A factory

About the project

The overall aim of the project "Petrochemicals and climate change gonvernance: Powerful fossil fuel lock-ins and policy options for transformative change" is to provide an in-depth understanding of the petrochemical sector, including the inter-related and operational economic relationship between fossil fuel extraction and petrochemical production, and ways to minimize its current and future climate impacts.

Background

Fossil fuel extraction companies are increasingly diversifying their business portfolios into petrochemicals. This is further fueled by an expected exponential growth in demand for plastics - tripling by 2050 unless our way of using plastics is significantly changed and coupled with considerably higher profit margins for petrochemicals products than transport fuels. Plastics and other petrochemicals are forecasted to be the largest driver for growth in oil demand from 2025. Oil refineries, all over the world, are increasingly being retrofitted to boost their share of petrochemical production capacity.

Build greater understanding

The rapid expansion of the petrochemical sector and the growing interlinkage – economic, infrastructural, and political with the fossil fuel extraction sector, necessitates a deeper understanding of its dynamics. It is crucial to provide an extensive understanding of how this sector can be governed towards a low-carbon transition, as well as explore policy recommendation of how to achieve this.

While the fossil fuel extraction sector has been the topic of numerous analyses, few studies have provided critical insight into the petrochemical sector. Similarly, most policy focused studies on plastics target waste management and pollution rather than drivers for production and consumption.

The project’s core impact will be to build greater understanding of the actors, finance, and political dimensions, and greater appreciation of the range of international tools and strategies available for the transforming petrochemical sector. A key part of the overall aim is to develop and diffuse improved knowledge about the petrochemical sector. In so doing, this project will also make a significant contribution to strengthening the field of petrochemicals in climate change governance.

The project objective

    • Provide an understanding of the key power structures, lock-ins, and restraints that must be overcome in order to facilitate a low-carbon transition of the sector.
    • Characterise and analyse the inter-related and operational economic relationship between fossil fuel extraction and petrochemicals production.
    • Map the key actors, ownership structures and financial ties in the petrochemical sector industry and important links to fossil fuel extraction, including a financial analysis of the anticipated expansion of the industry.
    • Provide policy recommendations on how to minimize current and future climate impact from this sector.


    In so doing, this project will also make a significant contribution to strengthening the field of petrochemicals in climate change governance.

    Project period

    The project period is 2020 to 2022.