Energy Ethics 2023:
Financing the Future 


6 – 8 June 2023 | St Andrews and Online

Finance shapes our lives in ways that are both explicit and veiled: From the prices we pay for energy, food and housing, to loans for sustainable home improvements, utility infrastructure projects, and large-scale operations. Financial practices, modalities, and representations touch almost every aspect of our lives. 

Finance is fundamentally entwined with visions of and expectations for the future. It can fuel the future-gazing aspirations of entrepreneurs, feelings of hope, desires for innovation, and shared moral horizons. At the same time, it can create relations of obligation and indebtedness, deepen historical patterns of inequality and exclusion, and power feelings of despondency and despair. 

At this crucial juncture in human energy practices and the life of the planet, the ways in which we financially create our energy future is of vital importance. It is estimated that reaching Net Zero carbon emissions globally by year 2045 will require up to £42 trillion of investment. Yet with current levels of investment, this goal will not be reached. Indeed, reaching an equitable net zero society will cost even more, as it entails not just investing in climate change mitigation, but also helping the poorest communities worldwide adapt to the catastrophic effects of climate change. Some estimates put the required investment closer to £190 trillion.

At a time of growing energy demand and rapid climate change, we ask: How will we finance the future? What moral aspirations and obligations do present financial practices and modalities inspire? How should financial practices and modalities be crafted to engender new envisioned outcomes and relationships? When should we prioritise investing in the distant future rather than focussing on the present?

This conference received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (Grant agreement No. 715146)