The conference is planned noon till noon on the 1st – 3rd July, 2024. Further information coming.

1. Global context and impacts

Petrochemicals is a global industry tightly linked to governments, the fossil fuel industry, and with a unique position in the modern, globalised economy. Several of the largest firms in the world are active in the industry. This has a central role in many value chains, such as agriculture and food through its dependence on nitrogen fertilisers and plastic packaging, as well as transportation and textiles. It is the industrial sector with the highest energy demand and the third largest direct CO2 emissions. Beyond the global impact on climate, the industry also impacts the domains of several other planetary boundaries, e.g. through its large use of freshwater resources, production and release of hazardous chemicals and other novel entities, and perturbation of nutrient flows, putting it at the centre of the triple planetary crisis. 

For this theme we invite contributions from a wide range of disciplines, aiming to better understand the comprehensive climate and environmental impacts of the petrochemical industry through its whole life cycle and value chain; the particular factors and drivers that shape, facilitate and enable the industry and such impacts on a global level as well as in specific geographies; gaps in action and resources to prevent and mitigate such impacts;  as well as novel ways of attributing the responsibility of the industry and its products to different types of impacts to inform decision making.

2. Solutions and interventions for a just transition

Roadmaps and scenario analyses have highlighted the many opportunities to mitigate the climate change impact as well as other environmental impacts of the industry. Yet often the interconnections in the triple planetary crisis are hidden or underexplored in the investigation, which often ends up focused on technological solutions for the supply side. This focus comes with a risk of burden shifting and missing opportunities to achieve synergistic environmental benefits. Further, solutions relating to demand-side change and redirection are recognised as central, not least in the most recent IPCC report, but questions remain about the efficacy, risks, diffusion, and scaling of such solutions. While climate policy has for a long time focused on pricing carbon emissions from energy use, it is increasingly recognised that industrial sectors and value chains may need approaches more tailored to their specific challenges. The first generation of such interventions are now being rolled out in the US and in the EU through the Inflation Reduction Act and Net-Zero Industry Act. Further, laws and regulations are being developed to increase the responsibility of firms to disclose, report, and take action on their climate and environmental impacts – driven not least by increasing pressure from litigation and court actions in many countries.  

For this theme we invite contributions from a wide range of disciplines, aiming to better understand the options, role, potential, effectiveness, benefits and risks of different innovations in preventing and mitigating the global climate and environmental impacts associated with the petrochemical industry, addressing both supply and demand, from technological to behavioural, business model, social and broader system aspects; the landscape of capital and resource allocation among these solutions;  the role of new types of transformative climate policy addressing the industry, the opportunities connected to new demands on transparency and disclosure, as well as the risks for the industry in climate litigation.  

3. Actors and institutions

A large number of actors, groups, and coalitions are connected to the petrochemicals industry in different ways – for example from the multinational corporations producing and/or using chemicals, investors providing financial services throughout the value chain, to trade unions organising the workers in the industry, local communities (in both formal and informal sectors) working for and living around the industry in chemical cluster regions, and civil society organisations. These groups all relate to the development and transformation of the industry in different ways and have very different opportunities and motivation to engage with the industry and the institutions governing the development of the industry on the local, as well as the international level. Important institutions governing the industry include national policy instruments such as emission markets and taxes, international agreements on chemicals management and trade, as well as standards and environmental management programs agreed upon within the industry.   

For this theme we invite contributions from a wide range of disciplines and backgrounds, aiming to better understand how different stakeholders along global petrochemical value chains perceive the climate and environmental risks and opportunities in their work; the position and role of different actors in international negotiations such as the ongoing plastics treaty process and UNFCCC; the role of stakeholders in local development, economies, and politics in communities closely connected to the industry; pressures and drivers for change from actors and stakeholders in connected value chains; as well as how the institutions governing the industry can develop in an era of transformation. 

The committee is open to proposals to other areas of work relevant to the overall theme of the conference. Please do not hesitate to reach out to us with your suggestions.