With the entire aviation sector committing to capping CO2 emissions from 2020 through carbon-neutral growth, one of the world’s largest airlines has decided to get started a little early.

In 2013, Delta set itself a target of carbon-neutral growth, meaning that despite any increases in traffic growth, it would not increase its level of net CO2 emissions past the 2012 baseline. In 2014, the airline transported 3.7% more traffic and used 1.7% more fuel (the difference showing the impact of efficiency programmes). To bridge this difference, the airline purchased carbon offsets to minimise the impact of its growth on the environment.

Delta invested in a number of offsetting schemes in Brazil, Peru, Mexico and South Korea, allowing them to make up the gap between their efficiency increases and traffic growth. The airline chose projects involving wind energy, landfill gas recovery, efficient cooking stoves, reduced emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+) and other environmental initiatives. They all meet recognised high standards for carbon offset projects and invest in a mix of projects that have been validated and verified by third-party authorities. Importantly, these projects were also chosen because they take place in communities that Delta serves.

In terms of efficiency programmes, Delta has reduced annual GHG emissions from flight and ground operations by 7.9 million tonnes, a 17.2% decrease over eight years since 2005. This was achieved through fleet restructuring – replacing older, less fuel efficient jets with more modern planes – as well as: strategic flight planning; removing unnecessary weight; improved operations; upgraded aircraft software; and winglets, among other projects.