Janez Potočnik, the EU’s Commissioner for the Environment, drew LIFE’s annual conference to a close and stated that in his opinion the two days of debate had shown that, “LIFE is still as relevant as ever”. He went further and shared with the audience that many of the ideas being discussed during the event linked well with what the Commission was considering in connection for the future of the programme, and that of LIFE Environment in particular.
For example, the Commissioner commented saying, “We believe that there is a strong case for maintaining a specific financial instrument in the service of environment and climate policy [and] we believe LIFE's impact on policies should be increased. One of our ideas is to promote ‘integrated projects’. Such projects would aim at implementing environmental action plans (a River basin management plan, for instance, or a waste management plan). These programmes, furthermore, should help mobilising other EU and national funds, so that LIFE could effectively leverage non-LIFE funding as well. These projects will have the added advantage of providing an opportunity to make integration of environmental concerns into other policies a reality in practice and help improving the uptake of funds for the protection of the environment.
We might wish to introduce more strategic focus. In addition to integrated projects, policy priorities could be introduced for a number of years in order to enhance the impact of the programme on specific sectors To help clarify and rationalise the purpose of each LIFE strand, we have also thought of distinguishing LIFE environment from LIFE Governance and considerations are given to a Climate specific component of the future programme. LIFE Environment would fund demonstration, implementation and the transfer of knowledge, as well as public sector orientated environmental solutions. Eco-innovation will probably be covered by other EU Funds.
LIFE Governance would be distinct from LIFE Environment and would provide support to NGOs as well as assistance towards the implementation and enforcement of environmental policy – through training, implementation networks and best practice sharing in enforcement for instance. LIFE Information would be incorporated into this strand as well. A Climate specific component could focus on pilot projects for both mitigation and adaptation and ensure that best practices are replicated on a large scale by other funds.
Finally, we should recall that the largest and therefore the most influential EU funds are outside of LIFE’s remit. We should establish a better and more structured cooperation with these funds so that LIFE can help introducing and promoting a genuine environmental dimension in the larger structural funds - funds for agriculture, regional development and cohesion for instance. In sum, LIFE Environment and LIFE Governance would have a clearer focus on the public sector and on capacity-building.
As for simplifying the Programme’s management, we are thinking about that too. We want to introduce simpler procedures and wish to use new electronic tools for submitting proposals and possibly reporting.”
These types of ideas will be feeding in to the development of the new proposals for LIFE 2014-2020 and The Commissioner closed the conference by agreeing with the MEPs that LIFE’s strong track record puts it in a good position to stay in future business.