American Airlines, United and Continental Airlines are the target of criticism from six environmental organizations over the airlines' efforts to have their pollution accountability significantly reduced.
The airlines have filed a lawsuit in European courts to try and block a law set to take effect on January 1, 2012 that would require all airlines with flights to, from and within Europe, to be held accountable for their impact on global warming through air pollution created by their aircrafts.
Letters were sent to the airlines by the CEOs of major environmental protection and advocacy groups including: The Environmental Defense Fund, Center for Biological Diversity, Earthjustice, Environment America, Natural Resources Defense Council and the Sierra Club. The letters stated that if these airlines are in fact committed to reducing their carbon footprint and protecting the earth, "it makes no sense to spend [their] customers' money on lawyers and lobbyists in an effort to thwart a crucial anti-pollution program."
American Airlines and United (Continental and United have recently merged) have worked to establish reputations as environmental stewards through initiatives such as United's new "eco-skies" campaign, which posits the airline as an environmentally friendly company, and American Airlines in-flight magazine published an article titled "AA Reduces Environmental Footprint" in honor of this past Earth Day (April 22).
The airlines are being asked to drop the lawsuit in the letters sent by the environmental groups which state that, "Innovation, not obstruction, is what's needed now… [J]oin the future of low-carbon aviation by making your actions consistent with your words."
While aircraft pollution is estimated to make up only 5 percent of all environmental pollution, the Center for Climate Change and Environmental Forecasting says that the harmful CO2 constitutes roughly 70% of aircraft engine emissions, amongst other harmful emissions and particulates.
Keep in touch with Jill on Twitter @jillettinger