A class-action lawsuit filed against Delta Air Lines is demanding that the company pay damages to customers for misrepresenting itself as a carbon-neutral airline, and charging higher prices based on the claim.
Delta has advertised itself as carbon-neutral because they claim to offset the emissions of their planes by investing in green energy, giving them the right to emit more carbon through the offset market. But according to the suit, the offset market has been documented to inaccurately report both environmental damage, and exaggerate benefits.
"Nearly all offsets issued by the voluntary carbon offset market overpromise and underdeliver on their total carbon impact,” the suit reads, citing several studies, one such being a European Commission study which found that 85 percent of offset projects failed to reduce emissions.
Attorney Jonathan Haderlein added, via The Washington Post: “Consumers can’t make informed eco-friendly choices if companies are misleading them."
Delta has denied the claims, and said in a statement that as of April this year, the company “has fully transitioned its focus away from carbon offsets toward decarbonization of our operations." The airline promised to invest $1 billion between 2020 and 2030 to reduce its carbon footprint, but after missing its goal in 2021, then spent $137 million on carbon offsets to neutralize the 27 million metric ton disparity in their carbon dioxide emissions.
The lawsuit accuses Delta officials of engaging in “greenwashing,” which is defined as the practice of marketing products, activities, or policies to seem more environmentally friendly or less environmentally damaging than they actually are. The suit notes that “greenwashing is difficult for consumers to identify,” because “consumers cannot verify green attributes."
“We’re not guessing about the science," Haderlein said. "The fact is that it has been well-documented, especially abroad, that there are severe issues with the offsets that Delta relies upon."