Carbon neutral or not? Delta Air Lines is facing a hefty lawsuit over their claims of going green with carbon offsets.

In February of 2020, Delta Air Lines announced their plans to go carbon neutral. They publicly pledged $1 billion towards cleaning up their greenhouse gas emissions worldwide by 2030. The pledge included plans to purchase carbon credits generated by conservation efforts in critical biomes, along with lowering their actual carbon footprint as much as possible.

Since then, Delta has used claims that they are now “the world’s first carbon neutral airline,” in their marketing. A class-action lawsuit, filed in California on Tuesday, claims that those claims are knowingly false, and that the carbon-offsets purchased by Delta are doing nothing to make the airline have less of an impact on the climate crisis.

The suit alleges that the marketing influences customers to purchase Delta tickets over cheaper airlines or greener travel options because they have been misled into thinking their impact has been mitigated.

“The language carbon neutral is so provocative,” says Krikor Kouyoumdjian, a partner with the legal firm Haderlein and Kouyoumdjian LLP which is bringing the case. “When companies say: ‘Don’t worry about our emissions, they’re sorted,’ they are communicating complacency. They are letting consumers pay to feel better and not have to worry about the impact of their consumption. But that is counterfactual to reality. It is not something that you can pay away.”

The case argues that there is a market premium for green products and that Delta has profited from a misleading environmental claim. It cites scientific evidence that the carbon credits market is unregulated and largely useless.

A Delta spokesperson said: “This lawsuit is without legal merit. Delta is a vigorous advocate for more sustainable aviation, adopting industry-leading climate goals as we work towards achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Delta committed to carbon neutrality in March 2020, and since 31 March 2022, has fully transitioned its focus away from carbon offsets toward decarbonisation of our operations, focusing our efforts on investing in sustainable aviation fuel, renewing our fleet for more fuel-efficient aircraft and implementing operational efficiencies.”

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