any whining about Climate Change (sic) anyway. But it’s good corporate publicity, and everyone gets to feel proud about doing something to “save the Earth”, even though it won’t make a bit of difference. Which we will all be fine with, as deep down we all know this “climate” brouhaha is a bunch of nonsense anyway. But no one dares to say that out loud, lest they be denounced as a “denier”.

  14. And Japan is going to build up to 22 new coal-fired power plants.

    “Together the 22 power plants would emit almost as much carbon dioxide annually as all the passenger cars sold each year in the United States.”

    Forget about renewable energy. People don’t realize how crucial nuclear power is. Eventually fusion power will render renewables obsolete. What is so wonderful about building solar and wind farms or flooding valleys? Renewables are also destructive.

  15. @Jay
    Flight shaming isn’t as big as those who want to be say it is. Either way it would never take hold here in the US.

  16. What a load of non-sense. This is all hazy religious declarations to make sacrifices at the altar of Leftists dogma. Carbon offset taxes are a huge scam…just wait, one day everyone will realize the con job. Obviously, no one seeks to to destroy the environment except for a few sickos but come on. The only way to offset emissions is to not emit them. This $1bn is a waste. As silly as solar powered airplanes is, at least it’s an attempt at innovation. I’m not giving up air travel just to appease the likes of Gertard.

  17. United has been using biofuels for a number of years, now, and the Ecofuel initiative has been slowly gaining steam with them. As with many things, it takes time and money. To say that Delta is the first, however, would be incorrect. Other airlines have been experimenting with the concept for years. They all simply implement differently and at their own paces.

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