Delta Air Lines has announced a $1 billion commitment over 10 years to mitigate all emissions from its global business. This means that Delta intends to become the first carbon-neutral airline globally. The airline stated that it 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.

Delta’s carbon footprint is its largest environmental impact, with 98 per cent of emissions coming from its aircraft. The company has outlined the following steps in its efforts to become carbon-neutral:

  • Carbon reduction: Reduce 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: Invest in innovative projects and technology to remove carbon emissions from the atmosphere, and investigate carbon removal opportunities through forestry, wetland restoration, grassland conservation, marine and soil capture, and other negative emissions technologies.
  • Stakeholder engagement: Build coalitions with employees, suppliers, global partners, customers, industry colleagues, investors and other stakeholders to advance carbon reduction and removal goals.

Delta’s carbon strategy will account for emissions across its business – both in the air and on the ground. The company says that it will create new projects and methods to reduce its carbon footprint, benefit global communities, and make it easier for other organisations to explore similar options to address their own carbon footprints, although it is not clear how it plans to achieve these goals. It will allocate some of its financial commitment into investment vehicles, including a dedicated fund focused on achieving its carbon-neutral ambition.

The Delta Environmental Sustainability Principles will guide the airline’s efforts:

  • Action – Make progress continually by leveraging the tools of today even as it works 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 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 goals and progress, aligned with leading disclosure frameworks and standards, and track efforts and achievements through robust governance structure.

Delta was the first and only US airline to voluntarily cap greenhouse gas emissions at 2012 levels. It added more than 80 new aircraft in 2019 in an effort to renew its fleet with aircraft that are 25 per cent more fuel-efficient than the aircraft they are replacing. As part of its commitment, Delta has partnered with industry innovators to advance the development and production of sustainable aviation fuels, including its recent partnership and offtake agreements with Northwest Advanced Bio-Fuels and Gevo. The airline has also partnered with the international advocacy organization Global Citizen on Global Goal Live: The Possible Dream event.

CB’s questions on details of the carbon reduction and removal projects and goals and timelines of the $1 billion commitment weren’t answered by the company.

In a press release shared with CB, Ed Bastian, Delta’s CEO, said, ‘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.’