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News: January 2015

BiodivERsA to launch call for proposals in May


28 January 2015 The BiodivERsA ERA-Net has announced that it will launch a new call for pan-European biodiversity research proposals. The call, with an indicative global budget of roughly €30 million, is due to be launched in May 2015 with a closing date in early November 2015.
The call – co-funded by the European Commission – will cover two themes:

  • Theme 1: understanding and managing the biodiversity dynamics of soils and sediments to improve ecosystem functioning and delivery of ecosystem services; and
  • Theme 2: understanding and managing biodiversity dynamics in land-, river- and seascapes (habitat connectivity, green and blue infrastructures, greening cities) to improve ecosystem functioning and delivery of ecosystem services.

To be eligible, transnational research consortia should be composed of members from at least three countries participating in the call. So far, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Estonia, France, Germany, Hungary, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, and the United Kingdom have shown preliminary interest, and will have to confirm their participation by April.

BiodivERsA is an FP7-funded network of national funding organisations promoting pan-European research in the field of conservation and sustainable management of biodiversity.

More details about the 2015 joint call is available from the website.

LIFE supports financial instruments for energy efficiency and preservation of natural capital


27 January 2015 Today Commissioners Arias Cañete and Vella, the European Commission and EIB Vice-President for Environment and Climate Action Jonathan Taylor have launched two financial instruments funded through the LIFE Programme for Environment and Climate Action.

The Private Finance for Energy Efficiency Instrument (PF4EE) aims to address the limited access to adequate and affordable loan financing for energy efficiency projects targeted by schemes developed by EU Member States to implement their Nation Energy Efficiency Action Plans. The Commission has committed €80 million for 2014-17 anticipating an eightfold leverage effect. The PF4EE will combine lending from the EIB to intermediary banks in Member States with protection against losses associated with making loans for energy efficiency projects, and technical assistance aiming at increasing the technical capacity of the financial intermediaries. The beneficiaries could include SMEs, private individuals, small municipalities or other public sector bodies. The size of the energy efficiency loans to be provided to the final beneficiaries could range from €40 000 up to €5 million and higher in exceptional cases.

The Natural Capital Financing Facility (NCFF) will provide loans and investments in funds to support projects which promote the preservation of natural capital, including adaptation to climate change, in the Member States. 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. Eligible projects will address payments for ecosystem services, green infrastructure, biodiversity offsets and investments for innovative pro-biodiversity and adaptation businesses. A budget of €100-125 million is available for the period up to 2017. The European Commission provides up to €50 million as a guarantee for the investments and, in addition, finances a €10 million support facility to help developing the projects. The final recipients for NCFF are public or private entities, including public authorities, land owners and businesses. The size of NCFF projects will typically be between €5 and €15 million.

PF4EE and NCFF are in line with President Juncker's Investment Plan, addressing the large potential at EU and national level to further optimise the use of public and private funds, in particular through dedicated financial instruments.  The will help address market barriers by investing in projects that would not be funded otherwise because they are considered as too high risk.  The aim is to catalyse investments with strong social and environmental benefits in low-carbon technology and resource efficiency sectors.

Read the PF4EE page in the funding section.

Read the NCFF page in the funding section.


Top five LIFEnews stories of 2014


20 January 2015 LIFEnews, the monthly LIFE newsletter, covers themes that are of importance to European policy on the environment and nature conservation, as well as the LIFE programme itself. So what were the five most-read articles of 2014?

Let the countdown begin…

The fifth most-read article was published in February. The European Commission had recently adopted a new Clean Air Policy Package and our article focused on how LIFE can play a key role in helping Member States reach their objectives. Compliance with the package could be achieved by, “various funding instruments at European level, in particular the LIFE programme,” according to Scott Brockett of the European Commission's Directorate-General for the Environment.LIFE vital for EC's new Clean Air Package

Published in May, the fourth-placed article concerned urban resilience – the ability of an urban area or community to prepare for and respond to hazards such as climate change, disasters, and economic and social poverty. Our article reported on a recent platform meeting held in France on urban resilience that featured a host of LIFE projects. LIFE projects support urban resilience

The third most-viewed article, LIFE demonstrates the value of environmental volunteering, appeared in April. Volunteers have played a key role in improving social cohesion and generating citizenship. They have also contributed to the success of many LIFE projects, as our article reported. The involvement of citizens often ensures the continuation of LIFE-initiated actions beyond the project’s duration.

Just missing out on the top spot in second place is our coverage of the call for LIFE projects that address climate change by the Directorate-General for Climate Action. In June a specific budget was set for the first time for projects aiming to develop and implement innovative ways to respond to the challenge of climate change. Our article featured an interview with Mette Quinn, from the European Commission's Climate Finance and Deforestation Unit. Call opens for LIFE climate action projects

But the most-read article of last year was our report on the first LIFE platform meeting to address riverine species. Held in September in Estonia, it was attended by representatives from more than 15 completed and ongoing LIFE projects tackling the conservation of freshwater species, particularly migratory fish. The three-day meeting focussed on species reintroductions, monitoring, migration barriers and fish passes, as well as the benefits of involving stakeholders and local communities in LIFE projects. LIFE projects restore rivers: migrating fish return

New report on improving Natura 2000 awareness


19 January 2015 The European Commission has published a report following the LIFE Information and Communication (LIFE INF) platform meeting about raising awareness of Natura 2000, which was held in Kraków, Poland on 13-14 October 2014. The meeting allowed a range of nature projects from the information and communication strand of the LIFE programme to exchange experience and discuss ways of improving awareness and understanding of the Natura 2000 network.

The projects were presented in two sessions: the first assessed the impact of LIFE INF projects that sought to increase awareness of key stakeholder groups (such as farmers, local communities, public administrations and managers of protected areas) and ensure public involvement in the conservation of Natura 2000 areas; the second looked at the role of targeted information campaigns as a tool for resolving specific protection issues. The event concluded with workshops designed to share knowledge and to develop recommendations on how to best promote Natura 2000.

Full details of the Kraków meeting are contained in the newly-published report, which includes an introduction to the aims of the meeting, a summary of each presentation by participating projects, a summary of the workshop and a list of participants and contacts.

In addition to 13 LIFE INF projects - from Belgium, Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, Spain, and the UK - the meeting was attended by representatives of the European Commission and from Poland’s National Fund for Environmental Protection and Water Management, the Ministry of the Environment, the General Directorate for Environmental Protection and General Directorate of State Forests, as well as the Regional Environmental Authority in Kraków.

The two-day event was organised by the LIFE monitoring team and hosted by the Foundation for Support of Ecological Initiatives, the coordinating beneficiary of the LIFE INF project, M-N, NATURA mission (LIFE11 INF/PL/000478).

For a brief synopsis of the platform meeting, see the November 2014 edition of LIFEnews.

Presentations from the platform meeting are available at:

Finnish Saimaa Seal LIFE project wins biodiversity award

Photo:Mervi Kunnasranta/Metsähallitus

07 January 2015 The National IUCN Committee of Finland has awarded the Finnish Biodiversity Award 2013-2014 to the project Saimaa Seal LIFE (LIFE12 NAT/FI/000367). The project received the award specifically for one of its Actions (C2), which involved improving the breeding conditions of the Saimaa ringed seal (Pusa hispida saimensis) with man-made snowdrifts.

The action was necessary because the snow on Lake Saimaa was extremely thin during the winter of 2013/2014 and the snow mounds which the seal needs to reproduce did not form naturally. To solve this problem a large number of volunteers created 240 artificial snow mounds for the seals. Their hard work paid off: in spring 2014, some 59 seal pups were born in nests in the manmade mounds. “Without the help of the volunteers this work would not have been successful,” says Dr. Raisa Tiilikainen, project manager. The solution has caused quite a stir outside of Finland because it is seen as a new, simple and innovative way to mitigate the adverse effects of climate change on seals.

The Saimaa Seal LIFE project, led by Metsähallitus Natural Heritage Services, Southern Finland, is a five-year project that uses a diverse range of methods to safeguard the Saimaa ringed seal and promote its conservation. These include: encouraging the use of seal-friendly fishing methods; providing information about the seal to the public using the lake; and reinforcing compliance with restrictions related to the seal.

Find out more about the award in the official press release and read more about the project on the Saimaa Seal LIFE website.

Call for Ideas - Pilot / demonstration projects HORIZON 2020 - Climate Action, Environment, Resource Efficiency and Raw Materials

European Commission LOGO

06 January 2015 You are invited to participate in our new call for ideas! As part of the work programme 2016-2017 of the societal challenge 5 “Climate Action, Environment, Resource Efficiency and Raw Materials” (SC5) of the Horizon 2020 framework programme, the European Commission intends to open calls for large-scale pilot/demonstration projects in the areas of circular economy, nature-based solutions, climate services and water.

The present call for ideas for pilot/demonstration projects is intended to:

  • help identifying which research and innovation areas attract most interest from innovators and innovation users (e.g. industries, financial actors, academia, research and innovation players, private or public entities, regions, cities, citizens and their organisations…) and
  • stimulate developers and providers of innovative solutions to engage in projects of greater ambition in terms of scope, scale and impact.

Pilot/demonstration projects are expected to realise and test new technological and non-technological solutions through first-of-a-kind experimental development under real life conditions. They are innovation projects, exhibiting a sufficient level of novelty and progress with respect to the state of the art.


For more info, read here.

Red-breasted goose links Bulgarian and Hungarian LIFE projects

Photo: Daniel Mitev

05 January 2015 A red-breasted goose (Branta ruficollis) recently observed in a mixed grazing flock of greater white-fronted goose and red-breasted goose at Nagy-szik in the Hortobágy National Park, Hungary, was identified thanks to a yellow plastic ring with which it had been marked in 2013 by the Bulgarian LIFE project Safe Ground for Redbreasts (LIFE09 NAT/BG/000230).

The observed individual was feeding at a site that was restored by the LIFE project, Sodic lake habitat restoration in the Hortobágy (LIFE07 NAT/H/000324). This site hosts large flocks of wintering geese, and through the network of goose experts across Europe, the site managers were able to inform the Bulgarian project team.

The Bulgarian LIFE project, which is being coordinated by BSPB/BirdLife Bulgaria, is carrying out land-management measures in the Dobrudzha region of northern Bulgaria to provide secure foraging grounds for the red-breasted goose – the most threatened goose species in the world. Its traditional wintering grounds are found in Romania and Bulgaria, but this year for the first time a population of some 2 000 birds was recorded in the Hortobágy National Park. Previously, only a couple of hundred individuals would appear in the park ahead of migrating to Bulgaria.

The recently observed ringed bird, an adult male, is providing researchers with valuable knowledge of the species’ migration and habitat use. The LIFE project is bringing together conservationists, local hunters and farmers to meet the challenges regarding its conservation. The task is being supported by the project’s UK partners, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust.


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