Mr Keith Taylor MEP
Keith Taylor is a Green Party Member of the European Parliament for the South East region of the United Kingdom, and leads the Climate Parliament group of MEPs there. This interview was first published in October 2015. Read more about Keith and his work here.
How did you first become aware of climate change as an issue?
A major strand of my political position has always been to strive for equality and justice across social, economic and environmental issues. Tackling climate change is absolutely fundamental to achieving these objectives.
What are the big stories or developments on climate, renewables, and sustainability in the European Parliament at the moment?
In the run-up to the COP21, there are of course of lot of discussions taking place on climate in the Parliament. The Environment committee (ENVI), of which I am a member, has been working on a report outlining what the Parliament would like to see achieved in Paris in December. The report, adopted in ENVI in mid-September, calls for an ambitious, universally applicable and legally binding agreement which should aim at phasing out global carbon emissions by 2050 or shortly thereafter, with a credible climate financing package and a balance struck between mitigation and adaptation. Importantly, the report also calls for the agreement to be based on 5 year commitment periods. The report will be voted on in the Parliament's plenary at the end of October.
In terms of our internal EU climate targets, last October, EU Member states agreed on targets for 2030 comprising a domestic emissions reduction target of at least 40%, a binding European target for renewables of at least 27% and a 27% energy savings target.
This level of ambition is insufficient however and it should be noted that one of the co-legislators, the Parliament, has not yet been consulted. The Commission plans to come forward with legislative proposal on these targets in 2016, where the Parliament will be asked to input its position.
Other climate-related files being discussed or coming up include the reform of the EU's Emissions Trading Scheme, redesigning the EU's electricity market, energy efficiency labelling and the Energy Union file.
What do you think is the biggest challenge currently preventing greater ambition or action on climate threats?
Many challenges need to be overcome. Within many EU countries at the moment, including my own, the UK, Euro-scepticism is on the rise. But climate change is best tackled at a global level and one of the reasons that the EU's provisional 2030 targets are so weak is that many Member States do not want to allow the EU to legislate effectively on this issue.
Another challenge faced by the public and civil society is the need to keep up pressure on governments ahead of the COP21 whilst also realising that the outcome from Paris will possibly fall short of what is needed. Energy, courage and motivation will be needed for many more years!
Finally, what we need to do is turn the climate change narrative from one of panic/denial to one of opportunity and to highlight the many advantages that investment in renewables and other climate friendly technologies bring. This is something that I think the Climate Parliament as an organisation does very well.
Do you think we will solve climate change?
Unfortunately, it's too late to solve or prevent climate change - we are already seeing irreversible changes to our planet and weather systems. The challenge we face now is to limit average global warming as much as possible, and to keep it below the 2 degree threshold if at all possible, as agreed on by Governments in Copenhagen in 2009.
Ahead of the Paris conference, countries have been asked to come forward with pledges on what they plan to do to reduce emissions, by when and how (these pledges are known as 'Intended Nationally Determined Contributions'). INDCs, in combination with the processes agreed at Paris which will determine how often they are evaluated and updated, must aim to keep us within a 2 degree scenario.
What current or recent developments do you think are most encouraging in terms of facing the climate challenge?
The growing network of the Climate Parliament is inspiring. I recently attended a CP meeting in Switzerland where high-level delegates from across the world came together to discuss how legislators and governments can act together to accelerate renewable energy worldwide. Forums such as these provide an invaluable space for policy makers to meet and exchange ideas and best practise.
At a more grassroots level, the Divestment movement is also very inspiring. The European Green Party recently co-hosted an event in Paris, which saw key figures in this movement coming to share their experiences on how they have contributed in different ways:
A whole range of organisations are beginning to divest - from the Rockefellar foundation in the US, to universities across the UK as well as faith organisations. The UK's Guardian newspaper is spearheading a campaign calling for the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation and the UK's Wellcome Trust to divest, while 350.org is also calling on the Vatican to divest. The list goes on, and the inspiring thing is that anyone can ask an organisation that they are involved with, or a member of, to pull their money out of the deadly fossil fuel industry.
This movement shows to me the power that people can have when they think global and act together locally, and this mustn't be underestimated. For more information, see here: