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News: November 2015

Irish river restoration project wins award

Photo:LIFE09 NAT/IE/000220

30 November 2015The LIFE project BLACKWATER SAMOK (LIFE09 NAT/IE/000220) will receive an award at the Cork Environmental Forum (CEF) Awards 2015 in recognition of its “extraordinary work.” The CEF judges were particularly impressed by the project’s initiative to tackle the spread of Himalayan Balsam (Impatiens glandulifera), an invasive species prevalent on the banks of the Allow river.

The award ceremony takes place in Cork city on 3 December 2015. Nominations are sought in several categories, and the LIFE project is to receive the Community and Voluntary Sector Environmental Award. 

The LIFE project to remove the plant without using chemicals is one of the largest of its kind to be undertaken in the EU. The overall objective of the LIFE project was to improve the condition of the Upper Blackwater SAC by targeting the freshwater pearl mussel (Margaritifera margaritifera), Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar), European otter (Lutra lutra)  and kingfisher (Alcedo atthis). It has been achieving this aim by restoring the quality of the river bed and riparian zone.

For more information about the awards, visit the CEF website.

European Land Conservation Network to be LIFE project's legacy

Landlife manual

26 November 2015 Representatives of the LandLife project (LIFE10 INF/ES/000540 ), were amongst the more than 100 people from around the world who participated in the 2nd International Land Conservation Network (ILCN) Congress , in Berlin from 19-21 October 2015.

The congress saw participating organisations from the EU create a European chapter of the ILCN: the European Land Conservation Network (ELCN). This marked a key step towards achieving the LandLife project’s vision that, by 2020, land stewardship will become a widely accepted land management approach on all kinds of landscapes across Europe for helping to preserve Europe’s natural beauty and resources.

The European congress delegates exchanged experiences with long-established land trust organisations in the USA and Canada, and with countries like South Africa and Chile that are in the process of building land trust systems. Participants agreed that, while conserving the grassroots approach at local level, the ELCN would also have to define and harmonise EU-wide standards and practices, provide legal guidance at national level, and help build trust between the nature conservation community and private landowners.

The Congress also featured a keynote video from Daniel Calleja, Director-General of the Directorate General for Environment of the European Commission (DG ENV), underlining the importance of land stewardship as a nature conservation tool and the LIFE programme's role in its promotion.

LIFE projects presented demonstrations and best practice examples of land stewardship mechanisms at the congress, whilst a session was dedicated to EU nature conservation policy and two recent LIFE publications on land stewardship: Alternative Ways to Support Private Land Conservation  and LIFE and Land Stewardship.

The LandLife project (LIFE10 INF/ES/000540 ), which ran from September 2011 to December 2014, promoted land stewardship or land trust mechanisms among landowners, conservation bodies, and local and regional governments, as a means of conserving biodiversity and natural heritage and also to open up new opportunities for rural development such as ecotourism.

Land stewardship agreements complement legal conservation obligations on privately-owned land. They comprise mechanisms such as compensation payments for abstaining from biodiversity-unfriendly practices and active conservation measures implemented by third parties or the landowners themselves. LandLife also trained organisations and raised awareness of land stewardship among the general public. The project’s work culminated in the Barcelona Declaration on Land Stewardship, at the first European Land Stewardship Congress, which laid the foundations for a European network to continue the LIFE project’s work. The Spanish, French and Italian partners of the LandLife project have continued to promote land stewardship in the EU.

For more information, visit the LandLife website .

Commission awarded 26 action grants in first year of LIFE Climate Action projects

LIFE LOGO

25 November 2015 The European Commission has announced the first recipients of LIFE Climate Action funding. It has awarded action grants to 26 projects in 11 Member States. The projects represent a total investment of some €73.9 million. The EU will provide €36.75 million of this figure. The projects cover actions in the fields of climate change mitigation, climate change adaptation and climate governance and information.

EU Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy, Miguel Arias Cañete said: “These projects demonstrate EU support for practical action to meet climate obligations ahead of the Paris Climate Conference. They show that it is possible to cut greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change. LIFE is contributing to a shift towards a low carbon, resource efficient and climate-resilient economy.”

In 2014, the Commission launched the first call for proposals under LIFE’s sub-programme for Climate Action. The call attracted 189 applications for project co-financing. The Commission has been able to allocate the full budget available for this new climate-specific funding stream. The 26 selected projects are situated in Belgium, Cyprus, Finland, France, Greece, Italy, Latvia, The Netherlands, Poland, Spain and Sweden. Descriptions of the projects can be found below.

The announcement is also available on Clima website in the following languages:

LIFE Climate Change Mitigation (CCM) projects

BELGIUM (2 projects – €4.6 million)

LIFE DRB (Cockerill Maintenance & Ingénierie): LIFE DRB willdemonstrate an innovative patented burner technology, the Double Regenerative Burner, for the first time on industrial scale at the ArcelorMittal site in Ghent, Belgium. This technology allows the pre-heating of blast furnace gas and air in an innovative combustion process within the burner, potentially cutting use of natural gas in the reheating furnace by 90%.

Project summary

LIFE-Dairyclim (Université de Liège): The project aims to contribute to mitigating climate impacts and reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in dairy farming by optimising feeding strategies. These will be tested at pilot farms in Belgium, Luxembourg and Denmark, where methane emissions are expected to be reduced by 10%. The project will also highlight the importance of grasslands for dairy farming as a potential carbon sink, and it will produce guidelines to ensure the dissemination and the transferability of its results.

Project summary

CYPRUS (1 project – €1.0 million)

LIFE+ ORGANIKO (Cyprus University of Technology): The project aims to demonstrate the comparative advantages of organic versus conventional farming and products, using indicators of climate change mitigation efficiency and agronomic and environmental quality. It will develop a strategic national plan for mitigating climate change in agriculture through the development of organic farming and its products in the Cypriot economy. Expected results include a 5% reduction in carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide emissions.

Project summary

FINLAND (1 project – €2.0 million)

OPAL-Life (Natural Resources Institute Finland): The project will take a participatory approach to developing and implementing tools and methods to support agricultural and environmental policies that safeguard rural livelihoods and reduce the impact of the agricultural sector on the environment. It will aim to combine sustainable high-yielding crop extensive agriculture and livestock production with reduced GHG emissions. 

Project summary

FRANCE (2 projects – €6.7 million)

LIFE Conipher (VICAT): The project aims to demonstrate how a high-performance photovoltaic insulation envelope can be used to retrofit housing stock in order to improve energy efficiency and increase the resilience of buildings to climate change. It will develop the first ready-to-use 'plug and play' panels for simple and rapid 'deep renovations'. The panels, made from 85% recycled material, are expected to reduce primary energy use by 60% and GHG emissions by 75%.

Project summary

LIFE BEEF CARBON (French Livestock Institute): The project will promote innovative livestock farming systems and associated practices to ensure the technical, economic, environmental and social sustainability of beef farms. The project partners will demonstrate action to mitigate the carbon footprint of beef production in France, Ireland, Italy and Spain. The development of national action plans could lead to an up to 15% reduction of the beef carbon footprint in 10 years.

Project summary

GREECE (1 project – €1.9 million)

LIFE CLIMATREE (Institute of Urban Environment and Human Resources): The project aims to contribute to the development of a novel methodology and provide policymakers with an innovative tool for the quantification of carbon storage in permanent tree-crops in the Mediterranean region. The project intends to improve carbon sink accounting in the EU by identifying ways to include tree-crop capacity in the calculations, estimate the socioeconomic benefit of tree crops for carbon storage and provide guidelines to tree crop farmers.

Project summary

ITALY (1 project – €1.5 million)

LIFE FoResMit (The Research Centre for Agrobiology and Pedology of Florence): The project aims to restore degraded coniferous forests in peri-urban areas in Italy and Greece. The project will define guidelines for good silviculture practice, including innovative thinning treatments, to improve ecological stability and enhance forests' resilience, resistance and climate change mitigation potential.

Project summary

LATVIA (1 project – €1.8 million)

LIFE Restore (Nature Conservation Agency): LIFE Restore aims to promote the sustainable management and re-use of degraded peatlands in Latvia. The project will define a methodology for accounting GHG emissions from managed wetlands in Latvia and develop a decision-support tool to optimise the impacts of restoration on biodiversity, economic growth, and long-term climate change mitigation. It will also provide an inventory and a database of degraded peatlands in Latvia and will provide support to policymakers. Project actions are expected to directly reduce CO2 emissions by some 2 227 metric tonnes per year.

Project summary

SPAIN (5 projects – €10.5 million)

LIFE_FERTILIFE (SISTEMAS AVANZADOS ENERGÉTICOS): The project aims to develop a prototype to capture CO2 emissions from a ceramics factory and re-use them to carbonate water for irrigating crops. It will demonstrate the feasibility of 'carbonic fertigation' technology for citrus crops in the Valencia region. By capturing and re-using 30-50% of the factory's CO2 emissions, the project is expected to reduce soil respiration values by 5-10%, helping to limit the decomposition of organic matter in the soil.

Project summary

LIFE BATTLE-CO2 (Fundación CARTIF): The project will demonstrate the incorporation of biomass as an alternative fuel in asphalt mix manufacturing. It will develop a new plant configuration, establishing a completely fossil fuel-free manufacturing process and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80%. The asphalt mixes will be tested by running a real-scale demonstration in a road construction site. The project will also develop Product Category Rules in order to obtain the first Environmental Product Declaration for Asphalt. In addition, the ash from biomass combustion will be tested as a soil stabiliser. 

Project summary

LIFE METHAmorphosis (FCC AQUALIA): The goal of the project is industrial-scale demonstration of two innovative waste treatment systems for obtaining low-cost biomethane to power vehicles. One system will process urban waste effluents and the other agricultural slurry. The systems are expected to reduce process energy demand by up to 70% and greenhouse gas emissions by up to 80%. The commercial potential of the waste-derived biomethane will be tested in the automotive sector.

Project summary

LIFE Blue Natura (Regional Ministry of Environment and Spatial Planning of Andalusia): The project aims to quantify the carbon deposits and sequestration rates of marsh and seagrass meadows in Andalusia (blue carbon). The information will enable an approximate evaluation of the environmental services provided by these habitats, inform restoration projects, and help develop policies for mitigating and adapting to climate change.

Project summary

LIFE DEMOWAVE (Quantum Innovative S.L.): The project aims to demonstrate the viability of two wave energy converters for electricity generation on high-energy coasts. Two 25 Kw prototypes will be installed on the coast of Galicia. The project will assess their socio-economic viability and transferability potential and highlight their environmental benefits, including reductions in carbon footprint and pollutants compared to other technologies.

Project summary

SWEDEN (1 project – €5.8 million)

EffiSludge for LIFE (Scandinavian Biogas Fuels AB): The project aims to contribute to a more resource-efficient and sustainable pulp and paper industry, by saving energy during wastewater treatment and by substantially increasing the biogas potential from wastewater generated within the industry. The project will introduce an innovative process at a demonstration plant, by modifying the aerobic bio-treatment process to increase the production of usable waste effluents. Electricity consumption during aerobic wastewater treatment is expected to be reduced by at least 50% per unit of wastewater.

Project summary

LIFE Climate Change Adaptation (CCA) projects

GREECE (2 projects – €3.9 million)

LIFE AgroClimaWater (Spyridis A. - Koutalou V. G.P. HYETOS): The project aims to prepare the agricultural sector to adapt to climate change. It will do this by developing an agricultural climate change adaptation strategy and introducing water management adaptation strategies to selected farmers' organisations. It will focus on olive, citrus and peach orchards in two areas in Crete (Greece) and one area in Basilicata (Italy). Farmers will be provided with a methodology to adapt cultivation practices in order to achieve the highest possible yields despite low or erratic water availability.

Project summary

LIFE ADAPT2CLIMA (National Observatory of Athens): The project aims to build a solid knowledge base on climate change and its impacts on the agricultural sector in three Mediterranean islands as well reduce vulnerability and increase resilience to climate change risks. It will facilitate the development of adaptation strategies for Mediterranean island agriculture by demonstrating an innovative decision-support tool in Crete, Sicily and Cyprus. The tool simulates the impacts of climate change on crop production and the effectiveness of selected adaptation options. Using the tool, the project will develop water management adaptation strategies in partnership with farmers' organisations. Their implementation is expected to cut water consumption by at least 30% per participating farm.

Project summary

ITALY (5 projects – €11.0 million)

Life SEC Adapt (Sviluppo Marche SpA): The main objective of the project is to increase the climate resilience of municipalities in Italy (Marche) and Croatia (Jadranska Hrvatska) and help them prevent and adapt to climate change impacts by mainstreaming and integrating climate objectives into their local policies and practices through the adhesion to the 'Mayors Adapt' initiative. The ultimate objective is to adopt and upgrade the model of Sustainable Energy Communities in order to improve climate governance.

Project summary

LIFE DERRIS (UNIPOL GRUPPO FINANZIARIO): The project aims to transfer knowledge on risk assessment and risk management for catastrophic weather events from insurance companies to public administrations and SMEs in order to help create 'resilient companies'. It will disseminate evaluation tools and skills for risk prevention developed by the insurance industry among public administration bodies and SMEs in Turin and implement innovative forms of public-private governance for dealing with climate catastrophes.

Project summary

LIFE IRIS (ERVET SpA): The LIFE IRIS project aims to support enterprises in the Emilia-Romagna region, particularly SMEs, in their efforts to become more resilient to extreme weather events. It will also test the effectiveness of adaptation measures applied through a cluster approach (by industrial sector and supply chain) and foster the diffusion of financial tools aiming to reward resilient enterprises or sectors.

Project summary

LIFE HEROTILE (Industrie Cotto Possagno S.p.A.): The project aims to design and produce two types of roof tiles (Marseille and Portuguese roof tiles, covering more than 60% of pitched roofs in Europe) with a shape characterised by higher air permeability through the overlap of the tiles and improved energy performance through under-tile ventilation. The new tiles will be tested on real-scale buildings with seven different roof types located in different Mediterranean regions. The project aims to demonstrate that the tiles can help save up to 50% of the energy for cooling buildings and reduce cooling-related GHG emissions by 10%.

Project summary

LIFE PRIMES (Regional Civil Protection Agency - Emilia-Romagna): The project aims to build active resilient communities by engaging them in early warning and flood risk prevention measures. The project will encourage collaboration between civil protection authorities and civil society, raising awareness on adaptation to climate change and on the impact of risk alert patterns. It will standardise regional risk management and flood prevention procedures and set up an online information platform. More than 600 local adaptation action plans will be developed over three years by citizens involved in the project.

Project summary

THE NETHERLANDS (1 project – €10.4 million)

LIFE URBAN-ADAPT (Gemeente Rotterdam): The project will demonstrate an innovative, participatory approach to the large-scale implementation of urban adaptation strategies and related measures in order bolster acceptance among the public and stakeholders. The project will increase the water retention capacities within an urban area and restore ecosystems and develop green and blue infrastructure to increase the climate resilience of two districts of Rotterdam (ZoHo and Nieuwe Maas).

Project summary

POLAND (1 project – €5.8 million)

LIFERADOMKLIMA-PL (Gmina (Municipality) Radom): The project will make Radom, a city of some 220 000 people in central Poland, more resilient to climate change. To control local flood risks, the city will build 'green/blue infrastructure' for managing extreme weather events, including multi-use storm water retention areas. The project will also produce a climate change vulnerability assessment for Radom.

Project summary

SPAIN (1 project – €5.5 million)

LIFE ADAPTAMED (Regional Ministry of Environment and Spatial Planning of Andalusia): The project aims to mitigate the adverse effects of climate change on key ecosystem services in three representative Mediterranean national protected areas of socio-economic importance: the Doñana wetlands, the high mountain range of Sierra Nevada, and the sub-desert coastal area, Cabo de Gata. The project will use an ecosystem approach to develop, implement, monitor, evaluate and disseminate adaptive management measures focusing on soil retention, pollination, pastures, temperature regulation, water provision, forest fire prevention and desertification. As a result, the project expects to increase the resilience of the socio-ecosystems concerned and protect their key ecosystem services from climate change.

Project summary

LIFE Climate Governance and Information (GIC) projects

FRANCE (1 project – €1.5 million)

LIFE Clim'Foot (Agence de l'Environnement et de la Maîtrise de l'Energie (ADEME)): The project aims to support the implementation of public policies that give public and private organisations incentives to reduce their carbon emissions. It will launch a European network around the concept of the Carbon Footprint of Organisations, provide tools to harmonise carbon footprint calculations, train policymakers and end-users, test proposed methodologies for calculating and reducing carbon footprints with different organisations and match investors with organisations looking for funding to reduce their carbon footprint. The project involves public and private entities from Croatia, France, Greece, Hungary and Italy. 

Project summary

LIFE project wins Natura 2000 Award

Photo:LIFE11 INF/ES/000665

24 November 2015A Natura 2000 Award (European Citizen category) was recently presented to SEO/BirdLife, Agencia EFE and BirdLife Europe, the beneficiaries of the ‘LIFE Activa Red Natura 2000: Connecting people with biodiversity’ project (LIFE11 INF/ES/000665), at a presentation in the Campo de Montiel Natura 2000 network site in the Spanish region of Castile-La Mancha. Daniel Calleja Crespo, the Director-General for the European Commission’s Environment Directorate, handed over the award to the project beneficiaries for their work in establishing a ‘Natura 2000 Day’.

The first Natura 2000 Day was held on 21 May 2013, and the LIFE project team hope it will continue to be held annually on this date. The LIFE Activa Red Natura 2000 project’s overall objective is to improve awareness of the Natura 2000 network, with Natura 2000 Day being the first campaign targeted at EU citizens to encourage them to get to know and support the European network of protected areas. For further information, visit the project’s website.

The Natura 2000 Day campaign requests the public to photograph themselves making a simple 'butterfly gesture' and upload it to the www.natura2000day.eu website. Over the past three years, Natura 2000 Day has been celebrated in 24 EU countries, with more than 20 000 people making the gesture to show their support.
Organisations and people who manage, produce or live in the Natura 2000 network were invited to the Natura 2000 Award celebrations. On the day, three marsh harriers were released back into the Campo de Montiel site, following their rehabilitation at a nearby wildlife sanctuary, while food served and exhibited at the event was donated by producers in Spanish Natura 2000 sites, underlining both their economic importance to local communities and their ecological benefit.

“It is time that the Natura 2000 network received the prominence that it deserves,” said Asuncion Ruiz, executive director of SEO/BirdLife, the project beneficiary. “We have received this award thanks to the votes of the citizens of Europe. The Natura 2000 network does matter to society." 

German school pupils help increase oak-hornbeam forest in western Germany

Photo:LIFE13 NAT/DE/000147

23 November 2015Pupils of the Heinrich Böll Secondary School near Cologne, Germany, are helping the LIFE project Ville Forests (LIFE13 NAT/DE/000147) to increase the area of oak-hornbeam forest in western Germany. At the end of October the 11-year-olds made trays, filled them with locally collected acorns and placed them in selected spruce stands for the Eurasian jay (Garrulus glandarius) to collect and hide over winter.

Using the jay as an aide to spread acorns is a traditional method of encouraging oak regeneration in conifer monocultures. The aim is to eventually convert these conifer patches into predominantly oak habitats.

The jay hoards large number of acorns in the autumn to make sure it has enough food for the winter. Not all of the acorns get eaten and those that don’t then germinate in the spring, producing young oaks that will hopefully grow into adult trees.

The pupils will be monitoring their trays every week over the winter and the germination rate next year. The aim of this activity, supported by the regional forest agency and the German Association for Forest Protection, is to encourage the children to learn about their natural environment and take care of Natura 2000 sites.

The project Ville Forests supports the sustainable management of over 10 km2 of oak-hornbeam forests on poorly drained soils in four Natura 2000 areas. These old-growth oak forests are an important habitat for woodpeckers, bats and amphibians. Key project actions include optimising site hydrology by filling in drainage ditches and raising water levels; managing target trees already on site; and planting new oaks. Ville Forests also seeks to conserve the beech forest and lowland hay meadows found within the project area.

For more information, visit the project website.

European Commission invests € 160.6 million in 96 new environment projects

LIFE LOGO

20 November 2015The European Commission has approved funding for 96 new projects in 21 Member States under its LIFE programme for the Environment. These projects represent a total investment of € 264.8 million, of which the EU will provide € 160.6 million. They cover actions in the field of environment and resource efficiency, nature and biodiversity, and environmental governance and information.

EU Commissioner for the Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Karmenu Vella said: "Money invested in environment projects is money well spent. I am delighted to see that our LIFE programme will support many innovative projects, and I am sure they will make a vital contribution. As well as protecting and enhancing natural capital, there are many promising avenues here that will help steer Europe towards a low-carbon, resource efficient and sustainable future. We will follow these projects carefully, with a view to sharing and replicating their success."

The Commission received 1 117 applications in response to a call for proposals that closed in June 2014. Of these, 96 were selected for co-funding through the programme's three components.

The 51 LIFE Environment & Resource Efficiency projects will mobilise € 103.3 million, of which the EU will provide € 56.2 million. These projects cover actions in five thematic areas: air, environment and health, resource efficiency, waste and water. Out of these close to half the funds will be dedicated to 14 resource efficiency projects that will facilitate Europe's transition to a more circular economy.

The 39 LIFE Nature & Biodiversity projects improve the conservation status of endangered species and habitats and contribute to the EU's goal of halting biodiversity loss. They have a total budget of € 153.9 million, to which the EU will contribute € 100 million.

The 6 LIFE Governance and Information projects aim to raise the awareness of environmental issues. They have a total budget of € 7.5 million, to which the EU will contribute nearly € 4.5 million.

Descriptions of all 96 projects can be found in the Press release (available in 22 languages).

 

European Parliament LIFE workshop outlines effective ways forward

Photo:Nicola Caputo

17 November 2015At a recent workshop at the European Parliament - ‘LIFE – How to use €3.46 billion for environment and climate protection’ (10 November), - Angelo Salsi, head of unit, LIFE and CIP Eco-innovation, EASME, said that the increased budget for LIFE in the 2014-2020 funding period was an "endorsement of the quality of work" performed by the programme.

The workshop, which was organised by the European Parliament’s ENVI Committee in cooperation with the LIFE Working Group, explored ways in which the current edition of LIFE can make an effective contribution to the achievement of environmental protection and climate change targets. It was aimed at members of the ENVI Committee and all participants of the LIFE programme.

The event was chaired by Italian MEP Nicola Caputo and Croatian MEP Dubravka Suica, who are the co-chairs of the LIFE Working Group, ENVI Committee. The first part examined the new programme, while the second half of the workshop focused on improving the LIFE programme’s effectiveness and the promotion of good practices.

Mr Salsi told attendees that the programme was now a "substantially different type of tool". He said that it had moved from a 'brick-by-brick' approach to one of providing complementary support for wide-reaching national plans on, for example, rivers, energy efficiency and waste reduction and recycling. 'Mainstreaming' these plans into Member States’ national policy is the way forward, he said.

LIFE’s co-funding of six 'integrated' projects - 30 proposals for this new type of project were received under the 2014 call for proposals - is demonstrating another way in which the results of individual projects can be multiplied over a large area.

The workshop was also an opportunity for Jan Kinšt of the European Court of Auditors to summarise the findings of the latest audit of the programme. He advocated focusing on fewer objectives and greater evaluation during the implementation of projects. The replication of project results would be improved with more extensive and continued dissemination, he added. Mr Salsi said that rather than simply more communication, "smarter communication" is needed in order to ensure replication.

Investing in innovation 

One aspect of the new programme that has the potential to greatly amplify its scope is the €80 million grant to the European Investment Bank (EIB) to underwrite investments in energy-efficiency projects, known as the PF4EE initiative.

 James Ranaivoson, managerial adviser in the climate change and environment division of the EIB 'New Products and Special Transactions' department, said that this grant would allow the bank to loan around €400-500m to financial institutes investing in green initiatives -- which through co-funding could add up to €1 billion for energy-efficiency projects. The EIB grant allows the bank to offer protection to financial intermediaries, he said, and as a result, these institutes will be more inclined to finance riskier projects.

Mr Ranaivoson also told attendees that the new Natural Capital Financing Facility, which his EIB team is implementing, is introducing a more business approach to the protection of biodiversity and natural resources. This new concept is moving from the simple awarding of grants to the provision of financial rewards for good environmental practice.

Green jobs and growth

Introducing the second session, Nicola Caputo said that the LIFE programme had helped create employment and advance environmental skills in the workplace. His opening remarks were followed by a presentation by Pavlos Doikos, environment and resource efficiency co-ordinator ENV, NEEMO – the organisation responsible for monitoring and communications of LIFE.

Mr Doikos spoke of the need to integrate the findings of the LIFE programme into other EU policies, such as CAP and Cohesion Policy. He also emphasised the advantages that could be reaped if successful project results were fully scaled up. Finally, he highlighted that the LIFE programme has great potential as a catalyst for policy and said that actions could be more policy driven.

Also of NEEMO, Bent Jepsen, nature and biodiversity sector co-ordinator, explained how NEEMO is advising on the viability of integrated projects and thus aiding the selection process. He also explained that it maintains close contact with all ongoing projects during their implementation. He added that monitoring is carried out and advice is offered throughout this process.

Two short presentations of LIFE projects followed, the first by Joaquim Teódosio, project manager of several LIFE Nature projects carried out in the Azores: LIFE Azores Bullfinch Project (LIFE03/NAT/P/000013) a 'best of the best' project in 2010; the LIFE+ Sustainable Laurel Forest (LIFE07 NAT/P/000630); and the ongoing LIFE+ Lands of Priolo (LIFE12 NAT/PT/000527). The most recent project targeting protection of the critically endangered 'priolo' (Pyrrhula murina) – Safe Islands for Seabirds (LIFE07 NAT/P/000649) was named a ‘best’ project in 2014. Mr Teódosio said that indirectly 70% of the €3 million EU funding that SPEA (Sociedade Portuguesa para o Estudo das Aves) has received over 10 years for LIFE projects has gone towards hiring people.

The second project was a LIFE Information and Communication project, RESTORE (LIFE09 INF/UK/000032), which was co-ordinated by the Environment Agency. Martin Janes of The River Restoration Centre, a project partner, told attendees about the main achievements of the project:  the development of the European river restoration website (www.restorerivers.eu), which is the main source of information on river restoration in Europe; and the RiverWiki, which contains information on more than 500 river restoration case studies from 31 countries.

The workshop concluded with a few words from Hervé Martin, head of unit of LIFE Environment, who reaffirmed the belief that the programme is enabling green growth. In order to further advance this aspect of LIFE, he said that it was necessary to ask whether project results are suitable for replication in a market environment.

Slides of the presentations can be downloaded from the European Parliament’s website.

Efforts to combat Dutch elm disease in Gotland awarded

BLUE AP

16 November 2015The LIFE-ELMIAS award was recently presented to 25 people at the annual Meadow Day at Väskinde community centre, Gotland, Sweden. The award recognises the special efforts the awardees have made in the fight against Elms disease on the Swedish island as part of the LIFE project LIFE- ELMIAS (LIFE12 NAT/SE/001139). The awards were presented for the second year running.

LIFE-ELMIAS is a five-year project aiming to carry out activities to safeguard threatened habitats including Fennoscandian wooded meadows and Fennoscandian old broad-leaved deciduous forests. These habitats make up almost 70% of the old growth tree layer on Gotland and contain 17% of the Swedish population of old elms and 24% of the old ash.

The fungal infections Dutch elm disease and ash dieback are currently a huge threat to these trees and could cause the majority of them to die within a decade. Specific project aims include eradicating Dutch elm disease from Gotland and ensuring favourable conservation status and sustainability of the target habitats through management actions to make them more robust.

For more information about the award, contact Karin Wågström (karin.wagstrom@skogsstyrelsen.se), or visit the LIFE-ELMIAS website to find out more about the project.

LIFE project surveys awareness of climate change resilience in Italy

BLUE AP

12 November 2015All European regions will be affected by climate change, but the impacts will depend on the local context. Climate change therefore needs to be addressed at local level, through local actions and planning strategies, as well as at national, European, and global level, such as the UN Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21) in Paris next month.

The BLUE AP project (LIFE11 ENV/IT/000119) developed a local Adaptation Plan to Climate Change for Bologna (Italy), which defined strategies and measures for alleviating climate change impacts such as water shortages, heatwaves, and heavy precipitation and flooding. The measures included ‘green’ and ‘blue’ infrastructure approaches, including green roofs and facades, rainfall harvesting and sustainable urban drainage systems (SUDS).Further information about the project can be found on its website.

The LIFE project’s Adaptation Plan was built through a participatory process, with companies being identified at the start and involved throughout. Companies in the Bologna area, as well as in other Italian regions, were asked to complete a questionnaire concerning their awareness of climate change resilience. “Their statements give us very direct information about how small businesses and big companies view the topic,” says BLUE AP project coordinator Giovanni Fini.

A total of 125 companies from all around Italy completed the survey, the results of which have recently been published. The project team concluded from the survey that the spread of best adaptation practice within the companies was satisfactory but still needs to be improved, with only 44% of interviewed companies saying they had carried out adaptation practices. However, 84% of the companies said they were worried about the impact of climate change on their business. This level of awareness showed that, although a great deal more investment needs to be made in adaptation actions, companies are already aware that their economic well-being depends on climate stability.

This concern about climate change is reflected at the European level. The latest Eurobarometer Report on Climate Change (No. 409, published March 2014) found that half (50%) of all Europeans think that climate change is one of the world’s most serious problems; 90% ranked it as a ‘very serious or a serious problem’, with only 9% believing it is ‘not a serious problem’. Four in five Europeans (80%) agree that fighting climate change and using energy more efficiently can boost the economy and jobs in the EU.

Information on attitudes and responses to climate change are important for developing effective mitigation and adaptation strategies. The BLUE AP project’s survey, for instance, adds to the evidence showing that economic and political actors need to include climate change as a key factor influencing the spheres of labour and business.

LIFE project publishes Natura 2000 Network Handbook for journalists

Activa Red Natura 2000

06 November 2015The LIFE ‘Activa Red Natura 2000: Connecting people with biodiversity’ project has released its new publication ‘Natura 2000 Network Handbook for journalists’ in digital form, in Spanish and English versions. The handbook contains useful information on the Natura 2000 network, and an assessment of the weaknesses and strengths that hinder or foster communications concerning the network of European protected areas.

The Handbook for journalists was developed from a communications workshop on the Natura 2000 network organised by the LIFE project’s coordinating beneficiary SEO/BirdLife, the EFE news agency and the Association of Environmental Information Journalists (APIA). The workshop was held in Madrid in December 2013.

Based on the experience of journalists, the book contains practical advice on how to communicate the Natura 2000 network through a range of media. This advice helped draw up a Road Map for popularising the Natura 2000 network that includes 13 points or tips, such as “put a face to the Natura 2000 network”, “explain the benefits to people” and “involve sectoral media”.

The main objective of the ‘Natura 2000: connecting people with biodiversity’ project is to improve awareness of the Natura 2000 network. At the start of the project, it was estimated that the network was unknown to 85% of people in Spain.

The Handbook for journalists was produced as a key tool for bridging this knowledge gap. It is one in a series of project publications aiming to raise awareness of Natura 2000 among different stakeholders. The other project activities include training personnel working in Natura 2000 network sites and the organisation of the annual ‘European Natura 2000 Network Day’. A greater knowledge and appreciation of Natura 2000 can engender a sense of ownership and pride, facilitating a more effective implementation of the Habitats and Bird Directives.

For further information, visit the project’s website.

First PVC-free blood bags tested

Photo: LIFE10 ENV/SE/000037

03 November 2015The Karolinska University Hospital in Stockholm has carried out the first in vitro tests of PVC-free blood bags.

The hospital is a partner in the LIFE project ‘PVCFreeBloodBag’ (LIFE10 ENV/SE/000037), which was set up to address the lack of incentives for blood bag manufacturers to create PVC-free blood bags. To this end, the project is demonstrating that public healthcare organisations and private plastics manufacturers can co-operate in removing barriers to PVC-free blood bags.

"I am delighted to see the bags performing so well during blood donation," said Alice Ravizza of PGG Scientific and formerly of Haemotronic AMT a project partner. She and her colleague, Hans Gulliksson, associate professor in experimental transfusion medicine at Karolinska University Hospital, supervised the first blood donations for the in vitro evaluations. Donors gave blood at Skanstull donation centre in Stockholm giving informed consent for its use in the tests.

“Introducing new medical devices is a long and thorough process. I am very happy that we’re now starting in vitro testing. It is a huge milestone in the project,” said Lena Stigh, the project manager from the Jämtland Härjedalen region in Sweden.
The physical performance of the bags has already been tested with water, showing that they fulfil essential requirements. The same tests will now be carried out using blood.

“The study is taking place at Karolinska University Hospital and will be conducted by a team managed by professor Petter Höglund. It will be exciting to see the results of the evaluation in March next year,” said Hans Gulliksson.

The PVC-free blood bags will also undergo a handling test at Östersund hospital and four other Swedish hospitals. These tests will evaluate the practical handling of the blood bags by medical staff.
There are currently no PVC-free blood bags for red blood cells on the market. The most commonly used plasticiser in blood bags for red blood cells is a substance that is classified as a reproductive disruptor.

Four European companies are participating in the LIFE project: Melitek A/S in Denmark, Wipak Oy in Finland, Primo Profile in Poland and Haemotronic in Italy. Karolinska University Hospital is responsible for evaluating the bag.

“This project has two objectives: firstly to increase demand from healthcare organisations; and secondly to demonstrate that it is possible to make a PVC-free blood bag that fulfils the relevant requirements specification,” said Lena Stigh.
Disseminating knowledge and raising awareness in partnership with European healthcare will help increase demand.

For more information, please visit www.pvcfreebloodbag.eu

 

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