Carrier will go ‘fully carbon neutral’ next month

Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian told CNBC on Friday that the company is going “fully carbon neutral” on a global basis starting March 1.

“It’s a big challenge and it’s a big commitment,” Bastian said on “Squawk Box.”

Delta is committing at least $1 billion over the next decade to reduce environmental impact, Bastian said. That’ll focus on clean technological investments for engines and carbon removal, he added.

“There’s no greater challenge that I know of that we need to be investing in and innovating in as environmental sustainability,” he said.

The company, which has made environmentally-conscious moves in the past, will still continue to rely on jet fuel.

“We will continue to use jet fuel for as far as the eye can see,” Bastian said. “We’ll be investing in technologies to reduce the impact of jet fuel, But I don’t ever see a future where we’ll eliminate jet fuel from our footprint.”

Though Bastian stressed the company won’t rely on carbon-offset programs, though it has purchased some in the past.

“Carbon offsets are not the solution, we need to be investing in projects that make a difference,” he said. “That’s not really helping our planet.”

Airlines specifically account for roughly 2% of global carbon dioxide emissions, and many have set plans to achieve carbon neutral growth from 2020. Though Delta’s announcement on Friday is the largest commitment of that scale.

Delta’s move comes at a time when many companies are reducing their environmental footprint to combat climate change.

In January, Microsoft unveiled an ambitious green plan aimed at making the company “carbon negative” this decade. By 2050, the company hopes to have removed as much carbon dioxide from the atmosphere that it’s emitted since being founded in 1975.

BlackRock co-founder and chief Larry Fink, also in January, jump started the discussion about how climate change is shifting the investing landscape.

In his annual letter to the world’s biggest companies, Fink said, “Climate change has become a defining factor in companies’ long-term prospects” and “awareness is rapidly changing.”

BlackRock, with more than $7 trillion in assets under management, will put “sustainability at the center of our investment approach,” from portfolio construction to launching new investment products that screen fossil fuels, Fink wrote.

ESG investing, which takes environmental, social and corporate governance issues into account, is sweeping Wall Street as younger investors want to put their money into companies they can believe in.

— Reuters contributed to this report.


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