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News: June 2015

European Commission provides 24 environmental & climate NGOs with €9 million funding

NGO Compilation 2015

30 June 2015The European Commission has chosen to award operating grants to 24 NGOs in 2015 under the LIFE Regulation 2014-2020. The successful organisations will receive a total of €9 million between them. This funding aims to strengthen the participation of NGOs in the dialogue process in environmental and climate change policy-making and in its implementation. In the past, this funding has supported successful campaigns to ban the use of the neonicotinoids, an insecticide that adversely affects bees, and lobbying efforts to end fossil fuel subsidies. The selected NGOs are active in a wide range of fields – from nature & biodiversity conservation through climate change mitigation & adaptation to environment and resources efficiency.

Starting with this year’s call for proposals, the LIFE programme foresees a system of biannual framework partnership agreements (FPAs) for operating grants. This will result in a list of selected framework partners, who will then be invited in a specific call to submit their work programme. The calls for proposals will be published on the LIFE Programme website. The applications are evaluated and ranked according to criteria relating to the extent to which the organisations can contribute to EU policy development and implementation in the priority areas of EU environmental and climate change policy.

EU-level environmental & climate action NGOs that wish to apply for funding under this programme must be non-profit making and independent. They must also be active at a European level with activities and members in at least three EU Member States. A total of 66 NGOs applied for operating grants in 2015, of which 24 were selected for funding and have already started their work:

Further details can be found in the publication, European Environmental and climate NGOs LIFE operating grants 2015, which is available to download.
The next call, this time for two-year operating periods, is scheduled to be launched in June.
For more information on operational funding is available, visit the LIFE website.


Mixed report for Europe's habitats and species

Image: EU publications

22 June 2015A new European Commission report provides the most comprehensive picture yet on the state of nature in the EU. The findings show that the majority of birds have a favourable status, and some species and habitats are doing better. Targeted conservation actions, e.g. those supported by LIFE projects, have brought successes, but a much greater effort is required for the situation to improve significantly.

The technical report prepared by European Environment Agency (EEA) is the first assessment to cover both the EU birds (article 12 national reports) and habitats (article 17 reports) directives, and it results from the largest collaborative data-collection and assessment of nature ever undertaken across the Member States in the period 2007-2012. It follows an earlier (2001-2006) assessment of species (excluding birds) and habitats conservation status covered by the Habitats Directive. For more, see the LIFE Focus publication, LIFE improving the conservation status of species and habitats.

In a statement, Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Karmenu Vella, said: “This report is significant and timely. While it shows a mixed picture overall, it clearly demonstrates that efforts to improve vulnerable ecosystems can be highly effective. It also underlines the scale of the challenges that remain. We have to rise to those challenges, as the health of our nature is linked to the health of Europe's people, and to our economy.”

Looking at birds, the latest report concludes that more than half of all wild bird species assessed (52%) have a secure status. However, around 17% of the species are still threatened and another 15% are near threatened, declining or depleted. This includes once common farmland species such as the skylark (Alauda arvensis) and the black-tailed godwit (Limosa limosa).

Looking at other species protected under the Habitats Directive, almost a quarter (23%) have a favourable assessment. However, over half (60%) are still in an unfavourable status (with 42% considered to be unfavourable-inadequate and 18% unfavourable-bad). As with the earlier study, grasslands, wetlands and dune habitats remain of particular concern.

The LIFE programme remains the most visible EU financial instrument dedicated to nature conservation in the EU. Happily, several species and habitats, whose conservation status as reported by some Member States is improving, have been targeted by LIFE. For example for bird species like the bearded vulture (Gypaetus barbatus) which has been subject to 30 projects since 1992, including the International programme for the bearded vulture in the Alps (LIFE03 NAT/F/000100) and the white-headed duck (Oxyura leucocephala) with 8 projects, including the Conservation of Oxyura leucocephala in the Murcia Region (LIFE09 NAT/ES/000516). Both species have EU Species Action Plans, both have benefitted from LIFE and their numbers have seen substantial improvements. Similarly, habitats such as Apennine beech forest have seen status improvement thanks to the actions of 19 LIFE projects since 1992, such as Forests of the Apennines: Good practices to conjugate Use and Sustainability (LIFE11 NAT/IT/000135).

The LIFE programme supports the development of Prioritised Action Frameworks for Natura 2000. Such action can improve the overall conservation status of habitats and species. As such, LIFE has been contributing in drawing up national and regional PAFs and fulfilling the objectives of the Habitats Directive. PAFs are conceived as Natura 2000 network planning tools for setting objectives and priorities, defining the measures to be financed, identifying the potential contributions of different funds and setting out the actions to be taken. PAF projects are in a good position under the new LIFE programme, to apply for Integrated Projects, a new type of project 2014-2020, designed to be more ambitious in scope and scale. Such projects intend to implement environmental and climate policy and to better integrate the aims with other policy areas.


LIFE project sees birth of first Griffon vulture chick in the wild

Photo:LIFE08 NAT/BG/000278

19 June 2015The Vultures’ Return (LIFE08 NAT/BG/000278) LIFE project released 32 Griffon vultures (Gyps fulvus) over six years with the aim of restoring the bird’s population in Bulgaria. On 9 June 2015, project beneficiary Green Balkans was delighted to announce the first birth resulting from its reintroduction programme in the Balkan Mountains.

Project Manager Elena Kmetova revealed, “we have observed the very first wild-born baby Griffon vulture, hatched by parents released within the Vultures’ Return project. The majestic vulture has returned after more than 70 years of absence and this comes in the very last month of the extended project, to remind us that all these efforts and sleepless nights do pay off!”

The Vultures’ Return project established a breeding programme for Griffon vulture at Green Balkans’ Wildlife Rescue Centre in Bulgaria. The project team also helped create favourable breeding conditions in the wild for this and two other large vulture species: the black vulture (Aegypius monachos) and the bearded vulture (Gypaetus barbatus). Project activities involved reducing threats to large vultures (e.g. poison baits); promoting favourable attitudes to vultures through ecotourism and awareness-raising within agricultural communities; and creating a network of stakeholders to further the project’s success. For more information, visit the project website.

The birth of the Griffon vulture chick is a major achievement for the LIFE project. Ms Kmetova adds, “keep your fingers crossed for our baby to gain strength and grow up to fledge, and become the first wild-born free-flying Griffon of the Balkan Mountains of Bulgaria.”


PAFs: The way forward for Natura 2000 management

Natura 2000

16 June 2015Discussions on the latest phase in the management of the Natura 2000 network of protected sites, the drawing up of Prioritised Action Frameworks (PAFs), were recently held in Brussels among those responsible for PAFs and their implementation, and Commission officials.

Chairing the meeting, Angelo Salsi, head of the LIFE-Nature unit, Directorate General for the Environment, said that it was great opportunity for the attendees to help shape the process.
In his introductory remarks, he emphasised that LIFE projects “really show the EU how far you can go and in what way”.

The event, a ‘Thematic Platform Meeting on Prioritised Action Framework (PAF) projects’, examined the contribution of LIFE projects in drawing up national and regional PAFs and fulfilling the objectives of the Habitats Directive, particularly Article 8 – which foresees the need to develop PAFs.

PAFs are conceived as Natura 2000 network planning tools for setting objectives and priorities, defining the measures to be financed, identifying the potential contributions of different funds and setting out the actions to be taken. They also cover monitoring and evaluation.

The first call for proposals for LIFE projects that address the development of regional or national management and restoration programmes for Natura 2000, based on PAFs, was held in 2011. Though Members States are responsible for financing Natura 2000 management, Article 8 recognises the need for EU support.

At the recent platform meeting, Przemysław Ogiński of DG Environment’s Nature Unit gave an overview of the progress that has been made in this area. While he recognised that it is difficult to assess and track the integration of the PAFs in different EU funds, he reaffirmed that, “the purpose of this whole exercise is to help Member States to reach the objectives of the nature legislation, i.e. achieve the favourable conservation status of the most threatened EU habitats and species, and the PAFs give us additional means to do it.” 

He used his presentation to set out the agenda for further discussion, particularly in terms of whether more uniform methodology, guidance and feedback from the Commission is needed. He also raised the issue of timelines for reaching the targets outlined in the PAF, the question of who is responsible for the PAF’s implementation, the involvement of stakeholders and the possibilities of giving the PAFs a more formal standing (PAF adoption process).

Setting priorities

SI Natura 2000 logo

The recent Platform Meeting (24 March, 2015) follows the second PAF coordination workshop of 5 November 2013, which focused on the links between the projects, the PAFs and the development of LIFE integrated projects. The LIFE guidelines require integrated projects for nature conservation to be supported by the priorities set out in the PAFs.

Spain’s Fundación Biodiversidad has carried out a two-year project to prepare the national PAF for Spain (LIFE11NAT/ES/000700) and Victor Gutiérrez of the Madrid-based foundation was invited to share his experiences. He highlighted the challenge of narrowing down the large number of measures and priorities identified during the exercise – a challenge that many attendees from other countries acknowledged that they too faced or are facing.
Following the running of workshops to gain the input of experts, the foundation was able to focus on five strategic conservation priorities in its PAF. However, Mr Gutiérrez said that there is scope for assessing the need for a common methodology for identifying these priorities.
A pilot action of the project was to link measures in the PAF with EU funds, while another concerning the management of marine sites has led to the proposal of an integrated LIFE project.

In the second presentation, Andrej Bibič of the Sector for Nature Conservation of the Slovenian Ministry for Environment and Spatial Planning outlined the outcomes of its LIFE project, ‘SI Natura2000 Management’ (LIFE11 NAT/SI/000880). One major benefit of the project, he said, was that it allowed the ministry to “have more staff focused on accessing EU funding at different levels” for nature conservation.

It is nevertheless difficult to access funds for monitoring, delegates emphasised. Mário Silva from Institute for the Conservation of Nature and Forest -ICNF, Portugal, said that monitoring is “the real challenge in terms of funding”. Others said that integrating different EU funds also represents a challenge. Elisabetta Rossi of the Lombardy region’s environment department said that it had held discussions with colleagues dealing with Regional Development Funds ahead of drawing up its PAF in order to maximise the effectiveness of available EU funds.

Engaging stakeholders

Photo: LIFE11 NAT/IT/000044

The issue of stakeholder involvement was addressed by Gerado de Luzenberger, who presented the findings of the GESTIRE LIFE project (LIFE11 NAT/IT/000044). He emphasised that the project’s approach was to focus on quality and not quantity. “We look for people that are able to give us good ideas and who are also able to follow up on those ideas,” he said.

The project to develop a strategy to manage the Natura 2000 network in the Lombardy Region will carry out 72 meetings with stakeholders, accounting for 8% of its total budget. At present 41 meetings have taken place, engaging around 1 200 participants.

He was followed by Elena Guella from the project ‘TEN - T.E.N. (Trentino Ecological Network) (LIFE11 NAT/IT/000187), which was set up to prepare operational measures for Natura 2000 management on the basis of the PAF. She maintained that a key outcome of the project is the establishment of a reserves’ network that will ensure that stakeholders continue to be engaged after the project ends.

A possible barrier, however, to further engagement of local communities in the maintenance of Natura 2000 is a lack of awareness of the concept and its longstanding conservation value. Angelo Salsi highlighted the need to better ‘market’ the idea of the European network of protected sites, while Mr de Luzenberger said that the Lombardy project has addressed this problem by making an effort to mark out Natura 2000 sites on maps and signs.
The final presentation was given by Juris Jatnieks of the Latvian Nature Conservation Agency, which carried out a project to develop a national management programme for Natura 2000 in Latvia, ‘NAT-PROGRAMME’ (LIFE11 NAT/LV/000371). Though the PAF contains guidelines for all habitats, he said that it is “quite general” and that it interlinks with other strategic documents. The PAF, which was adopted in 2013, establishes a plan for “how to get funds” for at least 12 years (up to 2025). “With good governance of nature conservation, we will grow capacity” for accessing further funding, he said.

Next steps
In his summing up, Angelo Salsi, who chaired the platform meeting, issued an, “invitation to start thinking — if you’re coming to an end of PAF project — of what you’re going to put in the After-LIFE plan.”  He stressed that such a plan is even more important for a PAF project than for other "standard" projects as it is expected to describe how the results of the projects can be put into practice and should in particular outline how future implementation actions can expect to get financing.
Furthermore, he said that integrated projects are the, “next natural step,” and that beneficiaries should be in a good position to come forward with proposals for these when their PAF projects are completed. However, Member States need to be also fully behind the integrated projects to ensure that co-financing of the project itself and funding for complementary actions is available. The first round of concept notes received pursuant to the LIFE2014 call for proposals already included several that were submitted by beneficiaries of the PAF projects.

Finally, Mr Ogiński challenged attendees to see the PAFs as a "product" that has to be adapted to the "market needs" (i.e. different users) and which is likely to be used only if it stays up-to-date and relevant.. He also declared that "we (the Nature Unit) are planning to organise a more dedicated workshop on the PAFs which ideally should bring together a wide spectrum of authorities, nature agencies and stakeholders to discuss how this "product" can be further developed and used." 


The call on framework partnership agreements for non-governmental organisations (NGOs) is now open!

Photo:M Robert Kneschke

15 June 2015 This call for proposals aims at identifying framework partners to which the EASME may at a later stage award specific operating grants. Those specific operating grants shall foresee co-financing of the operating costs of NGO's related to the eligible activities provided for in the framework partners' 2016 and 2017 Work Programme, and they will cover certain administrative and operational costs for the financial years 2016 and 2017.

The call will close on 27 July 2015. Please note that if the application is not sent by post but delivered by hand, it must arrive not later than 16:00 Brussels local time on 27 July at the Commission's central mail service. See the full calendar on the call page.

Applicants must use the LIFE operating grants application package for the preparation of their proposals (in English only). Applications can be submitted in any official EU language, but preferably in English. The application package contains full and detailed explanations with regard to eligibility, procedures, co-funding rates and all other relevant details. It can be downloaded here.

The indicative total budget earmarked for the co-financing of NGO operating grants is estimated at EUR 18,000,000.00 (eighteen million euros) for a two year period, i.e. 9,000,000.00 (nine million euros) yearly.

Support by national authorities: Member States may, on a voluntary basis, provide support to applicants. For further details, please contact your National Contact Point.


Go directly to the 2015 call >>

IPENS publishes report on improving Natura 2000 sites in England

IPENS report

10 June 2015To coincide with Natura 2000 Day on 21 May 2015, the LIFE IPENS project (LIFE11 NAT/UK/000384) held a closing conference in London where it launched a report setting out a blueprint for the long-term management of England’s Natura 2000 network sites. There are 338 such sites in England, covering more than 2 million hectares, in both marine and terrestrial locations. This is the first time that this information has been brought together for all of these sites.

Led by Natural England in partnership with the Environment Agency, IPENS - Improvement Programme for England’s Natura 2000 network sites - involved more than 650 different organisations and has greatly increased understanding of what needs to be done to protect and enhance the Natura 2000 network in England.

The project produced a site improvement plan for each Natura 2000 network site and developed strategic plans to address issues that affect multiple sites. It also outlined priority actions needed to improve conditions and contribute to favourable conservation status, and it identified gaps in Natura 2000 evidence.

The site improvement plans present the best available evidence in support of actions required to achieve and maintain sites in a good condition. The individual plans include more than 3 000 specific actions.

“England has a diverse range of habitats resulting in a wonderfully rich and varied wildlife. The IPENS project has enabled Natural England, the Environment Agency and other partners to more effectively target our conservation efforts on Natura 2000 network sites and surrounding areas,” said Dr Andy Clements, Natural England Board Member and Director of the British Trust for Ornithology.

By drawing together information for the complete set of marine and terrestrial Natura 2000 network sites in England, the project has given decision-makers a much improved understanding of the priority actions required, including who might help make this a reality and how. IPENS found that while many of the sites are meeting their conservation objectives, others are not yet in a healthy state due to a number of pressures.

The evidence produced by the IPENS project team supports the Biodiversity 2020 strategy for England’s wildlife and ecosystem services and will be used to update the England section of the UK’s Prioritised Action Framework.

The summary report and more detailed technical report from the IPENS project are available for download from the Natural England publications catalogue.

LIFE launches new report on supporting private land conservation

Alternative Ways to Support Private Land Conservation

09 June 2015 The LIFE Programme launched a report on new ways to engage private landowners in nature conservation at EU Green Week in Brussels. Elements of the report were discussed during a LIFE-led session dedicated to the topic on Friday 5 June – see next July's LIFEnews for a report on this session.

Despite the existence of EU legislation on nature conservation, according to the latest report on the State of Nature in the EU, just 16% of EU Habitats Directive-listed habitats, 23% of listed species and 52% of bird species are in a favourable conservation status. The European Commission is keen to stimulate private land conservation to help protect biodiversity further and reach the objectives of the EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2020. New private initiatives are particularly important as a complement to existing public funding mechanisms in light of limited public budgets in the wake of the financial and economic crisis.

The new report, Alternative Ways to Support Private Land Conservation, written by Tilmann Disselhoff, looks at various methods of private land conservation and incentives that can prompt landowners to surpass minimum conservation standards. To download the report, click on the link below.

Irish LIFE conservation site attracts royal visitor

Photo: Eamon Ward

05 June 2015The UK’s Prince Charles took time to enjoy the great outdoors and find out about LIFE on his recent four-day visit to Ireland. On 19 May 2015, the environmentally-aware prince headed to the limestone landscape of the Burren National Park, on Ireland’s Atlantic coastline, the site of two LIFE projects.
The BurrenLIFE (LIFE04 NAT/IE/000125) project ended in 2010, but the Burren Life Programme is continuing the sustainable agricultural measures initiated by LIFE. The Burren is home to several priority habitats that are threatened by a reduction in farming, and the LIFE project was set up to develop a new model for sustainable agricultural management.
In addition the Burren Tourism - Burren Tourism for Conservation LIFE11 ENV/IE/000922 project that aims to strengthen the integration of tourism and natural heritage, and to reconcile tourism development with the conservation of biodiversity. It aims to secure environmental protection and sustainable visitor management through the creation of an innovative methodology that is of value to local communities.
Prince Charles spoke to Patrick Nagle, a local farmer, about the Burren LIFE project actions and was shown some of the livestock and conservation activities that it has supported. On Nagle’s farm the project has helped construct stone walls and install traditional gates. Dr Sharon Parr then explained the unique field scoring system, which has been developed by the project, to assess a farmer’s environmental performance and which rewards him or her accordingly.
The Prince was also introduced to local schoolchildren who had recently graduated as Burren experts through the ‘Ecobeo’ programme of the Burrenbeo Trust, Ireland’s first landscape charity. He then met some of the charity’s volunteers who have been repairing stone walls, monitoring butterflies and mapping archaeology.
Before leaving the farm, the Prince was presented with a hamper of local food products and a hazel stick, whittled by local farmer Harry Jeunken. The Irish Times reported that “Prince Charles was in a truly special place. The good thing is that he really seemed to understand this. The people who mind this glorious, unique place are very protective, but also very proud of it.” 
The people have good reason to be proud. The Burren contains Ireland’s highest density of archaeological sites and is home to over 70% of all of Ireland’s native flowers. Dr Brendan Dunford of the BurrenBeo Trust said: “It was such a thrill to show our esteemed visitor around this wonderful site, to talk about the quality of the shorthorn cattle and to see first-hand Arctic Mountain Avens, Alpine gentians and Mediterranean orchids, all happily coexisting. That’s really what the Burren, and this programme, are all about and this has been a wonderful opportunity to share this story with the world.”
The LIFE project drew up management plans for 20 pilot farms representative of the wide range of agriculture practiced in the area. The results of the trialled actions carried out on these farms formed the basis of the new agricultural model.
Farmer Patrick Nagle said that it was, "a great honour to show Prince Charles around our farm. We told him about the work that my son Oliver and I have done over the past five years of Burren Life – new walls built and gates hung, scrub taken out, water sources protected, silage replaced – and about how the improved grazing that has resulted from this work has helped us to earn better environmental payments. This is a very proud day for us, for the generations of farmers who have worked the land of the Burren in the past, and for the youngsters that we hope will farm it in the years ahead."


LIFE's call for action grants 2015 to maximise programme impact

LIFE 2015 Call

01 June 2015The LIFE programme launched two calls for proposals, underlining its commitment to supporting projects that protect the environment and tackle the impact of climate change.

The 2015 call for action grants for the LIFE programme was launched on 01 June 2015 and covers proposals for both environment and climate action sub-programmes. The total budget for project action grants for this call is €240 811 337. Of this amount, €184 141 337 has been allocated to project action grants for the sub-programme for environment and €56 670 000 has been allocated to the sub-programme for climate action. At least 55% of the environment allocation will be dedicated to projects supporting the conservation of nature and biodiversity.

The Executive Agency for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (EASME) is responsible for managing the call for traditional projects and capacity building projects for the environment sub-programme and traditional projects, integrated projects, technical assistance and capacity building projects for the climate action sub-programme.

Traditional projects include best-practice, demonstration, pilot or information, awareness and dissemination projects. These are funded under one of three strands for the environment sub-programme (LIFE nature & biodiversity, LIFE environment & resource efficiency and LIFE environmental governance and information). For the sub-programme for climate action, traditional project strands are LIFE climate change mitigation, LIFE climate change adaptation and LIFE climate governance & information.

Capacity building projects are designed to provide financial support to activities required to build the capacity of Member States, including national or regional LIFE contact points, with a view to enabling more effective participation in the LIFE programme.

The three other new project types introduced under LIFE 2015-2020 are integrated projects, technical assistance projects and preparatory projects. For the sub-programme for environment these are managed by DG Environment's LIFE Unit. For the sub-programme for climate action, EASME manages integrated, technical assistance and capacity building projects and DG CLIMA manages preparatory projects.

Public bodies, private commercial organisations and private non-commercial organisations (including NGOs) registered in the EU are eligible to apply for LIFE action grants. For further information, application forms and guidance documents go directly to the call page. See the calendar published on the call page for information on the closing date for applications for traditional projects.

NGO Framework Partnership Agreements (FPAs)

The NGO Framework Partnership Agreements (FPAs) has been launched on 15 June 2015. This call for proposals aims at identifying framework partners to which the EASME may at a later stage award specific operating grants.

Those specific operating grants shall foresee co-financing of the operating costs of NGO's related to the eligible activities provided for in the framework partners' 2016 and 2017 Work Programme. The target are NGOs which pursue an aim of general Union interest, are primarily active in the field of environment and/or climate action and are involved in the development, implementation and enforcement of Union policy and legislation. This year's call will address framework partnership agreements covering two years.

The indicative total budget earmarked for the co-financing of NGO operating grants is estimated at EUR 18,000,000.00 (eighteen million euros) for a two year period, i.e. 9,000,000.00 (nine million euros) yearly.

Call on framework partnership agreements for non-governmental organisations (NGOs) >>


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