As the Deputy is aware from replies to previous Questions on this matter, I share concerns that biofuel production, unless properly regulated, can have a negative impact on food production, and on food prices. My colleague, the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, takes the lead on Government policy in relation to biofuels and EU policy on biofuels, including the European Commission's proposal to limit the use of foodcrop-based biofuels in transport to 5% by 2020.
The EU Renewable Energy Directive of 2009 requires that, by 2020, 10% of transport fuels should come from renewable sources. The Directive also provided that the ongoing effects of its implementation be monitored by the European Commission. Following a number of studies on the Directive’s effects, 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 foodcrop-based biofuels should at most comprise half of the 10% quota required to come from renewable energy sources. This proposal, in conjunction with the incentives for advanced (next-generation) biofuels, signals the desire of the Commission to move towards the use of advanced biofuels made from feedstocks which do not compete with the production of food. While Member States agree that the issue must be addressed, it remains an extremely complex matter, and agreement has not yet been reached on the 5% cap. Negotiations are continuing, and it is expected that a progress report will be submitted for the meetings of the Energy and Environment Councils in June 2013.
The fight to end extreme hunger is, and will remain, a key priority for Ireland’s international development programme, which takes a comprehensive approach to the challenge. This includes a focus on good governance in respect of land use. The scale of the challenge of fighting global poverty and providing nutritious food for a growing population, in the context of a changing climate, was highlighted at the international Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Climate Justice which the Government organised in Dublin last month.
In the context of its G8 Presidency, the British Government is hosting an important international meeting on hunger and under-nutrition in London on 8 June, on the theme ‘Nutrition for Growth: Beating Hunger through Business and Science’. Ireland is a core partner in this initiative and the Taoiseach will participate, at the invitation of the British Prime Minister. The event will build on the Olympic Hunger Summit held at Downing Street in August 2012, which the Taoiseach also attended.
The London meeting will focus specifically on under-nutrition, an often silent element of hunger which has devastating consequences. Over 40% of children under the age of five in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa are undernourished, putting them at greater risk of infection and death, and seriously limiting their ability to reach their full potential. I am determined that Ireland will continue our strong international advocacy and action to address hunger and under-nutrition. In London, we will focus particularly on supporting efforts to harness public and private investment which will assist low-income countries to fight under-nutrition.
Ireland’s new policy on international development, One World, One Future which was launched in early May, sets out in clear terms the goals and focus of our development efforts. It aims to enhance coherence of Government policies for development results. It will result in a more focussed approach across all Government Departments, harnessing the particular contributions, expertise and knowledge that each can offer. The Interdepartmental Committee on Development, which I chair, will have a strengthened role, and will be responsible for producing a biennial report on Ireland’s progress on policy coherence for development. This report will be submitted to the Government and the Oireachtas.