Newsmaker of the Week: Our Exclusive Interview with Scott Kirby, CEO of United Airlines

Commercial aviation accounts for 11% of US transportation CO2 emissions and 2.4% of global emissions, and the US is the largest aviation emitter in the world. On Wednesday, 100 environmental organizations urged President Biden to cut airplane pollution. Cutting carbon emissions in the sector is crucial to fighting climate change, but decarbonizing an industry that relies on powerful fuels to get people to their destination safely is a challenge.


The third-largest airline in the world, United Airlines, has pledged to be completely green by 2050, reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 100%, and collaborate across sectors to accomplish a collective goal of carbon neutrality. Remarkably, the company has also pledged to achieve these goals without using carbon offsets. The company has built its climate action plan on three pillars: reduction, sequestration, and innovation. United has also invested in the power of electricity purchasing a fleet of electric planes for regional flights, and has been named as Air Transport World’s Eco-Airline of the Year. 


We sat down with Scott Kirby, the CEO of United Airlines, who started off as a US Air Force Academy cadet, has worked at the Pentagon for the Secretary of Defense, and was the former president of both US Airways and American Airlines. We wanted to hear what he had to say about United’s efforts to build its climate action strategy, and how airlines and the aviation sector as a whole can create credible, tangible plans for decarbonization. 

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