Korean Air has partnered with Los Angeles “to plant and care for urban trees,” it was announced Friday. The Asian carrier said it will donate $160,000 to Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s Million Trees Los Angeles (MTLA) initiative as part of the airline’s 40th anniversary celebration and international commitment to reforestation and tree reservation throughout the world.

“Trees provide shade and save energy costs, clean the air and help reduce the greenhouse gases that cause global warming,” said Jay Lee, Korean Air’s regional director the Americas. “They also reduce pollution, capture polluted urban runoff, improve water quality, and add beauty to Los Angeles’ neighborhoods. Our donation to MTLA is not just about beautifying the City, but about its environment and we’re honored to make this donation and be part of the green solution.”

Korean Air proudly admits it is the first international airline to make this commitment to the MTLA initiative. The airline’s North American headquarters is located in Los Angeles and Korean Air is the largest transpacific carrier out of LAX.

“We are excited and proud to be partnering with Korean Air and their ongoing commitment to improving our environment throughout the world. Korean Air is a corporate role model, providing leadership and investing in LA’s urban forest which will provide numerous benefits for generations of Angeleno’s,” said MTLA executive director Lisa Sarno.

A formal agreement was signed today between the City of Los Angeles and Korean Air and an official kick-off to the program will take place in March 2009 when the airline celebrates its 40th anniversary. At the March event Korean Air and MTLA employees are expected to begin planting and watering “Korean Air Trees.”

Korean Air’s environmental said its efforts extend to all aspects of its operation, disclosed each year through a comprehensive Sustainability Report. According Asian carrier, it continues technical research to reduce noise and fuel burn of its fleet and has ordered 10 Boeing 787 aircraft that are designed to be environment friendlier.

As part of its environmental initiatives, Korean Air said it has been planting trees in Mongolia since 2004 and in China’s Inner Mongolia region since 2007 to help lessen the impact of yellow dust and desertification and promote conservation efforts of Mongolian forests. Korean Air hopes to expand this grass-roots environmental program worldwide and it chose Los Angeles to kick off the campaign.

Korean Air, with a fleet of 126 aircraft, is one of the world’s top 20 airlines. It operates almost 400 passenger flights per day to 116 cities in 39 countries. It is a founding member of SkyTeam, the global airlines alliance – partnering Aeroflot Russian Airlines, AeroMexico, Air France, Alitalia, CSA Czech Airlines, China Southern Airlines, Continental Airlines, Delta Air Lines, KLM and Northwest Airlines to provide customers with extensive worldwide destinations, flights and services.