Two key electronics industry associations in Taiwan, which is one of the world’s top manufacturers of semiconductors, have pledged to reduce their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The country’s government is promoting the move as helping to ensure that companies are able to meet the Kyoto Protocol GHG standards, but Taiwanese environmentalists say the government isn’t going far enough.
The agreements also involve manufacturers of the thin-film transistor liquid-crystal display (TFT-LCD) technologies that have become very popular for use in computer screens. Both the semiconductor and the TFT-LCD industries have committed to sign memorandums of understanding (MOUs) with Taiwan’s Environmental Protection Administration (Taiwan EPA) by the end of the year.
Taiwanese companies now command more than 30% of the global market in the semiconductor and TFT-LCD industries, according to the Taiwan EPA. The country is a major producer of laptops, motherboards, and other information-technology appliances.
Taiwan's overall GHG emissions rose by 70% between 1990 and 2000—from 160 to 272 million metric tons (Mt) of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent (MMTCE). During that period, the country's CO2 emissions rose by 80%. The country produces more CO2 than all but 21 nations, and it is the 14th-largest exporting country in the world.
The perfluorocarbon (PFC) compounds used in electronics manufacturing have a much greater effect on global warming than equal amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2), with global warming potentials from 5700 to 11,900 times greater than those of CO2, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Horng-guang Leu, former director general of the Taiwan EPA's Bureau of Air Quality Protection and Noise Control, said that through the voluntary partnership the agency would help the two industries to reach global PFC-emissions-reduction goals.
Most members of the World Semiconductor Council (WSC) have agreed to voluntarily reduce PFC emissions by the end of 2010 to at least 10% below the industry's 1995 baseline level. However, the Taiwan Semiconductor Industry Association (TSIA), a WSC member, has agreed to a very different, complicated formula. Because the country’s semiconductor production grew rapidly in 1999, TSIA has assented to a baseline equal to 50% of the industry’s combined emissions in 1997 and 1999.
Jung-pin Yu, advisor to TSIA, said Taiwan’s semiconductor industry can meet this goal by optimizing production procedures and adopting advanced control equipment involving improved end-of-pipe abatement methods. However, due to the global growth in semiconductor production, the country’s overall PFC emissions will continue to increase for at least a few years.
Because the TFT-LCD industry is fairly young, its MOU uses 2002 as the baseline year. In the agreement, which was brokered through the World LCD Industry Cooperation Committee, Taiwan’s TFT-LCD Association (TTLA) and its counterparts in Japan and South Korea vow to jointly reduce global PFC emissions from the TFT-LCD fabrication facilities to less than 0.82 Mt of carbon equivalent. However, each country’s share remains uncertain.
The TTLA has promised that, beginning this year, all association members building new fabrication plants will have to install scrubber systems that can get rid of at least 90% of PFC emissions.
However, because Taiwan is a major emitter of GHGs, especially for its size, local environmentalists charge that the country’s government must make more fundamental changes to the nation’s industrial structure. “Taiwan should phase out industries that emit carbon dioxide during the production process, including cement production, lime production, steel-making, and others,” argues Sam Lin, head of the Ecology Conservation Alliance.
ES&T, Business & Education News - August 25, 2004