100% green by 2050: Carbon Neutral by 2050
United strives to be the airline industry leader in environmental sustainability by becoming carbon neutral by 2050.
At United, we are committed to operating an environmentally sustainable and responsible airline. This means we are constantly working to minimize our environmental impact, and continuously looking for new ways to reduce our carbon footprint in the air, on the ground and at our facilities.
We have pledged to become 100% green by reducing our greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) 100% by 2050. Importantly, we are the only airline globally that has committed to carbon neutrality without the use of carbon offsets. United, which in 2018 was the first U.S. airline to commit to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions, will instead advance towards carbon neutrality by committing to a multimillion-dollar investment in revolutionary atmospheric carbon capture technology known as Direct Air Capture (DAC) — rather than indirect measures like carbon-offsetting — in addition to our continued investment in the development and use of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). United is the first airline in the world to commit to investing in DAC technology.
Investments in sustainable aviation fuel
With 80% less lifecycle GHG emissions than conventional jet fuel, sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) is the fastest and most effective way United is reducing its emissions. Among all airlines globally, United holds nearly half of all publicly announced purchase commitments for SAF and has the longest and deepest SAF history of any U.S. airline. We have used SAF from World Energy to help sustainably power every flight departing our Los Angeles hub since 2016.
Additionally, we have invested more than $30 million in California-based sustainable fuel producer Fulcrum BioEnergy, which remains the single largest investment by any airline globally in a sustainable fuel producer.
As of the end of 2020, United has used the most SAF of any airline globally and has flown:
- 26 million passengers on flights powered with a SAF blend
- 44 billion passenger-miles on flights powered with a SAF blend
- 215,000 flights powered with a SAF blend
Investment in Direct Air Capture technology
Rather than taking a conventional approach to decarbonization by relying solely on the purchase of carbon offsets, United is making a multimillion dollar investment in 1PointFive, Inc., whose mission is to curb the rise in global temperatures by physically removing carbon dioxide (CO2) from the air using Direct Air Capture (DAC) technology.
Airline decarbonization is a major challenge and Direct Air Capture technology is one of the few potential paths to reduce aircraft greenhouse gas emissions with its potential to scale and capture millions and potentially billions of metric tons of CO2 per year. The captured CO2 will then be permanently, safely and securely stored deep underground, a process certified by independent third parties. Our planned investment — the first to be announced in the aviation industry — will help 1PointFive build the first industrial-sized Direct Air Capture plant in the United States. A single plant is expected to capture and permanently sequester one million tons of CO2 each year, the equivalent of the work of 40 million trees, but covering a land area about 3,000 times smaller.
United’s commitment to the environment
United’s commitment to becoming carbon neutral by 2050 represents yet another leadership position the airline has taken to reduce its impact on the environment. Our significant environmental achievements include:
- Becoming the first airline globally to incorporate SAF in regular operations on a continuous basis, marking a significant milestone in the industry by moving beyond test programs and demonstrations to the everyday use of SAF in ongoing operations
- Becoming the first airline to fly with Boeing’s Split Scimitar winglets, which reduce fuel consumption by an additional 2% versus standard winglets; United is the largest Scimitar winglet operator today, with nearly 400 aircraft equipped with these winglets
- Becoming the first U.S. airline to repurpose items from the carrier’s international premium cabin amenity kits and partnering with Clean the World to donate hygiene products to those in critical need
- Eliminating non-recyclable plastic stirring sticks and cocktail picks on aircraft and replacing them with a more environmentally friendly product made of 100% bamboo
- Continuing to replace our eligible ground equipment with cleaner, electrically powered alternatives, with 43% of our eligible GSE fleet converted to date
United recognized by CDP as a leader towards a more sustainable future
United’s award-winning Eco-Skies program represents the company’s commitment to the environment and the actions taken every day to create a more sustainable future. In 2020, the Carbon Disclosure Project named United to its ‘A List’ for the airline’s actions to cut emissions, mitigate climate risks and develop the low-carbon economy, marking the seventh consecutive year that United had the highest CDP score among U.S. airlines, and the only airline globally to receive this recognition.
In 2017, Air Transport World magazine named United its Eco-Airline of the Year for the second time since the airline launched the Eco-Skies program. Additionally, United ranked No. 1 among global carriers in Newsweek’s 2017 Global 500 Green Rankings, one of the most recognized environmental performance assessments of the world’s largest publicly traded companies.
For more information on our commitment to environmental sustainability, visit united.com/ecoskies