The expanding petrochemical industry depends on fossil fuels both as feedstock and a source of energy and is at the heart of the intertwined global crises relating to plastics, climate, and toxic emissions. Addressing these crises requires uprooting the deep-seated lock-ins that sustain petrochemical plastics. This perspective identifies lock-ins that stand in the way of ambitious emission reductions and ending plastic pollution. We emphasize that addressing the growing plastic production and consumption requires confronting the political economy of petrochemicals. We put forward key elements needed to address the dual challenges of moving away from the unsustainable production of plastics and drastically reducing emissions from the petrochemical sector and argue for attention to the links between fossil fuels and plastics, which in turn involves challenging entrenched power structures and vested interests linked to the fossil-based plastics economy. A critical step would be ensuring attention to the production of petrochemicals and related upstream issues in the upcoming global plastics treaty.
One Earth, Volume 6, 16 June 2023,