22 December 2016The Lesser Kestrel Recovery (LIFE11 NAT/BG/000360) project, coordinated by Green Balkans, was a 2016 National Winner in Moto-Pfohe’s Donor Programme for Preserving Natural and Cultural Heritage in Bulgaria. The project received the honour at an award ceremony held at the National History Museum in Sofia on 8 December 2016.
Lesser Kestrel Recovery is supporting and strengthening populations of the globally-endangered lesser kestrel (Falco naumanni) in Bulgaria, through direct conservation actions and public involvement. The project has reintroduced birds into the mountainous Sakar Natura 2000 network site in south-eastern Bulgaria, from a captive breeding centre it established in Stara Zagora (Bulgaria) and via the translocation of chicks from associated project beneficiary DEMA in Spain.
In March 2014, the project reported that 16 released lesser kestrel had returned from their migration to Africa, and successfully nested. The return of the reintroduced birds was seen as very encouraging for the long-term success of the project.
At the award ceremony, Philip Pfohe, one of the donor programme organisers and managers of Moto-Pfohe highlighted the work of the LIFE project, “the preservation and aid of the rare and protected species’ population, and the recovery of already extinct populations in the places that they are no more, is an important nature preservation method. This is the winning project’s goal, to permanently recover the endangered populations of this small falcon.”
The LIFE project team will use the award money to further its work to recover lesser kestrel in the Saker Natura 2000 network site.
For more information about Lesser Kestrel Recovery, see the project’s website.
21 December 2016The Azores bullfinch (Pyrrhula murina), which has been the focus of four LIFE projects since 1994, has had its conservation status improved from endangered to vulnerable in the recently updated IUCN Red List. The species, along with the St Helena plover (Charadrius sanctaehelenae) and Seychelles white-eye (Zosterops modestus), is one of several endemic island bird species to be moved to lesser categories of risk.
The update was released at the 13th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD COP13) in Cancun, Mexico on 8 December 2016. The IUCN Red List now includes 85 604 species of which some 24 307 are threatened with extinction. The IUCN, however, highlighted the Azores bullfinch as one of those species whose populations are recovering from the brink of extinction, “thanks to tireless conservation efforts."
The bird species, commonly known as the priolo, was first targeted more than 20 years ago by the LIFE project, Conservation of the Azorian bullfinch, Pyrrhula murina (LIFE94 NAT/P/001032). This project was followed up by PRIOLO - Azores bullfinch habitat recovery in Pico da Vara/Ribeira do Guilherme SPA (LIFE03 NAT/P/000013) and the LAURISSILVA SUSTENTAVEL (LIFE07 NAT/P/000630) that focused on the sustainable management of native habitats in the Azores. Specific conservation efforts for the bird species were later strengthened by the project Life Terras do Priolo (LIFE12 NAT/PT/000527).
As a result of the projects’ actions, the Azores bullfinch population has recovered from an estimate of 203 individuals (2002) to 1 608 individuals (2008). The most recent survey carried out in 2013 estimated the population at 675 to 2 250 individuals.
The LIFE programme was a, “great help to put into practice the actions identified in order to protect the Azores bullfinch,” said Joaquim Teodósio, who has been project manager of the three latest LIFE projects of the conservation NGO, Sociedade Portuguesa para o Estudo das Aves.
To date LIFE has co-funded the restoration of 350 hectares of habitat for the target species. “Knowledge from other projects, institutions and scientists facing similar problems was of great use in order to prevent errors and conduct best practices while putting the action plan into practice,” added Mr Teodósio. “Being able to continue the work along 13 years has allowed us to perfect techniques and be now more effective in the action.”
Native habitat loss due to their large-scale invasion by exotic plant species and consequent shortage of food represents the largest threat to the Azores bullfinch. LIFE has supported sustainable management of native vegetation and the removal of invasive plant species, especially Japanese cedar (Cryptomeria japonica). Projects have particularly focused on protecting the priority Macaronesian laurel forest habitat, which is a vital source of food for the bird.
20 December 2016Solar technology developed during the DYEMOND SOLAR (LIFE09 ENV/SE/000355) project has attracted a key investor - the Finnish clean energy company Fortum. The LIFE project demonstrated a new screen-printing method for the cost-effective manufacture of Dye-Sensitised Cells (DSCs) and the investment will enable the project beneficiary, the Swedish solar technology company Exeger, to upscale the pilot line to achieve full-scale commercial production.
This uptake of new solar technology is a great example of how the LIFE programme incubates ideas and demonstrates new technologies, which with further investment can be scaled-up into marketable solutions with major economic and environmental benefits.
Fortum is investing €5.2 million in Exeger to help develop the breakthrough printable solar cell technology for use in consumer electronics, on smart buildings and in other applications. The investment gives Fortum a 5% stake in Exeger, with the aim of increasing the company’s annual production of tablet-sized solar cells from 10 million to 15 million.
Exeger’s solar cell technology is lightweight, flexible, attractively designed, and uses a unique patented architecture that enables it to seamlessly integrate into existing commercial technologies. Screen printing also enables solar cells to be produced in a variety of colours and shapes, and to incorporate logos. Exeger has therefore targeted the consumer electronics market, by entering into joint development agreements with some of the world’s largest electronic manufacturers to produce self-charging portable devices (with no need for batteries or chargers).
“Fortum’s strategic investment is the last piece in our puzzle to prepare for our first global product launch. It will allow us to ramp up our production capacity even further in order to start accepting commercial orders in 2017,” says Exeger’s CEO Giovanni Fili.
As a clean energy provider, Fortum supplies customers in Nordic and Baltic countries, Poland, Russia and India with electricity and heating and cooling services. A cornerstone of Fortum’s strategy is to build new energy ventures to accelerate innovation and the commercialisation of new solutions.
“The investment positions Fortum at the forefront of energy technology and application development, in line with its strategy. Exeger’s light-harvesting technology in consumer electronics is the most advanced in the market and can be applied in several fields of global interest,” says Anne Jalkala from Fortum’s Technology and New Ventures unit.
The solar technology developed by the LIFE project is environmentally friendly. The low-cost and relatively simple screen-printing technology for producing DSCs has lower energy requirements than other solar cell production methods, does not use scarce or toxic raw materials, and generates no toxic emissions during manufacturing.
Further information about DYEMOND SOLAR can be found on the project’s website: http://www.dyemondsolar.com/
This issue of LIFEnews focuses on the mid-term evaluation of the LIFE Programme and two events that were recently held in Brussels at EU institutions – the Committee of the Regions (CoR) and the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) – that will shortly report to the European Commission their recommendations for the future development of the programme.
19 December 2016In addition to being a direct threat to marine habitats and species, marine litter is also an indicator of a resource-inefficient economy. The most efficient solutions to the environmental, economic, health and aesthetic problems posed by marine litter are to prevent waste generation and to promote the recycling and reuse of waste materials.
A number of LIFE projects address marine litter. They have helped Member States achieve Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD: 2008/56/EC) requirements for Good Environmental Status (GES) for their marine waters by 2020; for which one of the descriptors concerns marine litter.
At the same time, by acting to reduce marine litter, these LIFE projects also contribute to the Circular Economy Action Plan (COM/2015/0614). Through its priority area for plastics, the EU Action Plan proposes an aspirational target of reducing marine litter by 30% by 2020 for the ten most common types of litter found on beaches, as well as fishing gear found at sea, with the list adapted for each of the four marine regions in the EU.
One knowledge gap has been the quantification of marine litter, which enables the problem to be better addressed at source. An ocean campaign launched by the LIFE MarPro (LIFE09 NAT/PT/000038) project to study marine litter has recently been published in the scientific journal Marine Pollution Bulletin. This was the first survey of the composition, spatial distribution and sources of marine litter, or macro-floating marine debris (FMD), to be conducted in the coastal waters off mainland Portugal. The MarPro team assessed FMD over a 252 833 km2 area. They observed a total of 752 740 items, with an average density of 2.98 items/km2. Plastics were the most commonly-found materials, followed by Styrofoam, discarded or lost materials from fisheries, paper, cardboard and wood. The highest FMD volumes corresponded with navigation corridors and fisheries, and the project team concluded that most of the FMD observed originated from local sources, namely items discharged from vessels and derelict material from fisheries. With approximately 80% of marine litter estimated to come from land-based sources, this study highlighted the regional and local variations that can occur in marine litter composition, distribution and its sources.
LIFE projects have also combined marine litter reduction actions with awareness-raising campaigns aimed at preventing harmful materials being discarded into the marine environment in the first place. The Clean Sea LIFE (LIFE15 GIE/IT/000999) project is supporting the application of the MSFD and other EU policy relating to marine litter in the National Park of Asinara in Sardinia (Italy). The project’s objectives are to remove existing marine litter, through organised beach and seafloor clean-ups, and to prevent further littering by raising public awareness and engaging with the fishing industry, diving clubs, coastguards and school teachers through guidelines and training courses. The LIFE DEBAG (LIFE14 GIE/GR/001127) project in Greece is developing an integrated information and awareness-raising campaign to help change peoples’ behaviour regarding the disposal and reuse of plastic bags on the island of Syros, thus helping prevent marine litter.
The LIFE LEMA (LIFE15 ENV/ES/000252) project is defining a waste management service for local authorities that facilitates the selection of sustainable approaches for recovering floating marine litter before it arrives at shore areas which are difficult to access (and costly to remove) or before it sinks. The service will be implemented in two transnational regions in the Bay of Biscay. The project’s demonstration actions include collection at sea using retrofitted fishing and sea-cleaning vessels equipped with energy-efficient floating marine litter collection technology (this can also provide an additional source of income for fishermen), the installation of a floating barrier for marine litter collection, and the use of innovative technologies to detect concentrations of floating litter (e.g. HF radars, thermal cameras and aerial drones). Reduction and recovery of marine litter that is carried out to sea from rivers was tackled by the LIFE SMILE (LIFE12 ENV/IT/000289) project. The project team developed an innovative catching mechanism, which prevents or reduces the transport of solid wastes from river basins into the marine environment. This formed part of an integrated approach that incorporates marine litter into solid waste management strategies. In tandem, the project raised awareness amongst sea and coastal users about existing regulation addressing marine litter problems.
Ghost fishing occurs when lost or discarded fishing gear continues to catch aquatic organisms. LIFE Ghost (LIFE12 BIO/IT/000556) is implementing techniques to reduce the environmental impact of abandoned, lost or discarded fishing gear (ALDFG), to restore and preserve the ecological status on rocky habitats in the northern Adriatic Sea. The project removed ALDFG from 20 areas (thereby eliminating ghost fishing) to assess its effects on biodiversity along the coast of the Veneto region, and to estimate the economic and ecosystem gains from its removal. The project drew up a code of conduct in consultation with fishermen, while technical guidelines for the sustainable management of ghost nets were produced for authorities in the Veneto region that focused on the need for proper systems for disposal on land and actions for the recycling of marine fisheries waste.
The LIFE programme, through modest investments in marine litter projects, is actively supporting the Natura 2000 network through measures to protect habitats and species in compliance with the Habitats and Birds Directives, helping to achieve Good Environmental Status for marine waters, and making progress towards EU policy targets for a resource-efficient Europe.
16 December 2016A LIFE project in Hungary aiming to deliver a big reduction in the amount of food that goes to waste in the country has launched its activities with a successful opening conference.
LIFE-FOODWASTEPREV (LIFE15 GIE/HU/001048) focuses on changing attitudes to food waste in Hungary, where almost 400 000 tonnes of food waste is generated each year at the domestic household level alone, of which 30% is avoidable waste.
The kick-off conference, which took place on 18 November 2016, brought together about 150 people including project staff, sectoral experts and food producers.
In addition to an overview of the project’s aspirations over the coming four years, a roundtable was organised, where several stakeholders in the food chain discussed the causes and possible solutions to food waste. The conference included contributions from the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), the Hungarian Food Processors’ Association and the Hungarian Food Bank Association concerning work currently being done to limit food waste and to ensure that surplus and out-of-date food does not go to waste.
It is estimated that up to one third of food produced goes to waste. Reducing food waste has important financial implications, as well as its obvious environmental benefits, including less packaging and reduced greenhouse gas emissions. Around seven per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions are attributed to food waste.
The project is looking to reduce food waste in Hungary by ten per cent. The National Food Chain Safety Office, which is coordinating the project, is working with schools to promote good practice from an early age, and engaging with stakeholders throughout the food chain to raise awareness of the problem and its possible solutions.
LIFE-FOODWASTEPREV is also hoping that the project’s research and findings will inform the legislative process for food waste at national and EU level.
The EU’s roadmap towards a resource-efficient economy has identified food production and consumption as priority sectors for the promotion of a minimum waste culture.
The project’s website (in Hungarian) is now online.
15 December 2016This new publication from the LIFE programme, the EU’s fund for the environment and climate action, highlights the achievements and value for money of the most outstanding Nature, Biodiversity and Information and Communication projects with a nature focus that were completed before the end of last year.
Six projects received the ultimate accolade (‘Best of the Best’ project), including a LIFE Information and Communication (INF) project in Poland that ran a far-reaching education campaign about biodiversity in the Natura 2000 network. This included a television series viewed by more than 8 million people.
In addition, a further 21 projects (including three from the LIFE INF strand) were recognised as ‘Best’ LIFE projects for their excellent work.
All 27 exemplary projects - drawn from 13 Member States - are featured in this new publication. Together they demonstrate exemplary ways of using LIFE funding to restore and manage habitats and species in support of the goals of the Habitats and Birds Directives and EU biodiversity policy.
Download The Best LIFE Nature projects 2015
15 December 2016This new publication from the LIFE programme, the EU’s fund for the environment and climate action, highlights the achievements and value for money of the most outstanding Environment projects completed before the end of 2015.
The 25 featured projects – which are drawn from nine EU Member States – showcase examples of replicable and marketable solutions to help deliver environmental policy. Many of these demonstrate resource efficient solutions that help us move towards a circular economy, including projects on industrial symbiosis, reducing food and other organic waste, repairing bulky waste, reusing upcycled materials in production processes and establishing markets for secondary raw materials.
Other projects present energy efficient technologies and processes, innovative online tools for policy-makers and measures to tackle noise, air pollution and other environmental challenges.
Five particularly outstanding projects were recognised as being ‘Best of the Best’ by the selection committee. The Spanish LIFE project POLYMIX was the people's favourite, winning a public vote to select the LIFE Citizens' Award for Environment. Public recognition for this project highlights the widespread support for practical measures to support the EU's goal of transitioning to a low carbon, resource efficient economy.
Download The Best LIFE Environment projects 2015
14 December 2016The Croatian National Contact Point (NCP) for the LIFE programme recently visited the Polish NCP for a highly successfully two-day meeting as part of the LIFE project HRNCP-MENP (LIFE 14 CAP/HR/000014).
The project's main objective is to promote Croatia’s participation in the LIFE programme, by helping new applicants prepare successful proposals, so as to increase the number of LIFE projects in the fields of environment, nature and biodiversity, and climate change.
On the first day of the visit the Croatian team met with the beneficiaries of two successful Polish LIFE projects: Kampinos Wetland (LIFE12 NAT/PL/000084) which focuses on wetland conservation and Biorewit (LIFE10 ENV/PL/000661) which tackles soil pollution. This encompassed a trip to project sites to observe results and obtain first-hand information on the benefits and challenges encountered during project implementation.
On the second day of the visit, representatives of the Slovenian NCP team and the Polish NCP team held a joint meeting at the National Fund for Environmental Protection and Water Management in Warsaw. This was the chance for the Croatian NCP to once again exchange views and experiences on the implementation of the capacity building projects and best practices on the role of NCPs.
The LIFE programme introduced action grants for capacity-building projects for the 2014-2017 funding period. The grants encourage cooperation and exchange of experience between countries. The idea is that through collaboration, partners can learn from each other’s expertise, share knowledge and gain experience with the end result being that both partners are then better equipped to participate in the LIFE programme.
13 December 2016The European Commission’s College of Commissioners held an orientation debate on the next steps of the ‘fitness check’ of the Birds and Habitats Directives.
One of the findings of the extensive evaluation the Commission has been carrying out since late 2014 - in which it has been consulting citizens and stakeholders across all EU Member States - was that the directives are vital for Europe's nature conservation policy and as such, their implementation needs to be improved.
The challenges identified primarily relate to the insufficient management and lack of adequate investment in the Natura 2000 network of protected sites, as well as to local deficiencies such as delays, unnecessary burdens for project permits and lack of adequate different assessments in regulating individual species. The evaluation also identified the need to improve the directives’ coherence with broader socioeconomic objectives, including other EU policy areas such as energy, agriculture and fisheries.
On the basis of the orientation debate, the Commission is considering options for improved implementation of the Birds and Habitats Directives and will produce a related action plan.
For more information see the European Commission’s statement on the orientation debate and the next steps for the fitness check.
07 December 2016LIFE is publishing a call for proposals to support the European Solidarity Corps (ESC). The present call is to provide funding to support the deployment of the ESC. The scope of supported activities – to last between 2 and 12 months – will be environmental protection, nature conservation and restoration of natural areas and ecosystems, mainly the Natura 2000 network.
Announced by Commission President Juncker in his State of the Union speech on 14 September 2016, the ESC is conceived to offer people under 30 in Europe the chance to support a non-governmental organisation (NGO), local authority or private company active in addressing challenging situations across the European Union.
As President Juncker noted in his speech, "there are many young, socially-minded people in Europe willing to make a meaningful contribution to society and help show solidarity. […] I want this European Solidarity Corps up and running as soon as possible. And by 2020, to see the first 100,000 young Europeans taking part.”
As a response to this need, LIFE developed the environmental component of ESC. LIFE preparatory projects address specific needs for the development and implementation of Union environmental or climate policy and legislation. The preparatory projects- European Solidarity Corps will thus contribute to strengthening the Union’s capacity to provide volunteering services for young people across the European Union (in a second phase). It focuses mainly on environmental protection, nature conservation and restoration of natural areas and ecosystems and on capacity building on voluntary services among ongoing LIFE project.
06 December 2016 The Annual Compilations of new LIFE projects are now online. From the 2015 call for proposals, the European Commission is investing over €220 million in 144 green and low-carbon projects in Member States.
The LIFE programme for Environment and Climate Action is co-funding 110 projects under the sub-programme for the Environment. These include 56 projects under the LIFE Environment & Resource Efficiency strand; 39 projects under LIFE Nature & Biodiversity; and 15 LIFE Environmental Governance & Information projects.
LIFE is co-funding 34 projects under the sub-programme for Climate Action. These include 16 LIFE Climate Change Adaptation projects, 12 LIFE Climate Change Mitigation projects and six LIFE Climate Governance and Information projects.
The four Annual Compilations (Environment, Nature, Information and Climate Action) include one-page descriptions of every single project co-funded by LIFE in the 2015 call. They can be downloaded from the LIFE website.
The 56 LIFE Environment & Resource Efficiency projects will mobilise €142.2 million, of which the EU will provide €71.9 million. These projects cover actions in five thematic areas: air, environment and health, resource efficiency, waste and water. The 21 resource efficiency projects alone will mobilise €43.0 million that will facilitate Europe's transition to a more circular economy.
The 39 LIFE Nature & Biodiversity projects support the implementation of the Birds and Habitats Directives and the EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2020. They have a total budget of €158.1 million, of which the EU will contribute €95.6 million.
The 15 LIFE Environmental Governance & Information projects will raise awareness on environmental matters. They have a total budget of €23.2 million, of which the EU will contribute €13.8 million.
The 16 LIFE Climate Change Adaptation projects will mobilise €32.9 million, of which the EU will provide €19.4 million. These action grants are awarded to projects in five thematic areas: agriculture/forestry/tourism, adaptation in mountain/island areas, urban adaptation/planning, vulnerability assessments/adaptation strategies, and water.
The 12 LIFE Climate Change Mitigation projects have a total budget of €35.3 million, of which the EU will contribute €18.0 million. These action grants are awarded to best practice, pilot and demonstration projects in three thematic areas: energy, industry and land use/forestry/agriculture.
The 6 LIFE Climate Governance and Information projects will improve governance and raise awareness of climate change. They have a total budget of €6.9 million, of which the EU will contribute €4.1 million.