Get On Board with Clean Energy & Climate Action.

by Susan Frank, Director, California Business Alliance for a Green Economy

At a time when most major corporations are seeking sensible ways to reduce their carbon footprint and make their business operations more efficient, it’s disappointing to see one of the world’s leading airlines fighting efforts in the U.S. and globally to take meaningful action to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from air travel.

united get on board climateAviation’s global carbon footprint is large and growing rapidly. The sector would be the 7th largest emitter of GHGs in the world if it were a country. With more people flying every year, airplane pollution is expected to double by 2020 and quadruple by 2050 without control measures being put in place.

Unfortunately, United Airlines is leading the U.S. aviation industry in opposing multiple efforts to curb GHG emissions, at home and abroad. In California, United has taken its opposition even further by playing a leadership role in “Fueling California,” an organization focused on dismantling California’s clean fuel standard (known as the Low Carbon Fuel Standard, or LCFS). The LCFS is a critical component of the state’s landmark clean energy and climate law, AB 32.

Fueling California is led by President and CEO Bob Sturtz, who joined the board when he was United’s Managing Director of Strategic Sourcing. Serving alongside Sturtz on the Board of Directors is Melinda Yee Franklin, Director of Corporate and Government Affairs for United’s western region.

In a media teleconference today, top-level United Airlines frequent flyers – including California philanthropist and Prop 39 author Tom Steyer – urged the airline to stop working to block standards to reduce pollution from vehicles and aircraft and instead encourage cleaner transportation fuels and smart market-based climate policies. As a member of United’s invitation-only “Global Services” program, Steyer is among the airline’s most important customers.

Steyer called on United to withdraw its affiliation with Fueling California. In a statement put out today by the national “Flying Clean” campaign, Steyer said:

“In my home state of California, United is playing a leadership role in trying to get rid of our clean fuel standard, which doesn’t even cover airlines. If United wants to stay competitive, it needs to take climate change seriously and act in its customers’ –and the planet’s – best interest,” said Tom Steyer, former investment manager, energy activist, and United Global Services member. “It’s time to recognize that the friendly skies will get a whole lot un-friendlier if we don’t take action on climate change.”

In the teleconference, Steyer and other representatives from United’s elite frequent flyer programs released a letter urging the company to take a stand on climate change. Joined by thousands of frequent and everyday flyers who signed an online petition, the message comes on the eve of a meeting of the international group working to set a standard for global aviation pollution, and two days before United’s annual shareholder meeting.

United’s business class and super frequent flyers represent only 5 percent of ticket sales but generate 50-75 percent of total profits, making them the airline’s most prized and influential customers.

The California Business Alliance for a Green Economy joins with Tom Steyer in calling on United to start flying straight when it comes to support for clean energy policies in California and internationally.

© California Business Alliance for a Clean Economy

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