Energy Ethics 2021: Energy Transitions & Planetary Futures 

At a time of growing demand for energy and rising concerns about reducing and mitigating the environmental impact of global carbon emissions, transitions to low-carbon energy economies seem both inevitable and essential. “Energy Transitions” have been adopted as an official policy of numerous governments and a global imperative in the fight against anthropogenic climate change. In official pledges and commitments to ‘Net Zero’, energy transitions have captured the imagination of a post-carbon future. This conference calls for analytical and critical attention to the ways in which energy transitions are mobilised around the world. We ask: What visions of society and planetary futures are being put forth by ‘energy transitions’ around the world? What is a ‘just’ transition, and for whom? What hopes and fears animate discourses, practices and models of energy transitions? How are energy transitions claimed as environmental, social, cultural, personal, ethical or political projects? What challenges and possibilities do they present? Are conflicting visions of energy futures reconcilable? How can different forms and ways of life co-exist in these transitions? What kind of energy should fuel our world, and what kind of world do we want to fuel? 

Rather than taking the aims and means of energy transitions for granted, this conference brings together researchers across the arts, humanities, social and natural sciences to invite critical engagement with and reflection on the social, cultural, economic and political complexity and diversity of energy futures around the world. 

We invite papers that address questions of energy transitions from the following angles: 

Theme 1. EMERGENCY [Time, Urgency, Crisis; Rupture]   

Climate emergencies have been declared by governments, cities, organisations and communities around the world. What are the temporalities of climate emergencies and energy transitions? What discourses and practices of energy transitions operate within particular conceptions of political and planetary time?   

Theme 2. PROSPERITY [Stability, Security, Growth, the Good Life]  

The climate crisis presents a unique opportunity to rethink global prosperity and redistributive mechanisms. What notions of well-being animate calls for energy transitions? What vision of the ‘common good’ and the ‘good life’ do they proffer? What is perceived as valuable, worth investing in or not?  

Theme 3. VULNERABILITY [Fears, Fragility, Loss, Collapse, Extinction]  

Climate change is a global issue, yet its impacts are differentially felt and distributed. What vulnerabilities are at stake in the face of transition imperatives? How do they work to unite or divide us? What are the demands and expectations, the sacrifices, changes and compromises that these imperatives suggest?   

Theme 4. FAIRNESS[Justice, Diversity, Inclusivity, Responsibility, Liability]    

Calls for climate justice resound across academic, activist and political spheres, in parallel with endorsements of a “fair” and “just” transition. How do energy transitions reconfigure geographies of extraction, access and inequity?  What forms of responsibility emerge in discussions, meetings and international agreements around climate change and energy futures?   

Theme 5. CO-EXISTENCE[Conflict, Friction, Harmony, Mutuality]  

Practices and visions of energy transitions are multiple, and do not always align. What frictions and harmonies are at stake here? Are different visions of society, the human and non-human, and energy fundamentally opposed? At what scale do transitions occur? How can different forms and ways of life co-exist? 

Theme 6. INNOVATION [Creativity, Technology, Change]  

‘Transitioning’ away from certain energy sources towards others comes with technical and social challenges. What material and ethical dilemmas, contradictions and achievements might emerge in the global search for more efficient, low-carbon, cleaner technologies? How do optimism and creativity figure in response to these dilemmas?  

We invited abstracts that engaged with the question of energy transitions by responding to the themes and prompts above. Abstracts were collected on the 6th of August and notification of acceptance was given by the 16th August. 

If you have any questions, do not hesitate to get in touch at [email protected]