On October 26, 1998, IBM announced that it had established a goal to reduce its perfluorocompound (PFC) emissions 40% worldwide by year-end 2002 indexed to production with 1995 as the baseline. Robert Perciasepe, Environmental Protection Agency assistant administrator for air and radiation, said IBM is the first multinational corporation to set specific emission reduction targets for perfluorocompounds. He told a news conference that IBM's action was "a bold step".
In remarks at a White House briefing on climate change, Vice President Gore applauded IBM's new PFC emissions reduction goal along with recent pledges by Monsanto, British Petroleum, General Motors and the World Resources Institute. "These developments send a strong message: A healthy environment and a healthy economy go hand in hand," the Vice President said. "Through technology and innovation, we can turn this challenge into a huge opportunity for business and for America. And the sooner we act, the easier it will be."
PFCs are used in semiconductor manufacturing for etching and in the chemical vapor deposition (CVD) chamber cleaning process. While they are efficient for this purpose, they are categorized as greenhouse gases because of their extremely long lives in the atmosphere. They are included in the specific group of chemicals whose emissions are targeted for reduction in the Kyoto Protocol on Global Climate Change.
In 1996, all major U.S. and several Japanese semiconductor manufacturing companies signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the U.S. EPA under which the companies must strive to achieve PFC emissions reduction. IBM has been at the forefront of the semiconductor industry in reducing these emissions both prior to and since signing the MOU. Most recently, a team from IBM's site in Essex Junction, VT successfully qualified a new CVD process in which hexafluoroethane (C2F6) is replaced with dilute nitrogen trifluoride (NF3). This technological breakthrough is expected to yield a major reduction in PFC emissions from the chamber cleaning process upon full implementation throughout the company. The new process received an IBM Environmental Excellence Award and was also recently recognized with a 1998 Vermont Governor's Award for Environmental Excellence in Pollution Prevention.