Networks in global socio-technical regimes: Addressing petrochemicals

Forskningsoutput: KonferensbidragKonferensabstractPeer review


Connecting actors across sectors, scales and decision-making arenas, complex global networks make up central elements of the social structure of earth system governance. Taking a relational perspective, the notion of global socio-technical regimes places networks within the centre of discussions on stability and change. Described as dominant institutional rationalities diffusing through internationalized networks, regimes work to stabilize global socio-technical systems. The configuration of the networks through which regimes are diffused and maintained help decide both how actors resist and respond to change. Aiming to substantiate debates on architecture and agency in global governance, this article explores the role of internationalised networks in maintaining carbon lock-in, focusing on the petrochemical industry. As the industry is both highly globalised and networked with strong intersectoral ties to the fossil fuel and plastics sectors, the petrochemical sector constitutes a unique avenue for understanding how global networks influence environmental issues across sectors. The fact that petrochemicals are not well addressed by the existing institutional architecture across decisionmaking arenas point to the importance of understanding what structures governs the industry at the global scale.

Constituting a critical gap in research and policy, the petrochemical sector has often been overlooked in energy debates, despite being the most energy intensive industry of all. Used across industrial processes, petrochemicals play a critical role in maintaining fossil fuel lockin by ensuring the ubiquity of oil, gas, and coal in provisioning systems. We analyse global MNC-networks through joint ownership interlocks in the global chemical industry. Using a dataset containing the subsidiaries of the top 50 largest chemical firms, we demonstrate that not only is the sector highly connected on a global scale with all major companies being formally integrated through joint ownership, interlocks across value chains also works to maintain the value of fossil capital. Moreover, realising that the capacity for agency differs, we assess the network structure including homophily and polycentricity as well as the specific configurations to understand which actors are in the most structurally advantageous positions. Through this analysis, we contribute to the understanding of global networks as a specific governance challenge.

The findings underline the need for parallel transitions in different socio-technical systems including energy, chemicals, and plastics to break from fossil fuel dependency and achieve decarbonisation. This requires addressing the global governance architecture around plastics and fossil fuels respectively to recognise and tackle the role of petrochemicals in maintaining fossil fuel lock-in.
StatusPublished - 2021
Evenemang2021 Bratislava Conference on Earth System Governance -
Varaktighet: 2021 sep 72021 sep 9


Konferens2021 Bratislava Conference on Earth System Governance

Ämnesklassifikation (UKÄ)

  • Energisystem


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