Sustainability

Delta Airlines is going to invest $1 billion to get carbon neutral

Delta Air Lines announced on Friday that it will spend $1 billion over the next 10 years on its way to becoming the first carbon-neutral airline worldwide.

Image: flickr/Colin Brown Photography

Image: flickr/Colin Brown Photography

The ambitious commitment represents an escalation of the company’s longstanding commitment to sustainability and impacts everything from its planes to waste management. Delta plans to invest in both carbon reduction and removal efforts, while inviting business partners, customers, and employees to join its campaign to maximize its overall impact.

“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,” Ed Bastian, Delta’s CEO, said in a press release. “The time is now to accelerate our investments and establish an ambitious commitment that the entire Delta team will deliver.”

Delta’s new campaign revolves around carbon reduction. An estimated 98% of the company’s carbon footprint comes from its aircrafts. Even minor adjustments to its flights could prevent a significant amount of emissions from entering the atmosphere.

But Delta wants to go beyond small fixes. It plans to reduce the weight of its planes so they require less fuel, invest in energy efficiency from takeoff to touchdown, and pursue sustainable fuel alternatives that release less emissions.

The company will also invest in technologies that directly remove carbon from the atmosphere as part of its broader offsetting program.

Currently, carbon removal options are expensive and limited in scope, but experts increasingly agree that these technologies are critical to staying within the carbon budget laid out in the Paris climate agreement.

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.

The offsetting program also involves ongoing reforestation and other efforts, such as promoting sustainable agriculture.

“There’s no challenge we face that is in greater need of innovation than environmental sustainability, and we know there is no single solution,” Bastian said. “We are digging deep into the issues, examining every corner of our business, engaging experts, building coalitions, fostering partnerships, and driving innovation.”

The final piece of Delta’s initiative covers stakeholder engagement. Delta works with countless partners to source materials and resources for planes, support crew members, and manage technology. The company hosts millions of customers annually.

Delta’s plans over the next 10 years will give stakeholders the opportunity to reduce their environmental footprint as well, creating exponential momentum toward sustainability.

Companies across sectors are beginning to recognize the urgency of climate action and are taking various steps to reduce their environmental impact. Apple gets 100% of its energy from renewable sources, Lyft is working to offset the emissions from its ride, and Adidas is investing in sustainable materials.

Delta has long prioritized environmental goals. It became the first US airline to cap its greenhouse gas emissions at 2012 levels and introduced more than 80 energy efficient planes to its fleet in 2019.

The airline industry has a major role to play in achieving the Paris climate agreement. The industry as whole accounts for roughly 2% of global emissions, which is greater than most countries, and air travel is expected to double in 20 years.

If the industry follows Delta’s lead, then it could continue to show people the world, while also shielding it from harm.

“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,” Bastian said.

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