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LIFEnews features 2009

Climate change: a fact of life

(photo:LIFE96 ENV E 000509) Drought in Zaragoza (Spain)
(photo:LIFE96 ENV E 000509)

Climate change is now a very real fact of life across the EU and a wide variety of different LIFE projects have been actively working on ways to both mitigate the effects of climate change, and to help the EU adapt to its impacts.

Extreme weather patterns, such as floods and droughts, are becoming increasingly common-place realities for European citizens. In addition to these severe climatic conditions, other, sometimes more subtle changes, are also having profound effects on habitats, ecosystems and biodiversity in general.

The EU has recognised the importance of holistic approaches to tackling climate change and more than 30 different EU policies and measures have been launched since 2000 to minimise future impacts. To support these efforts, the European Commission will soon publish a further Communication on adapting to climate change.

Following on from the 2007 Green Paper on ‘adapting to climate change in Europe - options for EU action’, the new Communication is anticipated to identify five key challenges for adapting to climate change: improving knowledge of impacts; improving awareness of need for adaptation; mainstreaming adaptation in policies; advancing international work on adaptation; and working in partnership between the EU and MS, plus other interests and stakeholders.

LIFE project actions supporting climate change adaption

(photo:LIFE02 NAT A 008518) Flooding of the Danube
(photo:LIFE02 NAT A 008518)

The EU’s LIFE programme plays an important role in supporting European climate change legislation and LIFE projects have been working on a variety of practical methods for adapting to climate change. Some examples include:

  • The LIFE Environment projects ‘Optimizagua’ (LIFE03 ENV/E/000164), which contributed to adaptation efforts by demonstrating methods to increase the efficiency of water irrigation;
  • The LIFE-Nature-supported Müritz National Park peat-bog initiative (LIFE98 NAT/D/005081) restored peatlands and thus reduced the CO2 released from mineralising peat by 174 tonnes a year, the equivalent of the emissions from 139 cars;
  • The ‘RESPONSE’ project (LIFE03 ENV/UK/000611) developed an innovative methodology for mapping coastal regions and monitoring changes over time, in order to enable well focussed adaptation measures, identify specific local areas of risk and predict future changes;
  • The Eco-camps project (LIFE04 ENV/FR/000321) used life-cycle analysis to discover the most appropriate ways for campsites to develop in the expanding tourism sector, whilst reducing their energy consumption, for example through the use of green roofs, solar panels and locally sourced materials;
  • A strategic approach to integrating the management of flood risk with the ecological needs of Natura 2000 was the aim of the UK’s ‘Living with the sea project’ (LIFE99 NAT/UK/006081);
  • The FLOODSCAN project (LIFE06 ENV/D/000461) tested a new, intelligent and cost-effective technology for the precise identification and mapping of flood hazard areas;
  • The ETRES project (LIFE03 ENV/GR/000219) undertook work to examine the requirements for applying the European emissions trading scheme in the electricity sector in Greece and support renewable energy mechanisms; and
  • The WINTECC project (LIFE06 ENV/D/000479) demonstrated the use of kite technology to drive cargo vessels through wind propulsion rather than burning fossil fuels.

LIFE+ and climate change

Climate change is an important priority for the LIFE+ programme. Some 22 projects on climate change have already been chosen for co-funding in the new programme’s first year, representing a total investment of approximately €24 million in EU co-financing.

Further information about the LIFE programme’s role in supporting actions that help the EU to tackle climate change impacts is available from the energy and climate thematic section on the website, and in the brochure “LIFE and Energy”. Additional examples of LIFE project responses to climate change issues are also included the recently released LIFE Nature best practices publication.

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