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News: April 2015

Celebrity involvement raises LIFE project's profile in Slovakia

Dorota Nvotová

27 April 2015Dorota Nvotová has become the public face of the LIFE ENERGY project (LIFE13 NAT/SK/001272) in Slovakia. The famous actress and singer has participated in project actions, which aim to protect endangered bird species. A short film featuring her involvement, and explaining the project’s objectives, will be available to view online soon. Dorota Nvotová is associated with landscape and wildlife through her travelling, which includes leading hiking expeditions in Nepal.

The main objective of the LIFE ENERGY project is to reduce bird deaths due to collisions with electricity power lines in 13 Natura 2000 sites in Slovakia. The project is targetting 10 bird species listed in Annex I of the Birds Directive, including the Eastern imperial eagle (Aquila heliaca), Saker falcon (Falco cherrug) and lesser white-fronted goose (Anser erythropus).  Power lines that are identified as the most dangerous to these birds will be fitted with flight diverters, which make them more visible. During the first seven months of the project, more than 8 000 km of power lines were surveyed by over 50 trained field experts. The survey will continue until February 2016.

Dorota Nvotová also participated in a range of other project activities aiming to protect endangered bird species. These included tree planting, the restoration of windbreaks, the installation of artificial nests, caring for injured birds, and managing areas to increase numbers of the key prey species European ground squirrel (Spermophilus citellus).

The project beneficiary Raptor Protection of Slovakia says that the participation of a famous person not only promotes the LIFE project itself, but also increases public awareness of nature conservation in general.

For more about LIFE ENERGY, visit the project’s website: http://www.lifeenergia.sk

Vote now for your favourite LIFE project

Vote now for your favourite LIFE project

24 April 2015 Each year the best LIFE projects are recognised at an award ceremony.

This year's event promises to be a little different as — for the first time ever — it will include two LIFE Community Awards.

Introducing the LIFE Community Awards

You are being asked to vote for your favourite environmental project and your favourite nature project, from the winners of the Best of the Best LIFE Projects 2014.

The Best of the Best are those judged to have been the most inspiring LIFE projects. They are meticulously selected by environmental experts according to rigorous criteria.

This year's Best of the Best winners have just been announced. In all, some 13 projects have been recognised as being particularly exemplary. Of these, eight fall under the environmental category and five under the nature category.

The public voting for the LIFE Community Awards is now open to everyone! Voting will end on 01/06/2015 at 23:00 Brussels time.

The objective of awarding best projects is to help identify and raise awareness of those projects whose results, if widely applied, could have the most positive impact on the environment.

Projects not only need to be technically sound, public support is also a vital component of the LIFE story. And it often makes a big difference to the success of a project. That’s why, we want to hear from you. The countdown to the LIFE Community Awards has begun…

This year’s Best Projects ceremony takes place during EU Green Week in June 2015. To find out more about all winning projects check out the Best Projects section of the LIFE website.

LIFE announces the Best Projects of 2014

Best Projects Logo

21 April 2015The most inspiring LIFE projects completed during 2014 will be honoured at a prestigious award ceremony taking place during EU Green Week in June 2015. And they can now be exclusively revealed online…  

In all, some 42 Best Projects have been selected across three categories: Environment; Nature; and Information & Communication. Of these, 13 are recognised as being particularly exemplary and will be awarded Best of the Best project status. The 42 outstanding projects come from 16 EU Member States. In this 10th year of the LIFE Best Project Awards they include the first winners from the Czech Republic and Malta.

In the Environment category, there are six Best of the Best projects and a further 16 Best projects. The Nature winners include four Best of the Best projects and nine Best projects. The seven outstanding Information & Communication projects consist of three Best of the Best projects, as well as four Best projects.

Below you will find the full list of the 13 Best of the Best winners. To find out more about all 42 winning projects check out the Best Projects section of the LIFE website.

The Best of the Best LIFE Environment Projects 2014

POWER (LIFE08 ENV/E/000114)  
The project showed how resource efficiency, for both water and energy, could be improved for irrigation through better water governance models.

REWETLAND (LIFE08 ENV/IT/000406)
The project demonstrated natural water purification and water management systems, and drafted an environmental regeneration programme, incorporating widespread biofiltering techniques, in order to both reduce water pollution and increase biodiversity.

AgriClimateChange (LIFE09 ENV/ES/000441)
The project identified and promoted sustainable agricultural practices in France, Germany, Italy, and Spain. It also developed the AgriClimateChange tool to help assess and measure energy and greenhouse gas emissions at farm level.

DEMONSTRATION OF KDV TECH (LIFE09 ENV/ES/000484)
The project developed a pilot plant for converting biodegradable, non-recyclable municipal solid waste into synthetic diesel fuel.  

WIZ (LIFE09 ENV/IT/000056)
The WIZ project developed an innovative approach to drinking water management that takes into account climate change and allocates water resources according to trends in demand and expected availability.   

AQUA (LIFE09 ENV/IT/000208)
The project demonstrated how to optimise the use of nitrogen and phosphorus at livestock farms while maintaining farm productivity. Results show how the methods can significantly reduce ground and surface water pollution from nitrogen and phosphorous.

The Best of the Best LIFE Nature Projects 2014

BSPB LIFE+ SAVE THE RAPTORS (LIFE07 NAT/BG/000068)
The project reversed the population decline of the imperial eagle in Natura 2000 network sites in Bulgaria. The number of breeding pairs of imperial eagles increased from 16 to 25 and there has been a 30% increase in breeding success.

CONVIPURSRAK (LIFE07 NAT/H/000322) 
The Hungarian meadow viper (Vipera ursinii rakosiensis) is Hungary’s most-endangered vertebrate. The project increased the area of the vipers’ favoured grassland habitat by more than 400 ha and reintroduced several hundred vipers bred in captivity. 

Estuarios del Pais Vasco (LIFE08 NAT/E/000055)
The project implemented an ambitious campaign to combat the invasive bushy shrub, Baccharis halimifolia, in three Basque estuary sites. More than 570 000 mature and five million juvenile plants of the invasive shrub were removed from a 212 hectare-area.

URSUSLIFE (LIFE08 NAT/RO/000500) 
URSUSLIFE helped maintain the population and conservation status of the Carpathian brown bear (Ursus arctos arctos) in three Natura 2000 sites in Romania, by addressing causes of population decline, reconnecting fragmented bear habitats and through working with the local community.

The Best of the Best LIFE Information Projects 2014

Thalassa (LIFE09 INF/GR/000320)
The project raised awareness of 14 endangered marine mammals found in the Greek seas and the threats they face from human impact on the marine environment. Communication and educational campaigns gained traction among schoolchildren and the under-35s in particular. The project also targeted advocacy and capacity-building campaigns at public authorities and decision-makers.

RESTORE (LIFE09 INF/UK/000032)
The RESTORE project boosted knowledge transfer on European river restoration by setting up a website containing information on restoration projects. It also set up RiverWiki, a complementary open source website offering more than 500 river restoration case studies from 31 countries.

Slovenia WEEE campaign (LIFE10 INF/SI/000139)
The campaign reduced the environmental impact of Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) by promoting its separate collection for reuse and recycling. Targeted awareness-raising campaigns - in schools, online and for municipalities - increased knowledge of handling, disposal and treatment, and helped increase the amount of WEEE collected in Slovenia (an 11.7% increase in the second year of the project).

The objective of the Best Projects exercise is to identify and raise awareness of those projects whose results, if widely applied, could have the most positive impact on the environment. The system for evaluating completed projects funded through the LIFE programme considers projects’ contribution to immediate and long-term environmental, economic and social improvement; their degree of innovation and transferability; their relevance to EU policy; and their cost-effectiveness.

The award ceremony will take place from 18:30 to 20:30 on Thursday, 4 June 2015 at The Egg in Brussels. If you can’t attend, you can find out more about these great projects in three upcoming Best Project brochures to be published later this year.

Spreading the recycling message and changing behaviour

Up & Forward recycling

18 April 2015The LIFE project Up & Forward (LIFE11 ENV/UK/000389) recently held a closing seminar to present the results of all the individual awareness campaigns that were carried out across Greater Manchester to encourage residents to waste less and recycle more. The event attracted 95 attendees.

Up & Forward, which focussed on ‘hard-to-reach’ places, was led by Greater Manchester Waste Disposal Authority (GMWDA) with the strong involvement of local communities.  
The project carried out awareness campaigns focussed on small target areas of 1 500 households. Since June 2013, 42 campaigns were carried out, each seeking to find a different solution to help residents recycle.

Campaigns were based on four demographic themes linked to low-performing areas across Greater Manchester – Deprivation, Faith/Culture, Apartments and Transient. The most successful theme was Deprivation. Under this theme, campaigns targeted families with young children. A community-based rewards scheme in support of local schools was set, empowering the community to plan and run a family event focused on recycling and a campaign that encouraged local businesses to act as recycling information points for residents.

Though each campaign delivered the recycling message in its own way, the same bottom-up approach was used. That is, the project would first get to know the community, by talking to local people and understanding their behaviour, and then it would develop campaign materials and methods to overcome any barriers.

By talking to residents on the doorstep, attending events and visiting community groups, the project team found that in most cases residents wanted to recycle but just didn’t know how to do it correctly or didn’t have the right bins. By addressing these issues and encouraging the community to become involved in campaigns, especially through the recruitment of volunteer ambassadors, participation in recycling has increased by up to 61%.

The project was launched to develop new approaches to educating residents about the need to reduce waste and recycle. It has produced software for recording recycling behaviour and knowledge, and has cooperated with the Manchester Metropolitan University to create an innovative game to appeal to students. The game, Getting Wasted, is a free download from the Apple App Store and Google Play. A child-friendly web version called Bin Bunny is also available.

The project has also been producing short films in support of its aims, including a Bollywood recycling love story. A brochure about the project is also available.

For more information on campaigns, results and key findings, visit the Up & Forward website:  www.recycleforgreatermanchester.com/upandforward

New handbooks on gypsum recovery in buildings

Gypsum Building Recovery

16 April 2015The LIFE project Gypsum to Gypsum (GtoG, LIFE11 ENV/BE/001039) has just published a European handbook on best practices in the deconstruction of gypsum-based systems and a handbook on best practices in audit prior to the deconstruction of buildings.

The project consortium designed the books to become standard guidelines for more eco-friendly deconstruction and ultimately to help achieve the goals of the Waste Framework Directive (2008/98/EC).

The publications describe in detail the results of deconstruction pilot projects conducted in Belgium, France, Germany, and the UK, and contrast the cost of deconstruction versus demolition. At the pilot sites, the project partners deconstructed a variety of buildings, identified materials and wastes to be removed and examined relevant deconstruction techniques.

Gypsum is a widely used construction material in the EU. For instance, more than 1 600 million m2/year of European interior surfaces are covered with plasterboard and over 5 million tonnes of plaster are used in Europe for interior lining per year. Some 100 000 people in the EU depend directly or indirectly on the gypsum and anhydrite industry for employment.

The gypsum industry generates some 1% of total construction and demolition waste. While gypsum products are fully recyclable, only a small percentage enters into the recycling system in Europe. The main obstacle is the fact that buildings are commonly demolished and not dismantled, which makes the recovery of gypsum waste difficult.

GtoG aims to transform the gypsum demolition waste market and achieve higher recycling rates, thereby supporting a resource-efficient economy. The publications are two of the main outputs of the three-year project, which runs until the beginning of 2016.

The ‘European handbook on best practices in deconstruction techniques’ can be downloaded here. The ‘European handbook on best practices in audit prior to deconstruction of buildings’ is available here.

For more information, please visit the project website.

WaterLIFE mobilises big response to River Basin Management Plan consultation

WaterLIFE

10 April 2015The WaterLIFE project (LIFE13 ENV/UK/000497) in England is successfully engaging with civil society groups and stimulating the public consultation foreseen by the Water Framework Directive (WFD) that will feed into the development of the second River Basin Management Plan (RBMP), foreseen by 2015.

Public consultation is a requirement of the WFD. The WaterLIFE project goes one step further by actively empowering civil society to engage with RBMP development. The project’s Save Our Waters website, set up in October 2014, enables communities across England to respond quickly and easily to the Environment Agency’s consultation on draft RMBPs.

Since the Save Our Waters campaign launched, over 600 individuals have submitted a response, which is a huge success. All responses are sent directly to the Environment Agency, who are collating and analysing the responses. The consultation ends on 10 April 2015.

Save Our Waters offers two ways to respond to the consultation. The first takes only two minutes and doesn’t require respondents to have in-depth technical knowledge — meaning that many who may not otherwise have engaged now have the opportunity to do so. It also provides an alternative option for those who have more in-depth technical knowledge.

The long-term goal of the WaterLIFE project is to contribute to the delivery of the WFD across the EU. The WFD was introduced in 2000 to impose firm timetables to reverse the decline in Europe’s freshwater environment. The project is designed to offer timely support to governments in the development of the second cycle of the RBMP.

For more information visit the WaterLIFE project website.

Black vultures nesting again in southern Portugal

Black Vultures

09 April 2015Portuguese nature conservationists are celebrating the results of LIFE’s Habitat Lince Abutre project (LIFE08 NAT/P/000227), which is helping to establish the start of a new breeding colony for Eurasian black vultures (Aegypius monachus). Two pairs of this critically endangered bird species have set up home on nesting platforms provided by the LIFE project in Alentejo. It marks the return of breeding black vultures to southern Portugal after an absence of several decades.

Eggs have already been confirmed in one nest and another breeding pair is busy making preparations for what is expected to be an additional clutch of new vulture chicks. This first step towards re-establishing a breeding population of black vultures in Alentejo has been warmly welcomed by the LIFE project partners. They worked hard to create the necessary conditions to encourage re-colonisation of the species and the results of their endeavours represent an important milestone for black vulture conservation in Portugal.

LIFE’s achievements in Alentejo build on other Portuguese conservation actions around the Tagus river and Douro region that have also had success with breeding colonies of the iconic raptor. Partnership work proved vital for all these initiatives and in Alentejo a great deal of effort was invested in gaining support for the birds’ well-being from landowners, hunters, public authorities, and the general public.

More awareness-raising campaigns are expected now in light of the project’s positive results. This information is likely to include a focus on promoting the socioeconomic benefits that can be gained for local communities from the presence of rare bird species.

For further information about the LIFE project’s involvement of stakeholders and restoration of vulture habitats see the layman’s report and check out the project website.

LiveWell project supports a sustainable European food system

LiveWell Project

08 April 2015The LiveWell for LIFE project (LIFE10 ENV/UK/000173) has identified eight policy recommendations that they believe can greatly support the adoption of healthy, sustainable diets. This includes a recommendation for a supportive and cohesive policy environment and national and European levels and a request that, "governments put policy measures in place to support informed action for and monitoring of progress by all stakeholders." It also calls on existing stakeholder platforms at European level to swap best practices between Member States and other stakeholders.

The Commission has identified food as one of three key sectors for achieving a circular low-carbon economy in its Roadmap to a Resource Efficient Europe’ (COM (2011) 571). A subsequent public consultation in 2013 helped identify effective policy solutions. This fed into a draft strategy for ‘Building a sustainable European food system’ in 2014, but the corresponding communication has still to be adopted. “Without it, the development of a clear policy on how to build a sustainable food system is held back,” explains Duncan Williamson, Food Policy Manager of WWF-UK, the project’s coordinating beneficiary, who would like to see the publication of the communication as soon as possible.

“The call to action arose from the LIFE project’s final conference in Brussels,” says Jane Wallace-Jones, Project Manager of LiveWell for LIFE; adding that, “between the conference, on 11 December 2014, and its March submission, 32 organisations had signed the document: 9 at the conference and 23 after it.” Signatories include members of the European Parliament, a wide range of civil society organisations, and major food sector companies. The initiative says that the social, environmental and economic case for EU policy action on sustainable food production and consumption is clear, and invites European food stakeholders to join together to help deliver strategic guidance in support of such action.

The LiveWell for LIFE project, which concluded on 31 March 2015, aimed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) arising from the EU food supply chain, by demonstrating sustainable diets for EU Member States and by promoting a supportive policy environment.  The project used a visual communications tool, the LiveWell Plate, to illustrate sample diets in three EU countries. The project showed how relatively small changes in diet could help lower GHG emissions, contribute to healthier populations, and reduce food waste.

Tony Long of the WWF European Policy Office explains, “two of the biggest findings of the LiveWell for LIFE project are that to build a truly sustainable food system in Europe, more coherent policy is needed between Member State and EU level, and that existing EU policies could better work together to address today’s interrelated food challenges.”.  More information about the project is available from the LiveWell for LIFE website.

Commissioner Vella visits giant imperial eagle graffiti

Photo: Protection of Birds (BSPB)

07 April 2015On 24 March 2015, Karmenu Vella, the European Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, visited the unique 25-metre high mural titled ‘Save the Imperial Eagle’, which is painted on the facade of the St. Kliment Ohridski School in Sofia, whilst on an official visit to Bulgaria.
The giant graffiti is the first of its kind in Bulgaria and was created in 2012 by the Bulgarian graffiti team 140ideas for the Best LIFE  and the 2014 Natura 2000 award winning LIFE project BSPB LIFE+ Save the Raptors (LIFE07 NAT/BG/000068).
"I congratulate you on the inspirational idea to create this beautiful mural and particularly for producing real results in the conservation of this endangered species," said Commissioner Vella during his meeting with the Bulgaria Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (BSPB). 

"I hope that the BSBP and its partners will achieve even greater growth in the population of the imperial eagle, so that children from this school will one day be able to see the eagle on walks in nature," he added. Commissioner Vella’s visit has generated a lot of media attention about the imperial eagle (Aquila heliaca). 
The imperial eagle is one of Bulgaria’s national symbols but also a highly threatened species. The mural aims to inform the Bulgarian public that the eagle will disappear unless urgent measures are taken. The bird used to be one of the most common raptors in Bulgaria but its population decreased dramatically between 1970-1990, mainly as a result of habitat loss and degradation, electrocution by overhead power-lines, and direct persecution. In 2009, when the project began, only 20 nesting sites were recorded in the country.

The Save the Raptors project took place from 2009 to 2013. During these four years project partners worked to protect and inform the public about the imperial eagle and the saker falcon (Falco cherrug), another severely threatened species in Bulgaria. The project was able to raise the breeding success of imperial eagles by 25% and discovered important new information about the way the species live. A new LIFE project began in 2013 (LIFE for Safe Grid, LIFE12 NAT/BG/000572) to continue the work started by Save the Raptors.

You can watch how the Save the Imperial Eagle graffiti was made and for more information visit the Save the Raptors website.

Below are links to Bulgarian media coverage generated by the commissioner’s visit:

 

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