Semiconductors are the foundation of modern technology. They can be found in smartphones, computers, gaming devices, planes, cars, clean energy technology and countless other devices and products. As companies, organizations and governments around the world work to address climate change, semiconductors will continue to enable the acceleration and adoption of sustainable technology.
An example of this is the transition to an electric mobility future. Recently, the EU announced it had reached a provisional agreement to gradually phase out the sale of new internal combustion engine (ICE) cars by 2035 to combat climate change and accelerate the transition to electric cars. The average electric car has 2,000 semiconductor chips, about double the amount of a non-electric car.
Semiconductors are also instrumental in green energy technology development and deployment and in improving the energy efficiency of electronics. While the semiconductor industry has a role to play in creating a more sustainable future, it will need to work to decarbonize as well. The IT industry is responsible for around 2-3% of global carbon dioxide (CO₂) emissions. According to a recent Harvard study cited by Ars Technica, the information and computing technology industry’s global energy demands are projected to grow by 7-20% by 2030.
Organizations like the Semiconductor Climate Consortium (SCC), which Sphera recently joined as a founding member, are collaborating with the semiconductor industry to drive progress on climate challenges within the semiconductor value chain. SCC members must commit to working toward meeting the 1.5-degree Celsius target set by the Paris Agreement and adhering to the goal of reaching net zero emissions by 2050.
Decarbonizing the Semiconductor Industry Through Collaboration
To address the industry’s environmental impact, members of the SCC are working together to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions within their own operations, in the value chain and within the other industries that semiconductors are used in. As the effects of climate change continue to accelerate across the globe, the SCC is also evaluating the climate-related risks that impact the semiconductor value chain.
Like many others, the semiconductor industry faces challenges in measuring and managing Scope 3 emissions. Given that semiconductor production requires a lot of energy, as well as a number of different chemicals and elements, decarbonizing the semiconductor value chain is a difficult task. To address these challenges, the SCC has established a Scope 3 working group, as well as other focus areas to achieve decarbonization within the semiconductor value chain. These focus areas include collaboration, transparency and ambition.
Semiconductor companies can achieve success in these focus areas through harnessing the power of data and expertise. By working together with the SCC, semiconductor companies can:
- Help others succeed through sharing ideas and best practices – With the right expertise, semiconductor companies can speed up their progress toward decarbonization. Collaboration gives companies the opportunity to share approaches on how to decarbonize their value chains, which can include setting value chain goals, strengthening materiality assessments and value chain inputs, as well as developing tools to assist with baseline-setting and reporting.
- Set ambitious goals and targets for decarbonization – To meet the 1.5-degree Celsius target and reach net zero emissions by 2050, semiconductor companies will need to set ambitious, science-based, near- and long-term decarbonization goals. Through working with other experts within the industry, companies can find new ways to innovate operations, improve processes and make progress toward climate targets.
- Embrace greater transparency and GHG emissions reporting – Setting and meeting ambitious goals means semiconductor companies must commit to greater transparency through reporting their GHG emissions. To achieve this, companies will need to collect Scope 1, 2 and 3 GHG emissions data. According to the SCC, greater transparency can also be achieved through working together within the semiconductor industry to set standardized guidelines for Scope 1, 2 and 3 GHG reporting. Members of the SCC will report their progress toward reducing their Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions annually.
Working Together to Achieve a Smarter, More Sustainable Future
As semiconductor technology improves and devices become “smarter” and more efficient, the industry must also address its own environmental impact. Meeting the 1.5-degree Celsius target and reaching net zero emissions by 2050 is a massive challenge no company or individual can face alone. According to the SCC, industry-level collaboration will be necessary to accelerate progress toward meeting climate targets.
Through greater collaboration, the semiconductor industry can help meet decarbonization goals and secure a more sustainable future for us all.