My colleague, the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Deputy Rabbitte, takes the lead on Government policy in regard to bio-fuels. The EU Renewable Energy Directive 2009 requires that 10% of transport fuels should come from renewable sources by 2020. The directive also provided that the ongoing effects of its implementation be monitored by the European Commission. Following a number of studies, in October 2012 the Commission published a proposal to amend the Renewable Energy Directive and the Fuel Quality Directive. The Commission included a proposal that the 10% quota be reduced to 5%.
The proposal for a reduction to 5%, in conjunction with the incentives for advanced, or next generation, bio-fuels, signals the desire of the Commission to move towards the use of advanced bio-fuels made from feedstocks which do not compete with the production of food. While member states agree that the issue must be addressed, it is an extremely complex matter and there is no agreement yet on the appropriateness of a 5% cap.
Progress is being made in this regard at an ad hoc working group of the EU energy and environment Councils, with the objective of producing a progress report for both Councils in June 2013.
I share concerns that bio-fuel production, unless properly regulated, can have a negative impact on food production and food prices. Higher food prices accentuate the challenges faced by poor people in developing countries in accessing sufficient food and having a nutritionally balanced diet.
The international conference that the Government is hosting with the Mary Robinson Foundation, the World Food Programme and the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research in Dublin on 15 April and 16 April will be a dialogue on the interlinked issues of hunger, nutrition and climate justice. The event will bring together a diverse audience, connecting key policy-makers and global thought leaders with local people and practitioners facing the realities of rising food prices, failed crops and malnutrition.
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The objective will be to learn from practical experience and from robust evidence of local solutions to these challenges, which will be presented during the conference by representatives of grassroots organisations from developing countries.
This year, the international community will review progress on the millennium development goals, two years before the target date for their achievement. Policy discussions will also begin on the post-2015 development agenda. It is essential that these policy processes be firmly rooted in the reality of people’s lives and objective evidence of what has worked and what has not.
In hosting this conference, we hope to inspire new ways of thinking about global development challenges and to invigorate and broaden the debate, at all levels, listening to and learning from the experiences of local people, and rooting future thematic policy approaches in their lives and their efforts to cope.