With the EU's proposed LIFE regulation due for adoption by the Parliament in May, LIFEnews talked to Mette Quinn and Dominik Mayer at the Directorate-General for Climate Action about the planned new Climate Action sub-programme.
Climate is set to have a much stronger profile within the LIFE programme, due to the proposed change from the current set-up to sub-programmes covering Environment and Climate Action, for the period 2014-2020.
“Evaluations of the LIFE programme so far show there have already been many climate projects, and the number has grown over the years. But there is a need for a more targeted approach, hence the sub-programme,” says Mr Mayer, Policy Officer, Climate Finance and Deforestation.
The three general objectives of the sub-programme are: to contribute towards a low-carbon and climate resilient economy; the development, implementation and enforcement of climate policy; and better governance.
Ms Quinn, Team Coordinator of Climate Finance and Deforestation, points out, “Projects have been implemented quite unevenly within Europe. We want to encourage a much better spread. Some countries have a big climate challenge and lots of things could be done, but unfortunately very few projects come from them. We want to address this.”
To that end, the proposed LIFE regulation contains a new type of project, called integrated projects (IPs). These are aimed at improving the implementation of policy by focusing on plans and strategies on a larger territorial scale (including cross-border) and across sectors. “The goal is to integrate one strategy for climate that could cover agriculture, transport, energy, etc in a large geographical area, for example, in a city or rural area,” Ms Quinn explains.
These types of project will be prioritised and will be focussed on the sub-programme’s specific priority areas of climate mitigation, adaptation and governance. The intention is that each Member State should be offered the opportunity to implement at least one IP. An allocation of €160 million out of the total budget of €904 million was proposed for IPs over the seven-year life of the sub-programme. However, this may change now the EU budget has been reduced.
Traditional projects will still account for a large part of the total budget, but they will be selected with the abovementioned three strategic priority areas and more focussed thematic priorities in mind to facilitate a critical mass of projects within certain themes.
Within these priority areas, there have been more mitigation- than adaptation-related projects so far, hence DG CLIMA intends to focus more on the latter in future. Ms Quinn notes they represented “only around 10% of climate projects up to now and we would like them to increase to about 45%”. The low uptake of adaptation projects may be related to less knowledge about climate adaptation issues. With the increased focus on this issue DG CLIMA hopes to raise the awareness and knowledge on what can be done in regions to address this challenge. Ms Quinn adds that the focus on projects in the agriculture and forestry sectors may be increased as well.
Another new aspect of the proposed LIFE regulation is the possibility of using financial instruments to obtain more leverage from funding than is possible through awarding grants to projects and therefore have a greater impact.
“We can reach a lot more beneficiaries through bank loans or guarantees for bank loans,” Ms Quinn says as an example. She adds, “You need a grant for risky projects, for very new types of project, but for other areas where it’s really about implementation it’s not necessary. For this type of project it may also be easier and faster to access a LIFE-supported bank loan than a grant from Brussels.”
Mr Mayer explains that this is an area where DG CLIMA wants to improve on the current LIFE programme, to “have more sustainable projects which can continue and evolve after [the EU’s contribution has] finished. Financial instruments seem to be a good tool and we want to see what we can use.”
With the new sub-programme there will be much more funding for climate than previously. Some € 31 million in co-financing went to climate projects in 2011, according to Mr Mayer. If the multiannual financial framework for 2014-2020 works out, he estimates there will be around €69 million allocated to climate next year, rising continually to about €100 million at the end of the period.
It is not yet clear, though, if and by how much the sub-programme’s resources will be cut following the EU budget reduction. As Mr Mayer points out, “Since LIFE has a rather small budget any cuts would have a large impact.”
Following the decision on the EU budget allocations in May, DG CLIMA will be clarifying areas of overlap with the Environment sub-programme, so that specifics are included in the guidelines on where exactly to apply for LIFE funding when the next call for proposals comes out in 2014.
In addition, the indicators for each priority area in the EC regulation (which will be used to measure projects’ effectiveness) will be developed further.
DG CLIMA will hold discussions with Member States to plan the multiannual work programme in the autumn and do outreach work, so that Member States can start preparing for the priorities of the new Climate Action sub-programme. As part of this, DG CLIMA is happy to present the sub-programme at suitable events and to any branches of Member State governments that are particularly interested in finding out more.
In September and October, awareness raising events are planned in as many Member States as possible. Ms Quinn says, “We hope to attract stakeholders from all over the different countries, from regional and local authorities, as well as the public administrations, from companies, non-governmental organisations and whoever else is interested.”