Delta joins The Climate Registry and successfully completes first verification of its GHG inventories
(photo: Delta Air Lines)
Fri 14 Dec 2012 – Following a successful verification of its greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) inventories from 2005 to 2010, Delta Air Lines has joined The Climate Registry, a non-profit organisation that operates the only carbon footprint registry in North America supported by states, provinces, territories and tribes. Registered companies demonstrate environmental leadership by identifying and managing their greenhouse gas risks and opportunities. Delta is the first legacy carrier to meet the requirements of the registry and joins Virgin America as the only two airlines so far in the programme. Delta has lowered its annual absolute greenhouse gas emissions by 7.6 million tonnes since 2005, a 17 per cent reduction in six years. This is despite a 1 per cent increase in GHG emissions in 2011 compared with the previous year due to a 0.8 per cent increase in available seat miles flown by mainline and regional aircraft. The airline is working with The Climate Registry to establish a 2015 GHG emissions goal.
Announcing the airline’s first verification, Ken Hylander, Delta’s Sr VP Corporate Safety, Security & Compliance, said: “We’ve made significant strides to reduce our GHG emissions and are pleased to now be a part of an organisation that verifies and validates our commitment. Increased transparency is a significant part of Delta’s efforts to build a business model that continually improves sustainability over the long term, which is why we support consistent and transparent standards to calculate, verify and publicly report greenhouse gas emissions.”
The verification of Delta’s GHG inventories was carried out by an external verification body, SCS Global Services, in accordance with The Climate Registry’s General Reporting Protocol.
“Climate-Registered organisations understand that there are both environmental and economic benefits to understanding and managing your carbon footprint,” said David Rosenheim, Executive Director of The Climate Registry. “Delta has become part of a powerful community of Climate-Registered organisations, with substantive data guiding and supporting its sustainable activities.”
Virgin America joined The Climate Registry in 2009 (see article). This week Delta purchased a 49% stake in Virgin Atlantic and the two carriers have formed a strategic transatlantic alliance.
Last year, Delta joined the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions’ (C2ES) Business Environmental Leadership Council (BELC) that was set up in 1998 to engage business in developing efficient, effective solutions to the climate problem. The BELC is now the largest US-based group of corporations, most of which are Fortune 500 companies across a range of sectors, focused on addressing the challenges of climate change and supporting mandatory climate policy. According to C2ES, while individual companies may hold their own views on policy specifics, they are united in the belief that voluntary action alone will not be enough to address the climate challenge.
BELC members have signed up to a number of guiding principles. These include an acceptance of the scientific consensus that climate change is occurring and that the impacts are already being felt; that businesses should incorporate responses to climate change in their core corporate strategies by taking concrete steps in the US and abroad to establish and meet GHG emission reduction targets; that the US should significantly reduce its GHG emissions through economy-wide, mandatory approaches and include a flexible, market-based programme; and back an international climate framework with binding commitments for all developed and major developing economies.
Commenting on Delta’s verification of its GHG inventories, Eileen Clausen, President of C2ES, formerly the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, said: “We commend Delta for committing itself to this critical task, and joining other corporate leaders pursuing commonsense climate solutions. Measuring and verifying emissions is an essential step in effectively managing them.”
According to Delta’s latest CSR report for 2011, its mainline aircraft operations emitted 30.87 million tonnes of CO2 in 2011, compared with 38.16 million tonnes in 2005. The three years 2009 to 2011 saw a steady consumption of around 3.1 billion gallons of jet fuel, with traffic measured in revenue passenger-miles increasing by 0.1% and available seat-miles by 1.3%.
As a member of IATA, Delta is targeting the industry’s goal of improving fuel efficiency by an average of 1.5% each year from 2009 to 2020. Delta reports that the fuel efficiency for its mainline fleet, measured as litres burned for 100 revenue tonne kilometres, improved to 34.8 in 2011 from 36.0 in 2009, representing an average 1.7% annual improvement. The airline says it has achieved the industry efficiency goal every year since 2009.
Delta and its partners are undergoing a fleet replacement of older narrowbody aircraft and in 2011 Delta placed an order for 100 new Boeing 737-900ER aircraft for delivery between 2013 and 2018. It is also retiring 20 50-seat regional jets, 15 DC-9 aircraft and 26 small turboprops, backfilling this capacity with larger, more fuel-efficient jet aircraft.
The remaining fleets are being made more fuel efficient through a variety of technological and operational improvements such as adding the Boeing 777 Performance Improvement Package to improve cruise fuel burn by 1-2%; installing winglets on additional Boeing aircraft to deliver 4% or more improvement in cruise fuel savings; and using carbon brakes instead of steel brakes to reduce aircraft weight.
Delta says it pursued more than a dozen fuel-saving initiatives during 2011, resulting in more than 12 million gallons in fuel savings for mainline operations. Its goal for 2012 was to reduce jet fuel usage by more than 30 million gallons through 17 operational initiatives.
The airline has an Executive Environmental Leadership Council (EELC) in which key leaders from various departments meet quarterly to establish, develop and support implementation of environmental sustainability policy and strategy. In 2011, in addition to day-to-day governance, the council developed a comprehensive sustainability strategy, a plan for Delta’s engagement in the area of aviation biofuels and approved an EU ETS compliance and carbon management strategy. The EELC also provides strategic guidance for the company’s partnerships with NGOs.