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Samsung investing $5b in efforts to be carbon neutral by 2050

That's quite the challenge to neutralize – making chips and electronics is hardly ecofriendly

Global chip and consumer electronics biz Samsung has a blueprint to become carbon neutral by 2050 that includes investing 7 trillion won ($5.01 billion) to support energy efficiency and sustainability.

The Korean manufacturer aims to develop tech designed to filter out greenhouse gases and capture carbon dioxide generated during chip production. It also says it will make its devices business carbon neutral by 2030.

Kim Soo-jin, Samsung's head of ESG strategy group said: "These activities are to eventually meet demand from our customers ... so that we raise interest in our products. There are costs, but we will try to forge a business opportunity."

Samsung said it also planned to increase the recycling of lithium and plastic used in its products.

Chipmaking is a big problem for the tech industry when it comes to converting to more sustainable processes and energy sources.

A 2020 paper by researchers at Harvard University, Arizona State University and Facebook predicted the ICT industry as a whole would make up 20 percent of global energy demand by 2030. But hardware manufacturing contributes far more than operations, software and hosting.

"Chip manufacturing, as opposed to hardware use and energy consumption, accounts for most of the carbon output," the report said. For example, nearly 30 percent of emissions from manufacturing 12-inch wafers are due to PFCs, chemicals, and gases, the paper [PDF] found.

Kim appeared to acknowledge the problems when he said: "We are a company that manufactures directly... so there are various, layered challenges."

While many will welcome one of the world's largest chip and electronics manufacturer's commitment to the climate challenge, others may see it as closing the net zero doors after the global heating horse has bolted.

By 2050, when Samsung's commitment finally kicks in, climate scientists have found the consequences of greenhouse gas emissions since the beginning of the industrial revolution could have a crippling effect on the world's climate.

In California, $17.9 billion worth of residential and commercial buildings could be inundated by seawater by 2050, with a projected 50cm of sea level rise. Meanwhile the number of dangerous heat days a year will increase from 35 to 50 and the severity of widespread summer drought is projected to almost triple in the state.

Other chipmakers have shown different emission goal commitments. Earlier this year, Intel pledged to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions in its global operations by 2040. AMD, however, committed to a 50 percent reduction in absolute GHG emissions from operations by 2030, from a 2020 base year.

Elsewhere, Samsung's parent Group shows a different perspective on its climate commitments. It is one of the parties behind a $11 billion airport project in the Philippines, with no practical alternative for fossil fuel flights yet on the horizon. ®

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