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US Airlines Say they are "Green" while fighting Anti-Pollution Efforts: Dirty Wings

Jake Schmidt

Posted May 12, 2011

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If an airline claims to be “green”, but is actively working to gut carbon pollution standards what would you do?  Since that is exactly what America, Continental, and United airlines are doing, major environmental groups sent a letter to the airlines asking them why they are spending their customers’ money on lawyers and lobbyists in an effort to thwart crucial carbon pollution cuts.

In the letter, NRDC, Environmental Defense Fund, Center for Biological Diversity, Earthjustice, Environment America, and the Sierra Club urged the airlines to “drop the lawsuit, and join the future of low-carbon aviation by making your actions consistent with your words” (see American Airlines letter and United/Continental Airlines letter).  In addition to the letter,Advertisement against American airlines, United and Continental airlines the Environmental Defense Fund has asked the airlines to run an ad in their in-flight magazines (the ones in the seat pocket) that urge the airlines to start flying cleaner.

The companies recently each touted their environmental responsibility while at the same time bringing a lawsuit in the European Court of Justice against the European Union’s efforts to reduce carbon pollution from aviation.  American Airlines claimed that it:

“is committed to identifying and implementing programs to reduce our environmental impact”. 

United and Continental claimed in their Eco-Skies campaign that:

“At United Continental Holdings, we are committed to leading commercial aviation as an environmentally responsible company by taking actions today that shape an environmentally sustainable future, while continuing to comply with applicable laws and regulations.”   

That sounds hypocritical to me.  After all, aviation is a major source of the carbon pollution that is causing global warming and its emissions are rapidly increasing – projected to grow 3-4 percent per year.  Since 1997 there have been global negotiations to try to craft a strategy to address aviation’s global warming pollution.  After years and years of waiting for that solution to be agreed the European’s got frustrated with the pace of the discussions, so they took the reasonable step to implement a program at home.  After all, that is a position that the US has argued should be a cornerstone of global efforts to address global warming – key countries taking action at home. 

The EU’s program would require that all airlines flying to and from Europe reduce their carbon pollution.  It is the law of the land in Europe and will go into effect in 2012 for all airlines that take off or land in Europe.  It is a reasonable, modest, and critical effort to begin to address this uncontrolled source of carbon pollution.  So the claims of American, Continental, and United just don’t stand up.  And if successful, their lawsuit would undermine common-sense programs to address the major environmental threat of this decade – global warming.  That isn’t environmental protection…that is path to environmental destruction.

So American, Continental, and United airlines it is time to turn your green claims into real green actions.  Drop the lawsuit, comply with the law, and reduce your carbon pollution.


EDF has a good blog with more details.

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Jason KimMay 17 2011 11:09 PM

April 22 is Earth Day. This year, its theme is “A Billion Acts of Green.” The idea behind the 2011 program is to demonstrate that millions of small acts can make a profound difference in the environment by balancing the use of fossil fuels with renewable energy sources.

Jason Kim

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