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Delta Airlines announces $1B pledge to go 'carbon neutral'

February 14, 2020 - 12:57 pm
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(NEW YORK) -- Delta Airlines announced a $1 billion pledge to become "carbon neutral" and mitigate all emissions starting in March, as the airline industry faces increased pressure from environmental groups over its massive carbon footprint.

"There’s no challenge we face that is in greater need of innovation than environmental sustainability, and we know there is no single solution," CEO Ed Bastian said in a statement announcing the news.

He added that "though we don’t have all the answers today, we know that our scale, along with investments of time, talent and resources will bring meaningful impact to the planet and ensure the sustainability of our business for decades to come."

The 10-year pledge comes at time when the airline industry accounts for approximately 2% of human-induced carbon dioxide emissions globally, and some environmental groups say airlines need to do more to phase out their fossil fuel use, rather than just "offset" carbon emissions.

"Carbon offsets aren't a 'get out of jail free' card. Companies need to reduce emissions, not pay other people to clean up their mess," Ryan Schleeter, a spokesperson for the environmental nonprofit Greenpeace, told ABC News Friday.

"There is no way out of the climate crisis that does not include phasing out fossil fuels and initiating a just transition to renewable energy," he added. "That’s where Delta’s efforts are best served."

Delta said the $1 billion will go towards investing in projects to remove carbon emissions from the atmosphere and toward "carbon removal opportunities through forestry, wetland restoration, grassland conservation, marine and soil capture, and other negative emissions technologies," according to a company statement Friday.

It said it will also invest in reducing its carbon footprint through efforts to "decrease the use of jet fuel and increase efficiency."

The environmental impact of air travel has been thrown in the spotlight in recently, as teen climate activist Greta Thunberg famously sailed from Europe to the U.S. and back because of the environmental impacts of flying.

The star activist also boycotted air travel within Europe, opting for trains instead.

Globally, flights produced 915 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2019 alone, according to the nonprofit Air Transport Action Group.  

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