Westmeath school drives debate on renewable energy targets at EU Council

Students from Mercy Secondary School, Kilbeggan were locked in intense negotiations at the mock European Council this week.

Students debated and voted on the draft resolution "All EU Member States should produce 50 per cent of their energy from renewable energy sources by 2020".

The event at Dublin Castle was attended by 32 schools, which represented European Member States, the European Institutions, and lobby groups from the oil, aviation, and car industries.

The debate was won by two teams - St Colman's, Claremorris, Co Mayo representing Cyprus, and Arklow Community School, Co Wicklow, who represented Greece. Wellington College, Belfast, representing the Czech Republic was the runner-up.

The Council was opened by Minister for European Affairs Dick Roche and chaired by Deputy Ruairí Quinn, Labour Party spokesperson on education and science. In his address Minister Roche said, "Increasing the use of renewable energy is a key strategy for reducing greenhouse gases and meeting Ireland's Kyoto Protocol commitments. The EU has set a mandatory target and we will be working hard to meet this target. By tapping renewable sources, we can also reduce reliance on imports and help build a sustainable green economy."

Martin Territt, director of the European Commission Representation in Ireland, was also on hand to present the European Commission's perspective. Mr Territt explained, "It is important for students to learn how this institution works and that ultimately EU policy is created through compromise. The Mock EU Council shows how Member States and the European Institutions are working towards a solution for climate change."  

The Kilbeggan team represented Estonia and included Transition Year students Conall Ennis, Mary Killian, and Kathryn Nea. The Estonian Ambassador to Ireland, Mr Andre Pung, was able to advise the Kilbeggan team on the position they were defending.

After a lively debate with well-informed contributions from all the participating teams, a vote was taken. The proposal was narrowly rejected.

The winning teams were presented with the Euroscola prize given by the European Parliament. Students and teachers from St Colman's, Claremorris and Arklow Community School will get to travel to Strasbourg to see the European Parliament in action.

The teams were judged on the merit of their debating skills and a 500 word project on renewable energy targets submitted.

The day's proceedings can be viewed on http://www.euireland.tv/previous.php.

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