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$1Billion Delta Lawsuit over Carbon Offsets: The downside of Delta’s $5 per Ton Strategy

Updated: Jun 2, 2023

Let's delve into the recent lawsuit against Delta Air Lines and explore the intricacies surrounding their voluntary offset strategy. I'll attempt a balanced perspective, addressing the concerns raised by the legal action.

but frankly, if we could solve the whole Greenhouse Gas issue for $5 a ton, nobody would be talking about it, it would have been fixed already.

Understanding the Lawsuit The lawsuit claims that Delta Air Lines misrepresented itself as a carbon-neutral airline, primarily due to its reliance on offset credits that allegedly do little to combat the climate crisis. The plaintiffs argue that customers were led to believe their actions had no environmental impact, ultimately resulting in potential damages.
Break down off where Delta spent their Carbon Budget, 6% was spent on actual CDR

Delta's Offset Strategy According to Delta's 2021 ESG report, the company aimed to achieve carbon neutrality by leveraging offsets alongside other initiatives. They invested $137 million in offsets to balance 27 million metric tons of unavoidable carbon emissions, mainly focusing on avoidance (e.g., preventing deforestation) and reduction (e.g., renewable energy) projects. Their offset portfolio also included removal projects such as afforestation and carbon capture and storage. According to some simple math Delta was hoping to pay about $5 per ton of emissions to be "Carbon Neutral".

The $5 miracle solution I suppose this is the point where I start losing my objectivity. This $5 number seems, very obviously, way way way, too good, to be true. I will delve more into this thought in another article but frankly if we could solve the whole Greenhouse Gas issue for $5 a ton, nobody would be talking about it, it would have been fixed already. As a self appointed Juror in the court of Public Opinion this is the first problem I see here for Delta. The legal team will have a field day demonstrating the absurdity of this number to the actual jury.

Buyer Beware The Delta lawsuit highlights the importance of due diligence when it comes to voluntary offset purchases. As the voluntary offset market lacks regulations and clear definitions, buyers should be cautious and thoroughly evaluate the projects they invest in and carefully consider the nature of the claim they make. Choosing CDR suppliers with good MRV Systems (Measure, Report, Validate) like Carbek's, which offers a more direct and accountable approach to carbon removal, minimizing the risk of investing in projects with limited environmental impact.

A Few words in Defense of Delta Delta Airlines has committed to spend $1 billion dollars to mitigate carbon and looking at 2021 alone they spent $137 million dollars, that's a big number considering there entire profit was $280m. In my opinion its not realistically an economic possibility for an airline to be what most people would consider net neutral without help. Also, is it fair for the airline to be responsible for the carbon generated when another business sends their employees to fly on it? Probably not. I'll write a follow-up article on this later.

The Cost of Voluntary Offsets vs. CDR is Substantial One of the critical points to consider is the effectiveness and cost of mixed offset portfolios versus straight Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) technologies. Delta's investment, while commendable in size, raises questions about the true environmental impact. Studies have shown that many offset projects fail to deliver the expected emission reductions, making the cost-effectiveness of offsets uncertain in the long run.

The Delta lawsuit serves as a reminder that the world of carbon offsets is not without its complexities. While Delta's commitment to carbon neutrality is commendable, the lawsuit sheds light on the need for more reliable, verifiable, and impactful solutions like Carbek's CDRs. As the market evolves, companies must carefully consider their carbon mitigation strategies to ensure genuine progress towards a sustainable future.

Until next time, Ryan Shore

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