Global airline industry policy makers meet next week in Montreal to align on a plan to cap airline emissions on international flights. But Delta is already steps ahead. Since 2012, the airline has achieved carbon-neutral growth on all emissions – domestic flying, international flying and ground operations.
To accomplish that goal, the airline improved aircraft fuel efficiency, invested in electric-powered tugs and explored the carbon market, all the while ensuring its carbon emissions did not exceed 2012 levels.
The airline is currently the only U.S. carrier committed to carbon-neutral growth. But at the upcoming 39th International Civil Aviation Organization Assembly, that could change. Members representing 191 countries will vote on a global market-based measure plan mandating carbon-neutral growth for international flights.
“For airlines, this can be done by reducing carbon emissions, through sustainable choices like investing in more fuel-efficient aircraft, removing unnecessary weight before flight and making sure the right plane is flying the right route,” said Christine Boucher, Delta’s Managing Director – Global Environment, Sustainability & Compliance.
But as flying continues to increase, fuel efficiency alone often isn’t enough to keep carbon emissions down. That’s when airlines opt to buy carbon offsets.
Carbon offsets directly fund projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, like planting trees and preventing deforestation in the Amazon.
“We purchase offsets as a company, but go one step further, offering customers an opportunity to get involved,” Boucher said.
Delta was the first U.S. carrier to offer customers a carbon offset program in 2007. This program gives customers not only the opportunity to evaluate the environmental impact of their flight but also a chance to take action.
“Since 2012 Delta has joined its customers in offsetting our growth in carbon emissions, and through 2015 we will have purchased nearly 4 million offsets,” Boucher said. “That makes Delta one of the largest purchasers of voluntary carbon offsets.”
Not surprisingly, Delta’s biggest environmental impact comes from burning jet fuel, which accounts for 99 percent of its carbon footprint. However, the airline has made strides in lowering its total carbon emissions, reducing by 14 percent since 2005.
2015 in review
These achievements and others are highlighted in Delta’s 2015 Corporate Responsibility Report. The report explores the airline's environmental commitment, community involvement, employee relations, operational accountability and financial performance throughout last year. It can be accessed online at delta.com/responsibility.
Delta’s unique fleet strategy is highlighted in the Corporate Responsibility Report as an important component of how the airline has strengthened its financial performance while investing in more fuel-efficient aircraft, like the Airbus A321. Delta has decreased fuel burn per available seat mile by 6 percent since 2008. The report elaborates on plans to phase out some of the airline’s less fuel-efficient planes, like the Boeing 747 which will be retired by 2017, and move forward with an upgauging program that has eliminated 60 percent of the 50-seater product.
In the introductory letter, Delta's CEO Ed Bastian said, “This report tells the story of our ongoing commitment to being a good steward of the environment, a positive force in the communities we serve, and a great place to work and fly. Sustainability is driving us forward and will be a key element in Delta’s continued success.”