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News: December 2014

FAO publication highlights LIFE-supported climate change mitigation

FAO publication

24 December 2014A recent FAO publication on climate change has referenced conservation measures carried out by two LIFE projects: a Swedish (LIFE08 NAT/S/000268) mire restoration project; and a German alkaline fen restoration project (LIFE08 NAT/D/000003).
The publication, Towards climate-responsible peatlands management, highlights the challenges facing the alkaline fens in Brandenburg and the actions undertaken by the LIFE project beneficiary, Naturschutzfonds Brandenburg to meet them. The project sites have been heavily drained and converted to arable land, but thanks to LIFE these areas are being restored through raising the water level and removing nutrients.
Grazing is another key restoration measure. “The project worked in collaboration with local farmers to establish pastures for Asian water buffalo and sheep. With proper grazing management, the livestock keep the growth of reed and other larger vegetation to a minimum,” the publication reports.

The project, which is set to end next year, has carried out measures on six sites, mowing  a total of 140 ha of reed, filling in 27 km of drainage ditches and cutting peat on an area of around 14 ha. Water buffalos are grazing on more than 30 hectares.

The restoration of fenland, and peatlands in general, is an effective climate-change mitigation measure, as several LIFE project are demonstrating. The ongoing Swedish project is an excellent example and one that will feature in a forthcoming LIFE brochure on climate change.

The project is restoring wetlands at 35 sites across Sweden and is now increasingly emphasising the value of peat habitats for mitigating climate change in its promotional materials and dissemination work. Researchers at the University of Gothenburg have calculated the impact of filling in drainage ditches on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the restoration of former fens and wet forests surrounding the Komosse raised bog.

The FAO publication highlights this conservation work, explaining that the, “rich fen, meadows and wet forest on the margins of the large and pristine raised bog in Southern Sweden were drained by ditches to promote spruce (Picea abies) growth and forestry production.”

It concludes that “raising ground water levels in this relatively nitrogen-rich organic soil affects GHG emissions as calculated by the IPCC Wetland supplement…The total GHG emissions are reduced by rewetting due to declines in CO2 and N2O emissions.”

LIFE launches Natural Capital Financing Facility


23 December 2014The European Commission and the European Investment Bank (EIB) have signed an agreement entrusting the EIB with the management of the Natural Capital Financing Facility (NCFF), the second of two new financial instruments under the LIFE Programme.

The NCFF will provide loans and investments in funds to support projects that promote the preservation of natural capital, including adaptation to climate change, within the EU-28.

The EIB will contribute a total budget for the Investment Facility of €100-125 million for 2014-2017. The European Commission will contribute €50 million as a guarantee for the investments, and €10 million for a support facility. Beneficiary companies and financial intermediaries will provide significant additional financing.

Natural capital is defined as the stock of natural assets in an ecosystem which interacts to yield a flow of goods and/or services. It refers to the biodiversity that provides goods and services we rely on, from fertile soil and productive land and seas to fresh water and clean air. It includes vital services such as pollination of plants, natural protection against flooding, and the regulation of our climate.

The main aim of the NCFF is to demonstrate that natural capital projects can generate revenues or save costs, whilst delivering on biodiversity and climate adaptation objectives.

Currently there are clear barriers to the uptake of many natural capital projects, including lack of experience, long investment and project payback periods, and uncertainties about target markets, revenue streams and profit margins.

The NCFF is to establish a pipeline of replicable, bankable projects that will serve as a "proof of concept" and demonstrate to potential investors the attractiveness of such projects. The ultimate aim is to develop sustainable flow of capital towards those projects and achieve scale.

Eligible projects will address payments for ecosystem services, green infrastructure, biodiversity offsets and investments for innovative pro-biodiversity and adaptation businesses. The final recipients for NCFF are public or private entities, including public authorities, landowners and businesses. The size of NCFF projects will typically be between €5 million and €15 million.

In addition to the Investment Facility, the NCFF also includes a support facility for project preparation and implementation for investments eligible under the NCFF. 

More information on the NCFF will be available in early January 2015. 

Read more:

About NCFF
Natural Capital Financing Facility Natural Capital Natural Capital is defined as the stock of natural assets in an ecosystem which interacts to yield a flow of goods and/or services. It refers to the biodiversity that provides goods and services we rely on, from fertile soil and productive land and seas to fresh water and clean air. It includes vital services such as pollination of plants, natural protection against flooding, and the regulation of our climate. Although it is essential to sustainable development, the current levels of funding are insufficient to meet policy objectives of enhancing biodiversity & ecosystem services (BES) and nature-based climate change adaptation. Stepping up BES financing is considered as one of the prerequisites for achieving the EU's 2020 biodiversity goals.
Natural Capital Financing Facility The Natural Capital Financing Facility (the 'Facility' or 'NCFF') will be a new financial instrument that will be created by blending EIB funding with EC financing funded by the LIFE budget. The NCFF will provide innovative financial solutions to support bankable projects, which are or have the potential to be revenue-generating or cost-saving, promoting the conservation, restoration, management and enhancement of natural capital for BES and climate adaptation benefits, including ecosystem-based solutions to challenges related to land, soil, forestry, agriculture, water and waste. It will be complemented by technical assistance to support project preparation, implementation and monitoring.
Objective The primary aim of the NCFF is to provide a proof of concept to demonstrate that BES and nature-based climate adaptation projects can be financed through innovative and sustainable market-based mechanisms. The ultimate objective is to demonstrate to investors their attractiveness for the longer term, in order to develop a sustainable flow of capital towards those projects and achieve scale.
Manager The Facility will be managed by the European Investment Bank ('EIB'). The EIB is the EU's bank and it works closely with other EU institutions to implement EU policy.
Financing Instruments The Facility will provide debt and also equity instruments. The NCFF may finance projects directly or indirectly through intermediaries which will then provide financing to final beneficiaries. Particularly, equity investments will be undertaken through investment funds. The focus will be on projects which are at an advanced stage of development and which have the potential to be replicated within the EU.
Term and Size The NCFF will start with a pilot phase of 3 to 4 years (2014-2017) with a total amount of EUR 100m for the financing of 9 to 12 operations, with an additional grant support facility of EUR 10m for technical assistance. For this phase, target operations will typically have a size of EUR 5-15m. The term of the debt and equity instruments will typically be up to 10 years plus potential extensions.
Target Projects - Green infrastructure (e.g. green roofs, green walls, ecosystem-based rainwater collection / water reuse systems, flood protection and erosion control).
-Payment for ecosystem services (e.g. programs to protect and enhance forestry, biodiversity, to reduce water or soil pollution).
- Biodiversity offsets / compensation beyond legal requirements (e.g. compensation pools for on-site and off-site compensation projects).
- Pro-biodiversity and adaptation businesses (e.g. sustainable forestry, agriculture, aquaculture, eco-tourism).
Final Beneficiaries Geography Public and private entities. The Facility will finance projects located in the EU-28.

LIFE funding expansion to finance energy efficiency projects


19 December 2014An announcement on 9 December 2014 introduced a new financial instrument to operate under the LIFE Environment and Climate Action sub-programmes (2014-2020).  Agreed by the European Commission and the European Investment Bank (EIB), the Private Finance for Energy Efficiency (PF4EE) instrument is dedicated to increasing private investment in energy efficiency projects. The instrument will support Member States’ progress towards EU targets for energy efficiency.

The PF4EE instrument is to bridge the gap in affordable commercial financing for energy efficiency investment. It does this by making lending a more sustainable activity for European private sector financial institutions and by increasing the availability of debt financing. To this end, the Commission has committed €80 million for 2014-17 through the LIFE programme to fund credit risk protection and expert technical support services. Management of the PF4EE instrument is entrusted to the EIB and the bank has committed making a minimum of €480 million available for long-term financing.

The PF4EE combines lending from the EIB to financial intermediaries with steps to mitigate the credit risk faced by financial intermediaries when lending. Loans will be aligned with National Energy Efficiency Action Plans or other energy efficiency programmes within EU Member States.
A wide range of recipients are being targeted by the PF4EE instrument. The size of the energy efficiency loans to final beneficiaries is to range between €40 000 to €5 million, although higher amounts may be possible in exceptional cases.

Find out more about PF4EE on the European Investment Bank’s website:

The Best LIFE Environment projects 2013

Best LIFE Environment projects 2013

17 December 2014The Best LIFE Environment projects 2013 publication highlights exemplary environment projects, which received recognition at the LIFE Environment Awards. The projects, which were completed before the end of 2013, achieved outstanding results, demonstrating best practices and pioneering innovative solutions.

This year, the 10th consecutive year of the awards, was the first time that LIFE Information & Communication (LIFE INF) projects with an environmental focus were also recognised.

Four projects were awarded the ultimate accolade of being a ‘Best of the Best’ project, including one LIFE INF. In addition, a further 19 projects (including three LIFE INF) were recognised as ‘Best’ LIFE projects for their excellent work.

Presenting the awards, Dr Hans Bruyninckx, Executive Director of the European Environment Agency said: “The innovation that we find in many of these projects will be an inspiration for the European institutions and for Member States and for a number of other actors.”

Download The Best LIFE Environment projects 2013

The Best LIFE Nature projects 2013

The Best LIFE Nature projects 2013

16 December 2014The Best LIFE Nature projects 2013 publication highlights the exceptional achievements of nature conservation and restoration projects that were completed before the end of 2013.

The 6th edition of the annual awards ceremony for the winning projects was held in Brussels earlier this year. And for the first time, the achievements of LIFE Information & Communication (LIFE INF) projects with a nature focus were also recognised.

Four projects received the ultimate accolade (‘Best of the Best’ project), including a LIFE INF project in Greece. In addition, a further nine projects (including two from the LIFE INF strand) were recognised as ‘Best’ LIFE projects for their excellent work.

All 13 outstanding projects - drawn from nine Member States - are featured in this new publication. Together they demonstrate the significant contribution that the LIFE programme can make to nature conservation practice and policy.  

Download The Best LIFE Nature projects 2013

AgriClimateChange project wins prize at European web awards

eu Web Awards LOGO

08 December 2014The LIFE AgriClimateChange project (LIFE09 ENV/ES/000441) was awarded first prize for its website in the Better World category for environment-related projects at the .eu Web Awards on 19 November 2014.

“We are very honoured to have been awarded this prize. By recognising the work of the project team it inspires us to continue communicating the importance of a more sustainable European farming sector, which is essential if we are to achieve any significant improvements,” said Eduardo de Miguel, managing director at Fundación Global Nature and coordinator of the project.

He added that, “this is one of the reasons why communication and the effective dissemination of the project’s results play a key part in the project.”

The awards are organised by EURid, the registry that manages the .eu country code top-level domain, and it recognises .eu websites that are leaders in five different categories. The jury was composed of five representatives of the European business and institutional sector. They determine the best websites in each category according to four criteria: content, structure and navigation, visual design, and functionality. The winners of each category are presented with a prestigious award and a media package worth 5 000 EUR.

AgriClimateChange developed a tool for carrying out energy and GHG audits on farms, and identified the most suitable crops and best practices for mitigation and adaptation to climate change. The project carried out pilot demonstration action plans for energy efficiency and reduction of GHGs emissions in different farming systems in France, Spain, Italy and Germany.

Find out more about the awards or more information on the project on the AgriClimateChange website.

LIFE BulPlantNet project receives award for successful biodiversity campaign

Photo:LIFE08 NAT/BG/000279

05 December 2014The LIFE project BulPlantNet (LIFE08 NAT/BG/000279) has won the Bulgarian Biodiversity Foundation's annual award for the most successful campaign for biodiversity conservation. The foundation handed out the awards in this and seven further categories during a ceremony in Sofia.
“The award is of great value to us, since it shows that our efforts have been highly appreciated by the broader public,” says BulPlantNet project coordinator Prof Dimitar Peev of the Institute of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Research at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences.

BulPlantNet is a pilot network of Small Protected Sites (SPS) for plant species in Bulgaria. It aimed to halt species loss and promote the conservation of plant biodiversity in Bulgaria by combining conservation efforts in the plants' natural distribution areas (in situ) and the collection of seeds and living specimens (ex situ). It focused on 47 plant species unique to Bulgaria or of special European and national conservation importance. They figured among 299 species found to require urgent action to enhance their conservation status in an analysis of the state of Bulgarian threatened and rare plants.

Testing the concept of Plant Micro-Reserves (PMRs) in Bulgaria, the project partners developed action and monitoring plans for the target plant species. These included several species of the daisy, pea, and figwort families, and others that are under threat due to pollution, changes in land use, and general habitat deterioration.

Plant micro-reserves are a relatively recent tool for the conservation and management of rare and threatened plant species. They are specific designations to protect small areas of less than 20 ha, ideally used in a network. These areas can be established on previously protected or non-protected areas.

For more information, please visit the project website.

Natura 2000 Awards: call for entries now open!

Natura 2000 Awards logo

03 December 2014The call for applications for the second edition of the European Commission’s Natura 2000 Awards is now open.

The Natura 2000 Awards celebrate and promote best practice in nature conservation. Specifically, the awards recognise excellence in the management and promotion of the Natura 2000 network.

The initiative is all about bringing the success of the Natura 2000 network to the public’s attention and to demonstrate its importance in protecting natural heritage throughout Europe. The winners will be announced at an award ceremony in Brussels on Natura 2000 Day – 21 May 2015.

Natura 2000 works to assure the long-term survival of Europe's most valuable and threatened species and habitats, and is the centrepiece of the EU's nature and biodiversity policy.

For more information on who is eligible to apply, how to apply and the award categories  please consult the event website

And remember: all entries need to be submitted by 21 January 2015.

Good luck!


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