The Model Council of the European Union debate for secondary schools which took place in City Hall in Dublin. Pictured are students from Abbey Community College in Waterford, students on left Isabelle O’ Brien and Mara Matthews, with in background from left, Maria Walsh MEP, Teacher Rebecca Buggy, H.E. Mrs Charis Christodoulidou Ambassador of Cyprus to Ireland and Barbara Nolan Head of the European Commission Representation in Ireland.
The results are in from the 2023 Model Council of the European Union debating competition. Six teams rose above 21 other secondary schools across Ireland for their convincing portrayal of the positions taken by EU Ministers for Energy while discussing how to accelerate the EU’s Renewable Energy Transition. The debate mirrors the format of a real meeting of the Council of the European Union (also known as the Council of Ministers) so students can explore how the EU decision-making process works. The Model Council has been organised by the European Commission Representation in Ireland every year since 2007. The 2023 event was held in City Hall in Dublin. Scoil Muire agus Pádraig from Mayo won first place for their representation of Poland during the debate. Second place went to Christ King Secondary School from Cork, and third place to Deansrath Community College from Dublin. Those schools role-played Slovakia and Hungary respectively. Honourable mentions were given to the following schools: Ardscoil Rís in Dublin as Croatia: Mercy Secondary School Mounthawk in Kerry as Czechia and Loreto Secondary School Kilkenny as Belgium. The event opened with an address by Maria Walsh, MEP representing Ireland Midlands-North-West constituency, who emphasised the significance of the 50th anniversary since Ireland joined the EEC. The debate itself discussed ways to increase the share of renewable energy within the EU, a challenge that has been brought into sharp focus since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022. The energy sector is responsible for over 75% of the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, increasing the share of renewable energy is a key building block in reaching the EU’s energy and climate objectives under the European Green Deal. This aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030 (compared to 1990 levels), and for Europe to become a climate neutral continent by 2050. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine sparked an energy crisis in Europe. In response, the Commission published the REPowerEU plan that aims to reduce the EU’s dependence on Russian fossil fuels well before 2030 by accelerating the clean energy transition. REPowerEU is based on three pillars: saving energy, producing clean energy and diversifying the EU’s energy supplies. The Commission proposes to increase the EU renewable energy target to 45% by 2030 – all this was discussed in the Model Council Debate. Significant challenges remain but a collective effort is underway, across the EU, to reach ambitious renewable energy targets. Earlier this month, the European Commission proposed to reform the EU’s electricity market to accelerate a surge in renewables and phase-out gas, to protect consumers from price spikes related to fossil fuels, and to make the EU’s industry clean and more competitive. These proposals will be discussed by the real EU Ministers for Energy in late March.