Delta is Making a Major Investment to Go Carbon Neutral

deltaAirlines today receive substantial criticism from environmentalists and others about the amount of pollution that modern jetliners discharge into the atmosphere.

In recent years, designers and aircraft manufacturers at Boeing, Airbus, and the principal aircraft engine suppliers have worked steadily to address fuel efficiency and aerodynamics. While their innovations have improved operational economics for the newer airplanes, these have also generated some reductions in carbon emissions per passenger-mile.

However, with the rising demand, overall improvements in carbon output from newer aircraft are being offset by the global increase in flights to match the demand.

Delta's Billion Dollar Commitment

In February, Delta Airlines announced its commitment to become the first carbon-neutral airline in the United States. With their initial commitment of $1 billion, the Company is committed to research, development, and innovation of technologies that will result in "clean air travel" that will stem from a reduction in overall carbon emissions and waste.

Delta's initiative results from the reality that airlines currently account for approximately 2% of global carbon dioxide emissions.

In 2019, Delta Airlines was ranked as the second-largest air carrier in the U.S. by the number of passengers flown (204 million). Any substantial improvement in their total carbon emissions could have a notable impact on the overall total.

And, any measurable success in their efforts could encourage other airlines to follow suit.

While easyJet of Great Britain previously announced its intent to reduce total net emissions to zero a year ago, Delta's investment represents the first commitment among U.S.-based major carriers to adopt this mission.

As an interim measure to demonstrate their commitment to their pledge, easyJet committed to offsetting current emissions by planting oxygen-producing trees and adopting strategies that reduce the release of carbon dioxide in their daily operations.

Alternative Fuel Options

Although hybrid and even all-electric aircraft engines are viewed as the ultimate answer for the future of aviation, these may still be decades away from being plausible for global airlines.

Alternatively, research continues to create sustainable aviation fuels (SAFs), ones that do not produce harmful emissions when burned. Blending these with current fuels in increasing amounts could reduce the volume of carbon emissions measurably.

What Will Be Delta's Strategy?

According to a Simple Flying article from February, Delta's plan for carbon emissions elimination and offset have a four-pronged approach. These include:

  • Invest in driving new technologies
  • Advance existing clean air technology
  • Focus on reducing carbon emissions and waste
  • Establish new projects that will mitigate the balance of emissions

Delta Airlines management has announced five driving principles that will guide its initiative:

1. Action

2. Innovation

3. Collaboration

4. Evolution

5. Transparency

Delta Airlines promises to report credible progress and milestones during 2020.

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