POLITICO Ad Highlights "Greenwashing" by United and Continental Airlines

June 21, 2011


Suzanne Struglinski, Natural Resources Defense Council, 202-289-2387 (office) or 202-423-6004 (cell), sstruglinski@nrdc.org
Jennifer Andreassen, Environmental Defense Fund, 202-572-3387, jandreassen@edf.org

(Washington – June 21, 2011) As U.S. and European Union officials prepare to meet Wednesday the EU’s pioneering anti-pollution program for aviation, major environmental groups urged airlines to drop their attempts to gut that program. A full-page ad published in Tuesday’s POLITICO calls on United (now merging with Continental) to live up to its avowed “focus on protecting the environment.”

Last month, six major environmental groups sent letters to the CEOs of American Airlines and United, denouncing the airlines for bringing suit in a European court to block a law that holds all airlines accountable for their global warming pollution from flights to, from and within Europe. The law takes effect Jan. 1, 2012. Both American Airlines and United are touting their environmental initiatives, American Airlines in its in-flight magazine (“AA Reduces Environmental Footprint”) and United in its “Eco-Skies” campaign. But behind the scenes, the companies are suing to try to block the world’s only law that holds them accountable for actually reducing their pollution.

A recent Wall Street Journal story quoted unnamed “people familiar with the U.S. position” who suggested that, in next week’s U.S.-EU talks, the U.S. will oppose the EU law.

“It’s disappointing that some parties are apparently trying to align the U.S. government with the airlines against the world’s only enforceable program to reduce carbon pollution from airplanes,” said Jake Schmidt, International Climate Policy Director at Natural Resources Defense Council. “But we’re confident that within the administration, cooler heads will recognize that President Obama needs to fight carbon pollution, rather than allowing some in his administration to fight anti-pollution initiatives.”

The groups’ May 11 letters noted that if American and United are committed to reducing their environmental impact, “it makes no sense to spend [their] customers’ money on lawyers and lobbyists in an effort to thwart a crucial anti-pollution program.” The environmental groups urged the airlines to drop the lawsuit, saying “Innovation, not obstruction, is what’s needed now… [J]oin the future of low-carbon aviation by making your actions consistent with your words.”

The letters were signed by the CEOs of Environmental Defense Fund, Center for Biological Diversity, Earthjustice, Environment America, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Sierra Club. EDF, CBD and Earthjustice have intervened in the litigation, in which oral argument is expected in Fall 2011.

Environmental Defense Fund had previously submitted the POLITICO ad to United/Continental’s Hemispheres in-flight magazine. A United spokesperson verbally refused to publish it.

For more information, visit edf.org/aviation


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The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 1.3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world’s natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Livingston, Montana, and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org