Wind turbines on the Isle of Eigg, which generates 85% of its energy from renewable sources. Photo: Isle of Eigg community

Wind turbines on the Isle of Eigg, which generates 85% of its electricity from renewable sources. Photo: Isle of Eigg community.

How climate policy can lead to safer and more secure energy supplies

We are highly dependent on fossil fuels, which supply 81% of the world's energy.1 There are plenty of fossil fuels left in the ground, but we have already used up a large proportion of the highest quality reserves - those which are relatively cheap and easy to extract. The best remaining oil fields are concentrated in a small number of countries. Other countries will be increasingly forced to rely on smaller, deeper, more remote oil fields with more complex geology, and on low quality unconventional sources such as tar sands and shale oil. Extraction will be more expensive, energy-intensive and environmentally damaging, especially with expansion into sensitive areas such as the arctic, deep seas and rainforests. As a result, we face a future of rising oil prices, more frequent supply disruptions and oil-related conflict. Similar trends are seen for gas and coal, with a shift to more environmentally damaging options such as shale gas and lignite as higher quality reserves are depleted

Climate policy can help to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels - firstly by reducing energy use through energy-saving measures, and secondly by diversifying the energy supply to include a mix of sustainable sources. This can deliver co-benefits including lower and more stable prices for energy services in the long term, reduced expenditure on fuel imports and safer, cleaner energy.

Cutting our reliance on fossil fuels will help to avoid the damage associated with extracting, processing and transporting them - including oil spills such as the Deepwater Horizon disaster, coal mine accidents, gas leaks and the visual impact of opencast coal mines (especially for 'mountain-top removal').


There are a number of potentially significant conflicts between climate policy and the goal of providing safe, secure energy.

Key messages

Fossil fuels are becoming increasingly scarce and expensive, but if we turn to unconventional sources to solve our energy security problems we risk becoming locked in to an unsustainable energy infrastructure, as well as suffering increasing environmental damage.

Reducing our reliance on fossil fuels can help to provide a safer, more secure and more affordable energy supply in the long term. There will be high initial investment costs, but in the long term the costs of renewable energy will fall while the costs of fossil fuels will continue to increase.

Links to other co-benefits pages