Press release

‘The time for slogans has passed’ – energy expert issues rallying cry

Published on 15 December 2023

The world needs to move beyond slogans and take hard decisions based on an honest understanding of what a ‘just transition’ means, a University of Dundee energy expert has warned.

On this page

Professor Peter Cameron, Director of Dundee’s Centre for Energy, Petroleum and Mineral Law Policy (CEPMLP) made the stark warning at a Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE) event at the Scottish Parliament.

'The Energy Crisis: What have the responses been and how can we deal with it long-term’ took place against the backdrop of COP28 in Dubai where countries from around the world attempted to thrash out agreements to limit global warming.

Professor Cameron has previously warned that failure to deal with the climate emergency will reverse decades of progress in poverty alleviation, lead to increasing conflicts, and create tens of millions of climate refugees as the earth becomes more uninhabitable. The RSE event saw Professor Cameron outline the difficult choices that need to be made to avoid these catastrophic effects.

“For years, the public at large has been well aware of the requirement for green energy and for the requirement to be carbon neutral,” he said. “Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February last year showed that our reliance on fossil fuels is untenable in the long term.

“We need energy to drive our economies but we also need it to be clean for the future of the planet and we also need energy security. It is impossible to achieve these goals without significant trade-offs.

“What can a government do to make sure a transition is just? If Scotland has no oil and gas production, what plans need to be put in place to re-tool citizens that lose their jobs as a result? If legal measures are taken to require citizens to modify their domestic heating, what support will be given to those with existing or future cost of living challenges? 

“More and more governments are developing an industrial policy to develop their clean energy sector but there is no example to follow of a successful transition to a low carbon economy at the national level.”

Professor Cameron was also clear that the expansion of renewable energy should not be seen as a silver bullet, citing the environmental footprint required to develop these projects to the scale required.

He continued, “In July this year the Scottish Government announced that over 16 million trees had been cut down to make way for wind farm projects. This is a trade-off between renewable energy expansion and the environment we are trying to protect. 

“Wind, solar and other forms of renewable energy are dependent on critical minerals that require destructive extraction processes and are often found in countries with lamentable human rights records. Again, this is a situation in which we must be honest about the implications of pursuing these technologies.

“Many governments now are exploring and supporting the development of new technologies such as green hydrogen, carbon capture and small-scale nuclear reactors. None of these ideas, while noble and potentially successful, are commercially viable at the moment. That is not to say they will remain this way but they will clearly need public as well as private investment to scale up.

“For several years the dominant long-term policy goal has been saving the planet, the source of many an inspiring slogan. But other shorter-term priorities need to be addressed urgently and we need to acknowledge that the path to Net Zero involves trade-offs that will polarise public opinion.

“Despite all this, it is impossible to work in a University surrounded by brilliant and inquisitive young minds and not retain hope for the future. The new energy landscape requires us to weigh up our options very carefully and make choices that are – as much as possible – fair for everyone. We have to and we can.”


Jonathan Watson

Senior Press Officer

+44 (0)1382 381489
Story category Public interest