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Delta seeks to become first carbon neutral airline globally

Starting March 1, 2020, Delta Air Lines is committing $1 billion over the next 10 years on its journey to mitigate all emissions from its global business going forward.

The airline will invest in driving innovation, advancing clean air travel technologies, accelerating the reduction of carbon emissions and waste, and establishing new projects to mitigate the balance of emissions for a carbon neutral airline.

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.

Ed Bastian, Delta’s CEO

See video comments from Ed Bastian about this announcement on LinkedIn

Delta’s approach to tackling carbon reduction and sustainability reflects the focus and rigor it has become known for, and that it used to build a financially secure airline. This announcement comes as Delta pays $1.6 billion in profit sharing to employees last Valentine’s Day.

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.

Ed Bastian, Delta’s CEO

The aviation industry accounts for roughly 2 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions. Delta’s carbon footprint is its largest environmental impact, with 98 percent of emissions coming from its aircraft. Here is how the company is focusing its 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.

When customers choose to fly Delta, they should feel they’re making a statement about taking care of our planet. Our commitment to carbon neutrality means flying with Delta represents far more than a great travel experience – it’s about joining arms to create a better world.

Ed Bastian, Delta’s CEO

Delta’s carbon strategy will account for emissions across its business – both in the air and on the ground. Delta’s investment will create new projects and methods to reduce its carbon footprint, benefit global communities and make it easier for other organizations to explore similar options to address their own carbon footprints – all while minimizing reliance on today’s limited carbon offset markets. To support this strategy, Delta will allocate some of its financial commitment into investment vehicles, including a dedicated fund focused on achieving its carbon neutral ambition.

Delta’s journey to carbon neutrality and its $1 billion investment build on its industry-leading voluntary sustainability efforts.

The Delta Environmental Sustainability Principles will guide the airline’s efforts to advance its path to carbon neutrality and overall sustainability. They are:

  • Action – Make progress continually by leveraging the tools of today even as we work to drive progress on a global scale. Embed environmental impact as a consideration in every business decision.
  • Innovation – Investigate, enable and advance new projects, innovative technologies and operational efficiencies to substantially reduce and mitigate emissions and our overall environmental footprint.
  • Collaboration – Engage with employees, suppliers, global partners, customers, investors and other stakeholders with the understanding that environmental protection must be a shared goal.
  • Evolution – Be nimble in evolving and adjusting in response to the latest scientific findings and technological developments.
  • Transparency – Continue to publicly report on our goals and progress, aligned with leading disclosure frameworks and standards, and track efforts and achievements through our robust governance structure.

2020 will see a number of milestones that demonstrate Delta’s progress and commitment, and that Delta will share broadly as each of them launch. Delta has become a global airline leader in many categories.

Photograph ©2007 by Brian Cohen.

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