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News: July 2017

Reducing urban risks from extreme weather events

Photo: Justin Toland/NEEMOPhoto: Justin Toland/NEEMO

31 July 2017LIFE projects help advance cities' leading role in taking concrete actions to tackle climate change. That was one of the conclusions of the recent LIFE platform meeting on climate action in urban areas, which took place in Barcelona.

One example comes from the insurance industry, where the Italian project LIFE DERRIS is helping municipalities and smaller businesses to become better able to cope with climate change.

Insuring against climate risks

The project is led by the insurance company, Unipol. Marjorie Breyton of Unipol: “We know that almost 7 million Italians are exposed to risks. More than 80% of municipalities are in areas with risks, and in more than 50% of cases industrial districts are in areas at risk.”

“When extreme weather events occur, the main costs are borne by the state. Some studies have shown that in the last 50 years it cost almost 3 billion euros a year to the Italian state. This is a situation that is not sustainable in the coming years.”

What is LIFE DERRIS doing?

LIFE DERRIS is tackling these issues in four ways:

  • Testing new models of public-private partnership
  • Transferring knowledge about risk management, risk prevention and emergency prevention to a wider audience
  • Creating a tool that will be accessible to all small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in Italy to help them to access their risks and to know what actions they can undertake to be better prepared and to limit the damage in case of extreme weather events. This 'Climate Risk Assessment and Management' (CRAM) Tool is being tested by 30 SMEs in Turin's industrial district
  • Creating an innovative financial instrument to help public authorities and SMEs to become more resilient.

One of the main aims of this LIFE project is to figure out how to better distribute the climate change risks between the public and private sectors. Marjorie Breyton: “The insurance industry has a triple role as risk carriers, institutional investors and risk managers. The public sector is important because they have the climate data, they know the territory and they govern the territory.” LIFE DERRIS sees partnership between the public sector, SMEs and insurance companies as crucial to improving urban adaptation processes, boosting climate change resilience and reducing insurers' exposure to risk.

EU action

“At EU level, insurance frameworks are very different in different Member States,” said Sandro Nieto, a policy officer in the European Commission's DG Climate Action. “We have commissioned a study to see how insurance can increase resilience to climate change.”

The Commission is discussing with stakeholders, such as the LIFE DERRIS project, how it can work more with insurers on this issue.

To download a copy of Marjorie Breyton's presentation at the platform meeting, click here.


Join the LIFE side event in the 2017 EIP Water conference!

Photo: BIOSUR (LIFE11 ENV/IT/000075)Photo: BIOSUR (LIFE11 ENV/IT/000075)

28 July 2017How can we ensure that our water sources are clean and secure? What are the most sustainable ways of treating wastewater? How can we reduce the multiple environmental and socioeconomic impacts of wastewater management? What are the most innovative technologies to valorise sewage by-products?

These questions and many others in the area wastewater management will be addressed at the LIFE sided event, 'The LIFE programme: funding opportunities & innovative solutions on wastewater treatment'.

The event is being organised in the framework of the 2017 conference of the European Innovation Partnership on Water.  It will take place on 26 September at 2pm in Porto, Portugal.

The aim is to showcase and disseminate a selection of the latest and most replicable solutions developed by LIFE in the field of wastewater treatment. It will include presentations on the programme’s topics in the water sector for the following years as well a slot on LIFE funding opportunities and future call for projects.

This technical event is of interest to:

  • Investors and stakeholders in the water sector in search of innovative and marketable solutions to reduce the environmental impact of water and wastewater treatment; and
  • Potential applicants to the LIFE call for projects.

The European Innovation Partnership on Water (EIP Water) is an EU initiative aiming to facilitate the development and exchange of innovative solutions in the European water sector. At the same time, the EIP Water supports the creation of market opportunities for these innovations, both inside and outside of Europe.

The annual conference of the EIP Water is one of the largest events on water in Europe and brings together the most relevant public and private-sector professionals in the water sector. The 2016 edition was attended by some 700 delegates from private companies, investors, public authorities and research institutions, all in an excellent position to use and replicate the solutions developed by LIFE on water.

Registration can be made in this link. The number of places is limited.

The draft agenda can be found here.

Barcelona platform shows need for urban climate action

LIFE platform meeting in Barcelona on urban climate actionPhoto: Justin Toland/NEEMO

27 July 2017A recent LIFE platform meeting in Barcelona on urban climate action gave 33 participating LIFE projects a great networking opportunity and produced important lessons relating to policy, stakeholder engagement and project replicability.
Projects and other expert delegates were split into four working groups, covering the following topics:

  • Implementing sustainable energy and climate plans– promoting the Covenant of Mayors Initiative
  • Urban climate action meets nature conservation and biodiversity
  • Innovative climate action technologies – in flood protection, construction, bioenergy, and urban lighting and communications infrastructure
  • Partnerships for implementing urban climate action policies

Each working group made conclusions in three areas relevant to LIFE urban climate action projects:

  • Policy-related outcomes
  • Stakeholder engagement
  • Replicability, bankability and sustainability of projects

Links to policy

One of the key points made by the first working group was the importance of availability of data in implementing sustainable energy and climate plans. Free access to reliable data should be ensured at European level, at least for data collected with EU funding and/or for LIFE projects. The group also noted the need to connect local and regional databases to host best practices and support knowledge sharing. This can reinforce synergies with the European Climate Adaptation Platform. Mainstreaming adaptation across sectors and policy areas is a major challenge. In this regard, the group highlighted the importance of showing the economic benefit of implementing preventive measures and developing a broadly acceptable method to monetise the cost of inaction.

LIFE projects can provide useful input to the process of defining and implementing climate policy in an urban context. This is shown by the work of the ACT project, for instance.

Stakeholder engagement

The climate, nature and biodiversity working group raised some interesting issues around stakeholder engagement. Namely, that projects that involve key stakeholders from the very beginning and keep them in their partnerships have a higher potential of success. While noting the potential of public-private partnerships, this group also suggested that more incentives for small companies are needed.

The partnerships working group proposed deploying 'ambassadors' to encourage citizens to participate in project activities.

“Raising awareness in applying climate actions is very low cost and its impact is huge,” said one of the invited speakers from outside the LIFE community, Naguib Amin, Team Leader with the CES-MED project (Cleaner Energy Saving Mediterranean Cities): “For example, cities in Algeria finance the energy costs of schools and mosques. Because energy is so cheap they kept the lights on 24 hours a day. Just an awareness raising to the imams and the teachers to turn off the light has reduced the bill by 30%.” Similar lessons apply in Europe. “We are all in the same boat and we all have to work together,” said Mr Amin.

Replicating successful approaches

“It is easier to manage risk collectively, as done by networks of municipalities,” said the first working group. This ties in with EU initiatives such as the Covenant of Mayors which “gives cities the opportunity to commit and exchange experiences, to cooperate,” said Sandro Nieto, a policy officer in the European Commission's DG Climate Action. “From the Commission's side we are working to improve coordination with different levels of governance – with regions and Member States. We want to facilitate the participation of regions and that would improve the support that we give to cities,” said Mr Nieto.

Resilient cities

The implementation working group also highlighted the mobilising character of disasters. This tied in with a presentation by Esteban Leon, head of UN-HABITAT's City Resilience Profiling Programme (CRPP). “We take the city as a system: everything is combined,” explained Mr Leon. “I usually make an analogy with the human body: if a body is healthy you have more more chance to resist disease; if an urban system is healthy, it is more resilient when there is an extreme weather event, or even a terrorist attack.”

The CRPP is designed “to equip local governments. We also work with all the stakeholders in a city,” explained Mr Leon. “It's connected to the UN's New Urban Agenda. It is basically a way to empower local try to understand the complexity of a city.”

“It could be adapted to any kind of city in Europe,” said Mr Leon.

No city is an island

Bernd Decker is EASME's senior project adviser, Climate Action. In his concluding remarks to the meeting, he said one of the most interesting outcomes was the importance of the systemic approach to urban climate action. This extends to the interdependency of the urban and rural: “What urban is doing has a connection in the rural area and the other way round: We cannot drink any water if climate change is not addressed in rural and mountainous areas.”

This is where the concept of payment for ecosystem services could come in very useful: “If I want water at the coast, I will have to pay for forest management in the region of the headwaters. Not only in Catalonia, but in other regions of the Mediterranean,” said Gabriel Borrás, adaptation area manager with the Catalan Climate Change Office.

More useful lessons

All the presentations from the platform meeting can be found by clicking here.

To view video replays of the plenary sessions, click here: Day 1, Day 2 (first session), Day 2 (second session)


WASP-Tool creating local waste prevention buzz across Europe

LIFE10 ENV/GR/000622Image: LIFE10

18 July 2017The LIFE project, WASP Tool (LIFE10 ENV/GR/000622) has now made its waste prevention support tool for local authorities available in English, as well as Greek. The free web-based decision support system, dubbed WASP-Tool, was developed by the Harokopio University of Athens and partners to enable local authorities to select and implement optimal waste prevention programmes. It was tested by local authorities in Crete and Cyprus during the project, which ran from 2011 to 2014.

The tool aggregates data on waste volume and composition (biowaste, paper, plastic, metal and glass), priorities for municipal waste processing, a set of environmental, financial and social indicators, and the demographic characteristics of an area. Based on this source material, the tool can give users a clear picture of the likely effectiveness of different strategies, and prioritises waste prevention actions according to the local conditions.

Although targeted primarily at local authorities, the WASP-Tool can be used by anyone – with or without waste management experience. The English language version will help transfer the project’s approach to other parts of Europe.
The WASP-Tool can be downloaded free-of-charge from the project’s website. More information about the project can also be found on the website, including details of its public awareness campaigns on the importance of reducing household waste and ways to achieve this.

Regional platform meeting gives fresh insight into project risks


18 July 2017A regional platform meeting for LIFE projects from Ireland and the UK has given new insight into managing project risks. The meeting, which took place in Cambridge on 8 June 2017, was hosted by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and attended by representatives of all current LIFE projects in the two countries, as well as national authorities, including DEFRA, JNCC and Natural England (UK) and DCCAE (Ireland), and staff from the LIFE Unit of the European Commission.

The projects QUARTERBACK for LIFE (LIFE13 ENV/UK/000401), EcoCo LIFE Scotland (LIFE13 BIO/UK/000428), and ‘Unlocking the Severn’ (LIFE-Shad Severn - LIFE15 NAT/UK/000219) shared experiences and gave presentations on assessing risk consistently, managing and updating risk registers and assessing financial risks.

Participants then formed working groups to discuss risks they have identified within their own grant agreements and share approaches to risk management. The working groups concluded that the risk management tools used by Environment and Nature projects were essentially the same and could potentially be applied to any LIFE project of any size, both within the UK and Ireland and in other Member States.

However, it was also identified that up to one-third of the projects did not have a formal risk management system in place and that there was a need for guidance. As a result, the UK/IE Monitoring Team will produce a brief guidance document on risk management in LIFE projects, based on the results of the platform meeting. This guidance could be applicable to any LIFE project and so will be shared with all regional monitoring teams for dissemination to projects across the EU.

Presentations from the platform meeting are available by clicking the following link.
For more information about the platform meeting download the agenda.

Circular Italian project turns livestock waste into a resource

Photo: LIFE12  ENV/IT/000671Photo:LIFE12 ENV/IT/000671

13 July 2017The LIFE-OPTIMAL2012 project (LIFE12 ENV/IT/000671) has officially inaugurated Biogas Wipptal, a pioneering plant in the South Tyrol region of Italy that converts livestock waste into renewable energy and a natural fertiliser.

The biogas plant, which is located in Val di Vizze, takes manure and slurry from 62 livestock farmers in the High Valley of Isarco. Since becoming operational one year ago, Biogas Wipptal has converted over 30 000 tonnes of livestock waste into 4 million kilowatts of renewable electricity and an identical amount of thermal energy, which is used to dry the digestate. The end product is a natural and odourless solid or liquid fertiliser that can be used by orchards and vineyards in the South Tyrol. This fast-acting fertiliser can rapidly supply nutrients to plants, reducing the entry of nitrates into groundwater and the nitrogen load per hectare of agricultural land. Its use can thus help farmers to comply with EU legislation such as the Nitrates Directive and the Water Framework Directive.  

The new facility has saved 900 tonnes of oil equivalent in its first year of operation and is ramping up to full capacity in the next few months (it currently operates at 50% capacity).

Biogas Wipptal’s innovative approach was recognised at the Ecomondo Fair in Rimini, Italy in November 2016, where it won the Sustainable Development Award in the ‘Energy from Renewable Sources’ category. The award was given for "creating an entirely innovative industrial project in the spirit of a circular economy with high potential for diffusion".

Speaking at the inauguration ceremony on 10 July 2017, Christian Strasser, Deputy Head of the LIFE Unit, said: “The LIFE-OPTIMAL2012 project shows that the European Commission is supporting innovative ideas in the dairy farming sector. By turning manure into energy and fertiliser it makes material the circular economy concept. This is an environmentally-friendly solution for livestock farmers with a high replication potential across Europe and beyond.”

Also present at the inauguration of the plant was Giuseppe Francesco Marinello, President of the Environment Commission in the Italian Senate, who said: “The Wipptal biogas model for livestock waste management is a virtuous example of the circular economy. It is a solution that can be exported to different agricultural areas that need to protect nature, tourism and the local economy. The plant is a reality in line with future European environmental policies and demonstrates how innovation and technology play a key role today to safeguard Italy’s precious biodiversity."

The LIFE project’s approach is unique in Italy, said Angelo Baronchelli, vice-president of the Italian Biogas Consortium: “It is a large plant that transforms livestock manure from small breeders into electricity, in an area with a high environmental and touristic interest and value. That is why we believe that the solutions and practices adopted may also be of interest to other territories struggling to balance the environmental and economic sustainability of agriculture and livestock farming."

New flyway action plan for Egyptian vulture

Photo: LIFE 10 NAT/BG/000152/T.ProhlPhoto: LIFE 10 NAT/BG/000152/

11 July 2017The LIFE project Return of the Neophron (LIFE 10 NAT/BG/000152) has published a Flyway Action Plan for the Conservation of the Balkan and Central Asian Populations of the Egyptian Vulture Neophron percnopterus (EVFAP).

This LIFE project initiative makes a significant contribution to the implementation of the international Memorandum of Understanding on the Conservation of Migratory Birds of Prey in Africa and Eurasia (Raptors MoU) under the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS).  The plan will be an important catalyst for future conservation of the species beyond the EU, something that will directly benefit breeding populations of the Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus) in Europe.

Return of the Neophron is improving the conservation status of the Egyptian vulture in Greece and Bulgaria, by securing the protection of the species in Natura 2000 network sites. The Flyway Action Plan represents a key project action designed to promote future conservation efforts.

Project beneficiary, the Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds, initiated the Flyway Action Plan in close collaboration with the CMS Raptors MoU. The EVFAP was launched at a workshop held in Sofia in 2015, attended by scientists, conservationists and authorities from 33 countries. Following the publication of a first draft, a month-long public consultation took place at the beginning of this year, focusing on key stakeholder groups, namely national governmental authorities, private sector power and utility companies and conservation organisations.

The Flyway Action Plan addresses the major threats encountered along the Egyptian vulture’s migratory flyway, from the Balkans and Central Asia into the Middle East and Central Africa. It aims to raise awareness and promote the exchange of information concerning the impact of economic activities on the conservation status of the Egyptian vulture. This will provide a framework for long-term research and monitoring, help countries outside the EU to designate protected areas, increase coordination of NGO initiatives and help establish new partnerships with business in the agriculture and energy sectors.

The EVFAP aims to significantly reduce Egyptian vulture mortality over the entire flyway, enhance the size and productivity of breeding populations, and ensure effective implementation of theaction  plan by all relevant countries over the next 10 years. This will help improve the conservation status of the species in the long term.
The EVFAP has been incorporated into the ‘Multi-species Action Plan to Conserve African-Eurasian Vultures (Vulture MsAP), which is being presented at the 12th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the CMS in Manilla (Philippines) in October 2017.

For more information about Return of the Neophron, see the LIFE project’s website.

New Celtic Seas Information Portal provides MSFD information

The Celtic Seas Partnership LIFE projectCeltic Seas logo

06 July 2017The Celtic Seas Partnership LIFE project (LIFE11/ENV/UK/392) has launched an Information Portal for the Celtic Seas. The portal enables users to find relevant data and information about the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD), which seeks to more effectively protect the marine environment across Europe.

The Celtic Seas is one of the designated MSFD regions and includes parts of the open Atlantic west of Ireland and Scotland, shallow seas surrounded by land in the Irish Sea and west of Scotland, numerous sea lochs and large estuaries such as the Shannon, Severn and Solway Firth.

The LIFE project, which was led by WWF-UK along with project partners the Natural Environment Research Council, SeaWeb Europe, the University of Liverpool and the Eastern and Midland Regional Assembly in Ireland, brought together stakeholders from across the Celtic Seas in order to set up collaborative and innovative approaches to managing the marine environment.

A major outcome of the project was the development of a web-based portal by the British Oceanographic Data Centre (BODC). The portal comprises two parts: a data catalogue for users to find datasets relevant to the 11 MSFD Descriptors and a resource library for MSFD-related websites, articles and reports. The data catalogue is a signposting service that provides the user with links to 363 discovery metadata records as well as links to view and download any available services.

For ease of use, datasets are grouped by Descriptor and on each Descriptor page by MSFD Criteria and Indicator (based on the EC 2010 Commission Descriptor Decision). The user can also filter on country of origin and where datasets are formally used as a Member States’ MSFD assessment. This information is largely not in the public domain and thus previously unknown for many datasets.

The resource library area provides easy access to 283 websites, reports and articles relevant to MSFD and the Celtic Seas. For further information, contact Gaynor Evans:

Italian LIFE project tagging raptors in Sicily gets national media

The Bonelli eaglePhoto:LIFE14 NAT/IT/001017

04 July 2017The LIFE ConRasi project (LIFE14 NAT/IT/001017) made the news recently when a team of Italian and Spanish ornithologists working in in Sicily attached GPS transmitters to eight young eagles to monitor them and help put an end to poaching.

In articles published on 17 June, the national newspapers La Repubblica and Il Corriere della Sera applauded the work of the LIFE ConRasi project describing it as, “the most effective safeguard operation of the wonderful predator,” the Bonelli eagle (Aquila fasciata). Extinct across mainland Italy, the Bonelli eagle only survives in Sicily.

Sicily represents a key area for three species listed in Annex I of the Birds Directive: the Bonelli eagle, the Egyptian vulture (Neophron percnopterus) and the lanner falcon (Falco biarmicus). The three species are under risk of extinction in the coming decades due to various reasons including agricultural practices and poaching. The overall goal of the LIFE ConRaSi project is to improve the reproductive success of the three species of raptors by carrying out habitat improvement measures. The aim is to increase the number of nesting pairs and their area of distribution.

As the Corriere della Sera explains, for the first time ever, “after years of monitoring,” the LIFE project has managed to equip the eight Bonelli eagles with rings bearing an alpha-numeric code that can be read from afar and a GPS. The young raptors (six males and two females) have been monitored since birth by the project for both scientific and anti-poaching reasons.

The tracking device will allow the team to follow them, analyse their behaviour, get to know their habits and preferences and provide data of the mortality causes to better tune the conservation measures. The GPS is also expected to halt or reduce significantly the collection of eggs and nestlings, which remains common practice despite being illegal.

For more information about the project visit the LIFE ConRasi website.

LIFE project welcomes condemnation of poacher by Italian Supreme Court

The northern bald ibisPhoto:LIFE12 BIO/AT/000143

03 July 2017The LIFE project Waldrappteam (LIFE12 BIO/AT/000143) has welcomed the recent condemnation of a hunter for the killing of one of the most endangered bird species worldwide, the northern bald ibis (Geronticus eremita).

In October 2012, two the northern bald ibises, named Goja and Jedi, were shot by an Italian bird hunter just 80 km from their wintering site in the province of Livorno (Italy). The hunter was condemned but appealed. Now the Supreme Court has ruled that the condemnation should be upheld, a decision that is setting a unique and significant precedent in the fight against illegal bird hunting in Italy.

The Austrian Waldrappteam project, which is reintroducing a migratory population of this ibis species into Europe after it became extinct in the continent 400 years ago, welcomed the news.

Waldrappteam project manager Johannes Fritz stated: “this condemnation at the Supreme Court is one of the greatest achievements of our project. It makes the northern bald ibis a flagship species against illegal bird hunting. Clear and consequent legal actions against such environmental crimes are required to secure the survival of endangered migratory bird species like the northern bald ibis.”

While the case of Goja and Jedi attracted much public attention with the hunter being sentenced to a 2 000 EUR fine and the withdrawal of his hunting licence, five more northern bald ibises were shot in Italy in the autumn of 2016 alone. Illegal hunting is the major threat for the released population, which currently consists of about 70 birds.

In order to deter poaching in future, the project is setting up and training a task force along the migration route in Italy and developing technical equipment designed to keep track of the position of the bird in case of an accident. The Waldrappteam poject is also advocating legal changes, for example to prevent the possibility of a perpetrator paying a small  fine to avoid prosecution under criminal law.
In May 2017, the Italian authorities published a national action plan to combat offences against wild birds which is in line with the objective of the LIFE project.  As Mr Fritz concluded, referring to the name of the Waldrappteam project, “according to the motto, there is ‘Reason for Hope’.”

For more information, visit the Waldrappteam project website.


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