Worldwide airlines have talked about reducing emissions 50% by 2050 and carbon neutral growth by 2020. Delta says they’re going to start spending $100 million a year to be carbon neutral starting in March.
- Better fuel efficiency with newer planes, use of biofuels (which are not yet viable at scale, indeed current biofuels are too resource-intensive to be effective), and better operations.
- Reduce, re-use and recycle such as using fewer plastic bags and composting
- Carbon removal which basically amounts to buying offsets.
- “Stakeholder engagement” This includes “pushing for modernization of air traffic control, which Delta believes would reduce delays and fuel consumption” which is a turnaround for Delta – they used to oppose this, because they had older planes which would have required greater investment to make use of new technologies.
They say they’re going to incorporate the environment into all of their thinking, which is laudable.
Ultimately this is long on narrative, and in the near-term relies mostly on buying carbon offsets which are questionable in effectiveness and limited in supply (if every company wanted to fully offset there wouldn’t be nearly enough opportunity to go around, so Delta is in some sense just bidding up the price of offsets that will be taking place anyway).
Noble goals, and surely they’ll make progress towards those goals, but the claim that they’ll be a carbon neutral airline next month is dubious to say the least. Delta is a very good airline, maybe even half as good as they think they are. For some reason they cannot help overclaiming their virtues and successes more than their competitors.
As a consumer remember that award travel and cheap fares don’t affect the environment nearly so much as paying a lot for airline tickeets.