Delta pursues ambitious carbon neutrality plan for zero-impact operations

(Edited Press Release)

Delta Air Lines’ audacious commitment to carbon neutrality from March 2020 onward is coming to fruition with swift impact through immediate actions coupled with long-term investments to combat climate change.

“Connecting the world and protecting our environment for future generations cannot be mutually exclusive,” said Delta CEO Ed Bastian. “Travelers should not have to choose between seeing the world and saving the world. We must continue to take immediate actions today and can’t wait for future solutions to become a reality. While there are many paths to carbon neutrality, Delta chose to make an impact today and invest in a future where aviation itself becomes cleaner for the world around us.”

In the short term, Delta intends to achieve carbon neutrality by directly reducing emissions through the fleet and operational efficiencies and addressing remaining emissions through carbon offset project investments that maintain, protect and expand forests.

An ambitious path forward

Delta’s vision is zero-impact aviation: air travel that does not damage the environment directly or indirectly via greenhouse gas emissions, noise, waste generation, or other environmental impacts. Achieving this ambitious goal will require significant capital investment, support from government partners, research and development from manufacturers, and the evolution of some of the world’s largest industries.

As Delta works to solve its largest impact on the environment—carbon dioxide emissions—it plans to invest in innovative solutions, like carbon capture and storage and sustainable aviation fuels (SAF). SAF and other advanced technologies are not available on a large enough scale to meet today’s industry demands. The market is so underdeveloped that all SAF produced in 2020 would only power Delta’s fleet for one-day pre-COVID. This is why investments, guided by a strong long-term vision, are so critical.

Delta’s holistic environmental sustainability plan remains focused on three areas.

 

Carbon reduction and removal

In 2020, the company retired more than 200 older aircraft. The new aircraft replacing those planes are 25% more fuel efficient per seat mile than the aircraft they replace. Due to those fleet decisions and reduced passenger loads amid Covid-19, Delta’s fleet was nearly six percent more fuel efficient per available seat mile in 2020 than in 2019, saving 117 million gallons of fuel. That is equal to the emissions from annual electricity consumption of almost 200,000 households, or roughly all households in the city of Atlanta.

Stakeholder engagement

Delta seeks to engage investors, customers, and employees on this journey toward zero-impact aviation. To ensure all stakeholders see the results of their engagement, the company is making transparency the cornerstone of its approach—which it intends to demonstrate through best-in-class reporting, collaboration across industries, and fund management. Delta has executed industry-leading SAF agreements with corporate customers to take collective action for the greater good of our planet.

Coalition building

One company alone cannot solve this challenge, making partnerships critical. To broaden the availability of alternative fuels and carbon capture technology, Delta aims to build coalitions with suppliers and other industry participants to drive down the cost and increase the consumption and production of these transformative technologies.

 

“This is not a competition,” said Bastian. “Uniting across industries to create a more sustainable future is imperative. The more that joins us on this mission, the better.”

Since last March 2020, Delta has worked with leaders inside and outside the aviation sector to shape its plans and will announce multiple partnerships in the second quarter. From being the first and only U.S. airline to voluntarily cap greenhouse gas emissions at 2012 levels to last year’s commitment to be the first carbon-neutral airline globally, Delta has a longstanding commitment to sustainable air travel.