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News: May 2016

Three LIFE projects win at Natura 2000 Awards

Photo:LIFE12 NAT/BG/001218

30 May 2016The actions of three LIFE projects – ELIA (LIFE10 NAT/BE/000709), Safeguard LWfG (LIFE10 NAT/GR/000638) and Iberlince (LIFE10 NAT/ES/000570) – were among those recognised at the third Natura 2000 awards ceremony in Brussels. The event, which was held in the Commission’s Berlaymont building in Brussels on 23 May 2016, honoured six initiatives relating to the Natura 2000 network of protected sites.

The Natura 2000 Awards showcase the added value of the network for local economies and the benefits of increasing public awareness of Europe's valuable natural heritage. It honours actions in five thematic categories: Communication, Socio-Economic Benefits, Conservation, Reconciling Interests/Perceptions, and Cross-border Cooperation and Networking. In addition, a sixth award is voted for by the general public – the European Citizens’ Award.  

In all 14 actions taken by LIFE projects were selected amongst the 24 finalists. Of the three winning LIFE projects, the cross-border Belgian-French ELIA project to create green corridors under overhead lines won in the reconciling interests/perceptions category, while the project to conserve the vulnerable lesser white-fronted goose (Anser erythropus) won the cross-border cooperation and networking award. The project was implemented by stakeholders in Greece, Finland, Bulgaria, Hungary and Norway. Actions to save the Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus) from extinction were recognised by the general public who made it the winner of the European Citizens’ Award.

Simon de Voghel, from LIFE ELIA, who was at the event to collect his award, highlighted that, "our project is replicable all over Europe and that is the key factor behind our win today.” He added that the ongoing project is using the, “electricity network as a highway for biodiversity,” and it has established, “win-win scenarios where we work effectively with stakeholders…farmers, forest owners, monitors and environmentalists.”

Elia System Control is an SME responsible for the operation of Belgium’s electricity transmission system. The Natura 2000 Award highlights that such a company can become an important partner in nature conservation. The ELIA project is leading to the management and restoration of 580 hectares of land, a third of which is on Natura 2000 sites (31 sites in Belgium and 4 in France).

The LIFE project Safeguard LWfG carried out conservation actions in the wintering and staging grounds of the Fennoscandian population of the lesser white-fronted goose. The jury praised the close collaboration the project helped foster among the beneficiaries and private landowners covering seven Natura 2000 sites on the waterbird’s Eurasian migration path.

The award was presented to the project co-ordinator, the Hellenic Ornithological Society, and its partner Birdlife Greece by Roby Biwer, the rapporteur of the Committee of the Regions’ opinion on the fitness-check of the Nature Directives.

Special guests
This year’s award ceremony was honoured by the presence of Karmenu Vella, European Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries. In his opening remarks, he reaffirmed the enduring value of the Natura 2000 network, which covers a wide range of different sites across the continent.

The final award, the European Citizens’ Award, was presented to representatives of the regional government of Andalusia for its work to save the Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus) from extinction. It received almost 6 000 of the approximately 37 000 votes cast.

The Iberian lynx has been the target of several LIFE projects and thanks to EU-funded conservation efforts its numbers have increased from around 90 to 400, according to the beneficiary. The IUCN has improved its conservation status from ‘critically endangered’ to ‘endangered’ as a result.

The award recognises the regional government’s success in achieving stewardship agreements and voluntary contracts with 132 private owners, managers and hunting clubs in six Natura 2000 sites. These have reduced hunting pressure on rabbits and secured lynx-friendly land management across more than 95 000 ha.

Daniel Calleja Crespo, Director General of DG Environment, concluded the presentations by emphasising that all the finalists have demonstrated that, "nature policy can work in Europe," and reconcile, "nature conservation with economic profitability."

Artists from the communications category winner, Nature Concerthall, a collaboration between musicians and scientists in Latvia, rounded off the evening with a performance of two compositions evoking water quality in rivers and meadows through the eyes of flies and the roots of plants.

Natura 2000 is a network of more than 27 000 protected sites that covers 18% of EU land territory and more than 5% of its marine areas. The aim of the network is to protect and enhance Europe’s natural heritage, securing the long-term survival of Europe’s most valuable and threatened species.

For more information about the awards and a full description of the winners, go to the Natura 2000 website.


Engaging citizens in Bulgaria to crack wildlife crime

Photo:LIFE12 NAT/BG/001218

30 May 2016Criminals who target Bulgaria's wildlife are themselves the target of an information campaign urging citizens to report offenders in order to protect and enhance the country's rich biodiversity.

Despite legislation and agreements at EU and international level aimed at countering wildlife crimes, illegal activity such as the capture of wild animals, the raiding of birds' nests, the trade and trafficking of rare species, outlawed hunting methods and poaching represent a lucrative opportunity for criminals.

A LIFE project in Bulgaria, Eagles Forests (LIFE12 NAT/BG/001218), has launched its third annual information campaign to inform and educate citizens about the problem of wildlife crimes in Bulgaria, and to encourage them to play their part in preventing and reporting offences.

The budget of the five-year project, which began in mid-2013, is €1.78 million, three quarters of which is funded by the EU's LIFE programme. 

Eagles Forests was conceived to protect and conserve the habitats in Bulgaria of the globally endangered lesser spotted eagle (Aquila pomarina), and the information campaign acts as a platform for public authorities and NGOs to engage the public not only on conservation issues related to this magnificent bird of prey but on all aspects of crimes against wild animals and birds.

The project's lead partner, the Executive Forest Agency - part of the Ministry of Agriculture and Food - and another partner, the Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds, chose the International Day of Forests (21 March 2016) to launch the initiative, whose slogan is: 'I protect the forests and eagles of Bulgaria'.

Bulgaria's vast forests, and the variety of bird and animal life in them, are considered among the preferred targets of wildlife criminals. The campaign launch was accompanied by a seminar at which representatives of local authorities in the project area and wildlife experts shared perspectives, best practice and policy ideas to tackle the problem of wildlife crime.

Many endangered and rare species are protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora - known as CITES - and other accords, but experts agree that demand for wild animals as pets, for meat or even for medicinal use is driving some birds and animals to the brink of extinction.

The Eagles Forests project targets several outcomes related to the improvement of the breeding and hunting habitats of the estimated twenty pairs of lesser spotted eagles in Bulgaria, and awareness-raising activity on crime against birds is an essential element of the project.

Eurasian lynx to be reintroduced to German forest

Photo:LIFE13 NAT/DE/000755

26 May 2016Three orphaned Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx) are scheduled to be released this summer in the biosphere reserve in the Palatinate region of southwest Germany. A further five lynx that were tagged in Switzerland will also be relocated to the Palatinate Forest.

The reintroductions are part of the LIFE project LIFE Luchs Pfälzerwald (LIFE13 NAT/DE/000755), which is being implemented by the Rhineland-Palatinate Conservation Foundation (Stiftung Natur und Umwelt Rheinland-Pfalz).

The project aims to establish a population of 20 lynx in the area through such reintroductions – 10 from Switzerland and 10 from Slovakia. The Eurasian lynx disappeared from the Rhineland-Palatinate area in the 18th century, and the nearest population to the project area is found in the southern Vosges. Individuals from this population have occasionally been recorded in Palatinate, but they have not established a separate population.

The lynx orphans, which were trapped as juveniles in the Carpathian mountains, are currently quarantined in Slovakia and awaiting approval for transport. One is male and the other two females.
Meanwhile, in the Swiss Jura mountains three females and two males were fitted with GPS transmitters so that they can be recaptured for relocation to the Palatinate region after a period in quarantine. "This is currently a favourable gender ratio for the start of the reintroduction [programme]," said Jochen Krebühl of the Rhineland-Palatinate Conservation Foundation.

Further releases will depend on the availability of animals, quarantine periods and the approval process. The Slovak lynx are now fully grown and sexually mature and will have a higher chance of survival than non-relocated animals. They will be fitted with GPS collars before their release to allow the beneficiary and its partners to monitor their progress.

To find out more about the project and to watch a short video about its objectives, see the project website

Launch of Italian platform for environmental best practice

Photo: LIFE12 ENV/ES/000761

26 May 2016The Italian Ministry for the Environment, Land and Sea will launch its environmental best practice sharing tool - or knowledge platform - in Rome on 14 June 2016. The online tool was developed with the help of EU funding for environmental protection and climate action.

The objective of the Knowledge Platform is to promote the replication of best practice in the fields of nature and biodiversity, water, urban environment, climate change, soil management, resource efficiency, waste and energy. The overall aim is to improve the effectiveness and impact of public funding.

The knowledge platform consists of a database of projects co-financed in Italy by EU programmes such as LIFE, CIP Eco Innovation, CIP IEE and FP7. The site has been designed to stimulate networking among those who have developed the best practices and potential replicators of these actions.

The launch event will feature presentations by coordinators of eight projects representing the thematic areas of the platform and that have been co-financed by different EU programmes. They will outline the insights gained and achievements of their respective projects.

For more information about the platform email:   

New film festival award nomination for DISCOVERED LIFE documentary

Photo: LIFE12 ENV/ES/000761

25 May 2016The film Discovering Lindane made by the Spanish DISCOVERED LIFE project (LIFE12 ENV/ES/000761) continues to receive acclaim on the documentary film festival circuit. Following an award at the XVIII Félix de Azara Awards 2015, held in the Spanish province of Huesca, the film has now been nominated for a prize at the 2016 Environmental Film Festival Albania (EFFA 16).

The 33-minute film shows the consequences of the uncontrolled dumping of toxic waste arising from the production of the pesticide Lindane, between 1974 and 1992, in the Spanish region of Aragón. The active ingredients of this pesticide are highly persistent in the environment, and present health risks due to their endocrine disruption activity. The film goes on to show how the DISCOVERED LIFE project is tackling the pollution, through the operation of a prototype system that uses an in-situ chemical oxidation (ISCO) process to restore water quality in aquifers contaminated by Lindane.

Discovering Lindane has been nominated in the Health and Environment category at EFFA 16. The festival, now in its fourth year, runs from 22 May to 5 June 2016 with free screenings and associated activities at eight locations around Albania. The LIFE project’s Lindane documentary will be screened on 29 May 2016 in a programme starting at 20:00, at the Pedonale in Tirana. The film festival programme can be viewed online.

You can watch Discovering Lindane (Spanish language and English-subtitled versions) on the project’s website.

LIFE AQUASEF reduces aquaculture energy costs by up to 30%

Photo: LIFE13 ENV/ES/000420

24 May 2016LIFE AQUASEF (LIFE13 ENV/ES/000420) has reached a project milestone with the design of an alternative oxygenation system for the aquaculture sector that can reduce energy costs by up to 30%.

The LIFE AQUASEF project, under coordinating beneficiary Ariema, is demonstrating and promoting the use of innovative low-carbon emission technologies to increase environmental sustainability throughout the production cycles of fish and salt-water molluscs. The technology is being demonstrated in tanks at the aquaculture facilities of project partner Esteros de Canela (Huelva, Spain).

Maintaining a constant level of dissolved oxygen in the water is essential in aquaculture facilities, but water aeration systems consume large amounts of energy. LIFE AQUASEF project partner D&B Tech has developed two prototype systems to produce oxygen through an alternative technology: the MicroBtech system was designed for hatchery and pre-fattening modules, and the outdoor O2BT system for fattening ponds.

The technological advance in both prototype systems is to pump air and water through conduits into a specially-designed membrane, which generates small bubbles with an associated reduction in energy consumption.

“The secret is in the size of the bubble, which is minimal,” points out the project’s technical expert Javier Dávila. “These aerators provide an economic and sustainable alternative to the aquaculture sector, by allowing producers to replace commercial oxygen with atmospheric air with the same oxygen capacity.” This is made possible due to the high transfer efficiency of gas, especially in the O2BT device.

Further information about LIFE AQUASEF can be found on the project’s website.

Innovative remote monitoring of former LIFE project sites

Photo:LIFE08 NAT/A/000613

23 May 2016The research project, Remotely Piloted Aircraft Multi Sensor System (RPAMSS), is aiming to gather multi-dimensional environmental data in order to monitor the development of stretches of the river Gail in Carinthia, Austria, which had been the target of a recent LIFE project.
The research initiative builds on the work of the LIFE+ Gail project (LIFE08 NAT/A/000613), which carried out restoration of the sites to protect valuable riverine flora and fauna while improving flood protection.

The LIFE project helped restore the natural morphology and condition of the river by remodelling the river beds and by constructing groynes and still water bodies.
The research project is monitoring the outcomes of the LIFE project restoration actions in the river Gail, as well as the river Drava, using an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) guided by real-time kinematic (RTK) satellite navigation – a technique used to enhance the precision of position data derived from satellite-based positioning systems.

The project site in Obergottesfeld in the Upper-Drava valley, which is currently being remotely monitored, covers an area of 3.5 km², while the site located close to Feistritz in the river Gail valley covers 0.9 km².

These areas are part of a Natura 2000 network site and were addressed by the LIFE project. In both areas frequent UAV flights are being carried out to collect high-resolution, multi-spectral imagery. The research team is then able to use structure from motion (SfM) photogrammetry to create high-density, multi-spectral point clouds from which assessments of the morphology of the riverine environments can be made.

The research work is a good illustration of how to follow up on the achievements of a LIFE project and further develop them. For more information, see the RPAMSS website.

Tagging first raises hopes for endangered bearded vultures in France


20 May 2016The attachment of an electronic tag on a bearded vulture (Gypaetus barbatus) nestling in southern France is being hailed as a breakthrough in efforts to reintroduce the species in the area and promote breeding between vulture populations in the Pyrenees and the Alps.

Experts from the LIFE GYPCONNECT project (LIFE14 FR/NAT/000050) successfully tagged the bird – named ‘Roc Genèse’ after a climbing club that has been involved in the project – while its parents were away from the nest. It marks the first time that a wild bearded vulture nestling was tagged in its nest in Aude.

The nest is the easternmost of the known nests in the Pyrenees, and thus the nearest to the Massif Central, which is the focus of LIFE GYPCONNECT’s efforts to create a new core population of vultures.

Ornithologists leading the project activities are hoping that the tagging will enable them to assess the extent to which bearded vultures in the Pyrenees are dispersing into the main project site in the Massif Central and onward to the Alps, where the species has been successfully reintroduced.

The idea reintroducing a core population of bearded vultures to the Massif Central is to connect the two existing populations in the eastern Pyrenees and the western Alps, thus strengthening their genetic diversity and enhancing their sustainability.

The tagged bird is expected to fledge in May 2016. Meanwhile, five young bearded vultures are to be introduced into the project area shortly to consolidate the momentum of the reintroduction.

The bearded vulture is one of Europe’s largest raptors and is usually found in mountainous areas. The population of this species has declined dramatically over recent decades.

LIFE GYPCONNECT, which is led by the French avian conservation organisation Ligue pour la Protection des Oiseaux and whose partners include the Vulture Conservation Foundation, is also establishing supplementary feeding sites across the project site to coax birds from the Pyrenees to cross into the project site.

The six-year project, which began in September 2015, has a budget of €5.63 million, almost three-quarters of which is funded by the EU’s LIFE programme.

The project foresees the tagging of more birds, and two ringers from the Pyrenees have received training in how to tag bearded vultures.

European Week for Waste Reduction (EWWR) award-winners announced

European Week for Waste Reduction

19 May 2016The European Week for Waste Reduction (EWWR) awards ceremony was held in Brussels on 11 May 2016 to honour the most outstanding awareness-raising actions implemented during the EWWR 2015.

Six actions were awarded in the following categories: administration/public authority, association/NGO; business/industry; educational establishment; citizens; and others.
For a full list and short descriptions of the winners, see the press release.

The awareness-raising initiative, EWWR, is currently being run by ACR+ under the LIFE project EWWR+ (LIFE12 INF/BE/000459). The project aims to promote the ‘3Rs’ of waste reduction: reduce, re-use and recycle. As well as the EWWR, the project is also developing best practice guidelines and toolkits to address key target audiences in seven languages.

The EWWR 2015 consisted of more than 12 000 activities taking place in 33 countries on 21-29 November 2015. Prior to this edition, the seventh and largest, more than 24 800 actions have been carried out as a result of EWWR since its launch in 2009. Read all about it in this recent LIFE news article.

LIFE launches 2016 call for action grants: more than €330 million available

LIFE 2016 Call

19 May 2016The 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 2016 call for action grants for the LIFE programme was launched on 19 May 2016 and covers proposals for both environment and climate action sub-programmes. The total budget for project action grants for this call is €337 536 184. Of this amount, €273 936 184 has been allocated to the sub-programme for environment and €63 600 000 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.

For the sub-programme for Environment, this call will cover action grants for "Traditional" projects, Preparatory projects, Integrated projects, Technical Assistance projects.

For the sub-programme for Climate Action, this call will cover action grants for "Traditional projects", Integrated projects, Technical Assistance projects.

Innovations in the 2016 call concern Traditional LIFE projects. These include more emphasis on sustainability and replicability and more attention to second phase projects and the relation with other projects financed by LIFE.

For LIFE Nature and Biodiversity projects there is more emphasis on EU added value in terms of quantifiable environmental impact/conservation benefits. LIFE Environment and Resource Efficiency and LIFE Environmental Governance and Information projects will place more emphasis on EU added value in terms of quantifiable environmental impact, including the mandatory submission of the LIFE performance indicators table.

There are new policy priorities for Traditional projects under the sub-programme for climate action. For Climate Change Mitigation, projects related to energy-intensive industries, fluorinated greenhouse gases and land-use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF) are encouraged in particular. For Climate Change Adaptation, priorities include cross-border management of floods; transboundary coastal management; mainstreaming adaptation into urban land use planning, building layouts and natural resources management; mountain and island areas; and sustainable management of water. LIFE Climate Governance and Information projects are encouraged to focus on capacity-building (e.g. training the trainers), rather than pure awareness-raising. 

Both summaries and full details of all new features of the 2016 call are included in the application guides. 

For further information about the 2016 call for action grants, go to the 2016 call page on the LIFE website.

Applications are welcomed from public bodies, private commercial organisations and private non-commercial organisations (NGOs).

The Executive Agency for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (EASME) is organising an international Information Day to meet all Brussels based stakeholders and interested parties to explain everything you need to know to prepare and submit a successful LIFE proposal. More information following this link

LIFE project to build 'ecoduct' for wildlife around Brussels

Photo: LIFE12 NAT/BE/000166

18 May 2016The Life - OZON project (LIFE12 NAT/BE/000166) has begun work on the first wildlife crossing over the Brussels ring road. The road, one of the busiest in Belgium, runs right through the Sonian Forest (Forêt des Soignes/Zoniënwoud), a 4 421-ha area that is primarily within the administrative region of Vlaams Brabant (in Flanders), as well as covering parts of south-east Brussels and Brabant Wallon (in Wallonia).

Life - OZON aims to reconnect areas of the Sonian Forest with high ecological value by constructing wildlife crossings (such as underpasses, viaducts and culverts) and erecting fences to impede the access of wild animals to roads and rail lines. It also aims to protect forest biodiversity through nature-friendly and adapted forest management and by redirecting recreation activities to less sensitive areas.

The Groenendaal Ecoduct is a 60m-wide bridge that will allow animals to have safe passage over the ring between Groenendaal and Waterloo. The ecoduct will be decorated with earth, shrubs and trees to simulate natural conditions for animals and to prevent disturbance by noise and light. ‘Ecogrids’ on either side of the bridge will lead animals towards the safe crossing.

“To preserve and strengthen nature we are connecting two large areas of forest that are now surrounded by urban areas," says the Flemish Minister for Environment, Nature and Agriculture, Joke Schauvliege.

Works will be phased to reduce disruption to motorists. When the ecoduct opens in May 2017, it is expected to reduce roadkill by 90%, thus also increasing road safety.

The Groenendaal Ecoduct is the first of two such crossings being built as part of the Life – Ozon project. “We are also building the Laarbeek Ecoduct,” adds the Flemish Minister for Mobility, Public Works, the Vlaamse Rand, Tourism and Animal Welfare, Ben Weyts.

For more information, visit the project website.

LIFE team discovers rare Italian hare on Tuscan island

Photo:LIFE13 NAT/IT/00047

17 May 2016A LIFE project team has made an unexpected discovery on the island of Pianosa in Tuscany. The European hare of Italy (Lepus europaeus meridiei), a subspecies of brown hare, is completely extinct from the Italian mainland, but the hare population found on the island has been genetically determined to be that of the rare subspecies. The island hare population still has all genes intact from the original European hare of Italy.

The LIFE project beneficiary, the Tuscan Archipelago National Park and the Institute for Environmental Protection and Research (ISPRA), is restoring the native fauna of the Tuscan islands as part of the RESTO CON LIFE project (LIFE13 NAT/IT/00047). Its researchers captured and examined the hares during the winter 2015/16, with the voluntary help of expert hare catchers from several national hunting management units of the regions of Tuscany, Emilia Romagna and Abruzzo.

Even viewed up close, the Italian subspecies of hare displays only very slight differences in size and colour from the common European hare (Lepus europaeus). But genetic analysis carried out by ISPRA confirmed that the population derives from hares that were possibly introduced in the mid-19th Century by convict settlers on the island. Thanks to their isolation they have maintained their characteristics, unlike those hares on the mainland that have bred with introduced hares from Central Europe.

The Pianosa hares, which are a slightly cerulean blue colour to the rear, represent a vital link to the past, and volunteers are now carrying out monitoring and conservation work to protect this unique population. The LIFE project discovery highlights the great value of biodiversity conservation and its ability to add to our understanding of European wildlife.

The LIFE project was launched in 2013 to eradicate alien plant species, such as Carpobrotus spp., Eucalyptus camaludulensis, as well as invasive fauna, from the Tuscan islands of Giannutri, Pianosa and Montecristo in order to restore natural island habitats and protect endemic species.

To learn more about the project, its objectives and actions, visit its website.

Commissioner Vella highlights Maltese marine conservation project

Photo:LIFE11 NAT/MT/001070

13 May 2016The European Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Karmenu Vella was the guest of honour at the closing conference of Project MIGRATE (LIFE11 NAT/MT/001070) on 29 April 2016 in Malta. The four-year project gathered data on the loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta) and bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) through a combination of modelling of available oceanographic data and boat-based observations.

“The Bottlenose dolphin and loggerhead turtle are iconic species, not just for Maltese waters, but for the Mediterranean as a whole,” said Commissioner Vella in his keynote address.

Thanks to the efforts of Project MIGRATE and the earlier MALTA SEABIRD PROJECT (LIFE10 NAT/MT/000090), Malta has recently designated nine new Natura 2000 network sites within its 25 nautical mile Exclusive Fishing Zone, including Sites of Community Interest for the turtles and dolphins, and Special Protection Areas for Scopoli's shearwater (Calonectris diomedea), yelkouan shearwater (Puffinus yelkouan) and the storm petrel (Hydrobates pelagicus).

Commissioner Vella described the Natura 2000 network as, “a vital tool,” however, he noted that, “for the network to do its job properly, we need many more offshore sites. Less than 2% of the EU's offshore waters are currently part of the network.”

He added that while designating sites is a great start, it is not sufficient to ensure that target marine species get adequate protection: “For that to happen, there are at least two more important challenges ahead. The first is active and effective management – including working closely with fishing and shipping communities and working closely with many other stakeholders… The second challenge that is just beginning is international cooperation. Nature moves around. The species you have been working on spend the greater part of their lives outside Maltese waters.”

For more information about Project MIGRATE, click here.

To read the full text of Commissioner Vella’s keynote address, click here.

Italian national thematic meeting on environment and health

Photo:LIFE13 ENV/IT/000225

03 May 2016The LIFE GIOCONDA (LIFE13 ENV/IT/000225) project organised a LIFE national thematic meeting in Florence, Italy, on 13 April 2016, to discuss governance issues relating to the environment and human health. The meeting was organised with the collaboration of the Office for Participation Policies of the Tuscany Region, and support from the Italian LIFE monitoring team (NEEMO).

‘Participation, risk perception, knowledge transfer and exchange in environment and health’ was the title of the event, which brought together eight LIFE projects. The participants shared their experience and knowledge and discussed the best communication channels and tools to improve citizens’ and professional stakeholders’ perceptions of the risks posed by different environmental pressures on human health. The goal was to enhance both the process of evidence-based decision-making and policy uptake of the outcomes of EU-funded public health research.

The objective of the GIOCONDA project, under the coordination of the Institute of Clinical Physiology of the Italian National Research Council, is to provide local authorities with an innovative methodology that supports the implementation of environmental and health policies, by involving young people in the decision-making process. To this end, data on air and noise pollution is combined with information obtained from an online platform, on which teenagers record their perceptions of health risks. This tool is currently being tested in schools in four Italian areas, and should be made available for use throughout Italy later this year.

The other seven LIFE projects participating at the networking event are also addressing perceptions of environmental issues that influence public decision-making in areas relating to health. The projects were HIA21 (LIFE10 ENV/IT/000331) ; MAPEC_LIFE (LIFE12 ENV/IT/000614); LIFE MED HISS (LIFE12 ENV/IT/000834); LIFE Ghost (LIFE12 BIO/IT/000556) ; LIFE PERSUADED (LIFE13 ENV/IT/000482) ; MERMAIDS (LIFE13 ENV/IT/001069) ; and AIS LIFE (LIFE13 ENV/IT/001107) .

At the meeting, speakers representing the LIFE projects highlighted how often the perception of environmental risk by the general public is distant from the actual risk as determined by scientific evidence. The general aim of this cluster of Italian projects is to better understand why this gap between perceived and actual risk occurs (e.g. media bias), in order to help raise awareness about environmental risk factors.

Antonio Floridia from the regional administration of Tuscany, emphasised the role of participation in the framework of complex science-related issues, such as the interaction between the environment and human health. He said that deliberative democracy calls for a reinforced participation of scientists and researchers in the public debate, because only an informed dialogue enables science and research to provide a sound basis for policymaking and informed societal choices.

Roberto Ghezzi, Regional Coordinator of the NEEMO monitoring team, noted that, according to the EEA/JRC report  on environment and human health (2013), human health and well-being concerns are powerful drivers for environmental policy. The implementation of existing policies is likely to reduce specific burdens, he said, but broader and more integrated approaches to addressing social, economic, and environmental determinants of health are needed. In this context, the beneficiaries of LIFE projects have a valuable role to play in bridging knowledge gaps, and in overcoming institutional and conceptual barriers between researchers, innovators, producers, end-users, policy-makers and civil society.

A number of proposals emerged during the thematic meeting, including the proposed organisation of a Thematic Platform Meeting on Knowledge Transfer and Exchange (KTE) for Environment and Health in 2017 as well as ideas for further analysis and studies.

Further information about LIFE GIOCONDA can be found on the project’s website.

LIFE Urbannecy project on urban transport pollution raises awareness in France

Photo:LIFE12 ENV/FR/001125

04 May 2016 Awareness of urban transport pollution was boosted earlier this month when France's regional newspaper, Le Dauphiné Libéré, highlighted the success of the LIFE project Urbannecy (LIFE12 ENV/FR/001125) in reducing gas emissions in Annecy.

The article coincided with a visit by the Head of the LIFE Environment Unit at DG Environment, Hervé Martin, who came to Annecy on 6 April 2016 to see first-hand how the project is achieving its goal.

The objective of the LIFE+ Urbannecy project is to improve the urban environment via a logistics platform using ecological vehicles. Due to the need for daily goods deliveries, transport has become a serious headache for the medium-sized city whose old town has very narrow streets, parts of them exclusively pedestrian.

The Dauphiné Libéré article detailed how Laurent Bastian, head of the company PURE and of the Urbannecy project, has set up an Urban Distribution Centre (UDC) to ensure that goods destined for Annecy's city centre can be delivered in a more sustainable way. The UDC is a 1000 m2 logistics platform, situated less than a kilometre from the city centre. From there depart every morning a small 25 m2 electrical truck and a 7,5 tonne hybrid heavy goods vehicle delivering parcels and goods to the shops and businesses in the historical centre. Orders, brought to the UDC by other transport providers, are bundled together into a single delivery, meaning that the traditional diesel trucks remain outside the town, thus reducing congestion and emissions.

To ensure that the trucks do not remain empty on the way back to the platform, the project has started to collect waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) and organic waste from restaurants. The collection of food waste was launched a few weeks ago in a bid make the operation financially viable and to develop the circular economy initiatives in the region. Three times a week between 5h30 and 7h00 in the morning, a PURE truck collects organic waste from 15 restaurants in the city centre and delivers it to a centre outside Annecy where it is then reconditioned, as required by EU waste legislation.

The Urbannecy project is being observed closely in the region and beyond as many cities are looking for an economically-viable UDC model. While the project still requires fine-tuning, Hervé Martin was keen to discuss with the team how its success can be replicated elsewhere in Europe.

Hervé Martin's visit to the project started with a call to the UDC when the drivers were loading their trucks to carry out the first deliveries to the city centre. He then held a meeting with the beneficiaries of the project to hear about the achievements to date and the efforts to make the overall experiment financially viable. According to the beneficiaries, the key to long-term success will be to combine the transport of freight from big transport companies with additional activities like organic and packaging waste collection, storage solutions or transport services for local producers.

The last part of the visit was devoted to a meeting with external stakeholders including with Annecy municipality and transport company representatives.  Mr Martin made a speech on eco-innovation and the link between air pollution from urban transport and health problems. He welcomed projects such as Urbannecy that can offer attractive solutions to social and health problems.

The head of DB Schenker, a transport company using the UDC emphasised the high competitiveness of the transport sector and the fact that the urban logistic/transport sector in medium-size cities is evolving extremely rapidly. Mr Bastian concurred that defining a sustainable and viable model for the UDC remains a work in progress. As he told the Dauphiné Libéré, the company is only now getting close to achieving financial stability.

“All it would take is 30% more business activity,” Mr Bastian said. With the recent decision by the Annecy local authorities to allow electrical vehicles to carry out deliveries during the afternoon, this could be the boost he has been waiting for.

For further information on LIFE Urbannecy visit the project's website or see this recent LIFE news.


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