The complaint alleges the airline relied on carbon offsets, which are largely fake.
A consumer class action lawsuit filed on Tuesday alleges that Delta Air Lines falsely described itself as the “world’s first carbon-neutral airline” and must pay damages. The lawsuit in California federal court alleges the airline relied on largely fake carbon offsets.
Companies around the world buy carbon credits to offset their carbon emissions through projects that promise to absorb carbon dioxide from the air or prevent pollution that would otherwise have occurred. But they have been in the spotlight in recent months with claims their performances have been overblown.
The company is a major customer and is acquiring loans from projects including wind and solar projects in India and an Indonesian swamp forest, the lawsuit says.
Delta spokesman Grant Myatt described the lawsuit as “unlawful.”
“As of March 31, 2022, (Delta) has completely shifted its focus from carbon offsetting to decarbonizing our operations and refocusing our efforts on investments in sustainable jet fuel,” Myatt said in an email. He added that the company is renewing its fleet with “more fuel-efficient aircraft and implementing operational efficiencies.”
The case, filed by Glendale, California resident Mayanna Berrin, claims to be acting on behalf of all individuals who have flown Delta while residing in the state since March 2020. It stated that the benefits from the compensation payments were likely to be temporary in nature and would have materialized even without the company’s investment. For a carbon credit to be valid, it must provide a benefit that would otherwise not be possible.
Delta announced three years ago that it would become carbon neutral, meaning it puts no more climate-damaging pollutants into the air than it absorbs. It can also mean paying to ensure it’s absorbed elsewhere.
Berrin argues that this has allowed the company to gain market share and charge higher prices. Berrin, a writer for Nickelodeon, told The Associated Press she’s nearly thirty and people her age have high levels of climate anxiety.
“I felt more comfortable paying more because I was neutralizing when I had to travel for work or visit family,” she said. She said she felt frustrated and regretted when she began to doubt Delta’s compensation payments.
“You can’t just claim neutrality when that’s factually inaccurate,” she said. “Lawsuits are very scary in general, and there are many people who share my frustration but may not know what their rights are or the impact they can have if they speak up.”
Her attorney Jonathan Haderlein believes this is the first case of its kind against a major American airline and one of only a handful of “greenwashing” cases in the US based on consumer protection laws.
The case number is 2:23-cv-04150.
According to the International Energy Agency, aviation was responsible for more than 2% of global CO2 emissions in 2021.
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