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News: September 2017

Member States to benefit from over €222 million investments for environment, nature and climate action

over €222 million investments for environment, nature and climate action

28 September 2017The European Commission has approved an investment package of €222 million from the EU budget to support Europe's transition to more sustainable and low-carbon future under the LIFE programme for the Environment and Climate Action.

The EU funding will mobilise additional investments leading to a total of €377 million going towards 139 new projects in 20 Member States.

Short summaries of each project can be found in this annex.
Read the press release

LIFE projects help take out ocean trash

Photo: MrgbPhoto: Mrgb

28 September 2017With the livelihood of three billion people at stake, world leaders are meeting in Malta next week to protect the seas on which jobs and food chains depend. The two-day Our Ocean conference will bring together 50 heads of state and government ministers to address the mounting strains imposed on Earth’s oceans by overfishing, pollution and climate change. Two LIFE projects have been invited to share their know-how.

In previous years, the EU-hosted event has helped pool insight and gain support from governments, non-profits and private companies. Meeting the threats facing oceans will now require more commitment from delegates across national borders and sectors of society.

"Forests are our planet's green lung, but oceans are its blue heart,” said Karmenu Vella, European Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries. “It is now up to all of us to keep this blue heart beating."

Microplastics

The impact of marine pollution was brought home to many this year with the discovery of microplastics spreading through marine ecosystems and human food chains. While monitors may not have previously grasped the spread of these contaminants, their origin is bleakly familiar. For decades, even the most environmentally responsible countries have struggled to prevent their plastic litter from drifting into the sea.

Photo: European CommissionPhoto: European Commission

Given the scale of the challenge, innovative solutions are urgently needed. EU-funded projects like Clean Sea LIFE have helped industry and the public reduce the amount of waste being dumped into the sea by appealing to the people most affected by it. The university consortium running the project has notably cleaned up Italian coasts by enlisting the help of marine enthusiasts, including beach goers and members of yacht clubs. Another promising technique has been to entrust parcels of the coast to schools and associations, empowering volunteers with a sense of ownership of the environment that they are helping to clean up.

Education has underpinned the success of many of the project’s efforts. LIFE funds have helped teach fishermen in the Mediterranean how to reduce the environmental footprint of their catch with simple tricks, like caring for nets and the disposal of fish remains. In return, fishermen are now helping to teach others about techniques that work well on the field, and how to adapt them to niche applications.

Blue tech

Grassroots responses can also tackle the problem upstream. The LIFE-funded MERMAIDS project is demonstrating a technology to prevent washing machines from releasing microplastics. When cleaned, synthetic cloths discharge fibres that are too small to filter out of wastewater. Because fish and other marine creatures ingest the particles, they spread toxic pollutants through the food chain.

Photo: LIFE MERMAIDSPhoto: LIFE MERMAIDS

A consortium of scientists, environmentalists and entrepreneurs is showing how a washing machine filter can catch these fibres before they reach sewers. Chemical additives could also be mixed into detergents to help maintain the fibres’ integrity.

These solutions reflect the balance of society, industry and the environment that is necessary to drive ocean conservation forward. In light of this crosscutting nature, the Our Ocean conference has invited environmental projects and companies ranging from traditional fisheries to Silicon Valley tech firms to meet policy-makers. In total 700 participants from 60 countries will join the discussion. Some will be pledging financial support, with €600 million already committed before the event opens. Others will be sharing expertise, making sure that any funds return the highest possible value on their investment. All will share the common purpose of conserving our oceans and the sustainable use of their resources.

 

Wireless solution to water wastage

Photo: LIFE SmartWaterPhoto: LIFE SmartWater

27 September 2017About a third of Europe's drinking water seeps away before it even reaches the consumer. Today, utility companies battling the loss have little access to the sort of smart technology that routinely flies planes, controls energy networks or assists delicate surgery. From January 2018, LIFE funds will help explore how remote-controlled motors for water valves can spot and contain distribution system leaks, in a project that could set new standards for water conservation.

Smart plumbing

Berlin-based tech-firm 3S Antriebe is connecting electric motors to 20 water valves buried under the municipality of Gouda in the Netherlands. As part of the EU-funded LIFE project SmartWater, these valves will automate key tasks in delivering  water to some 10 000 of clients of OASEN, the region’s drinking water company. Over the coming three years, the EU funds will help OASEN to test the remote-controlled motors, and assess how the motorised valves can expose leaks currently too small to detect. Such a breakthrough would offer welcome news to global efforts in addressing water scarcity.

All pipes leak

According to Jurjen Den Besten, an asset manager at OASEN, no plumbing network today is safe from the leaks that waste money, energy and drinking water. OASEN provides 750 000 customers with some of the most carefully conserved drinking water in Europe, but still loses 2 million of the 45 million cubic metres that it supplies each year.  Most of this is wasted by small, unreported leaks.

“Leaks are sometimes detected by customers,” said Mr Den Besten. “They call in and we send out an engineer to find the damaged pipe and manually close it off.” Left unchecked, small drips can damage expensive infrastructure and disturb ecosystems. Larger ruptures can flood a building with hundreds of litres an hour. In all cases, the longer it takes to spot the leak and close the valve leading to it, the steeper the bill and the more water is wasted. “If we could do it remotely, it would be quicker,” he said. But he admits that in an era of cryptocurrencies and smart cars, most of the technology at the heart of today’s plumbing dates back to the second millennium, with pressure pumps and gravity still carrying drinking water from our aquifers to our taps.

User-friendly motors

Photo: LIFE SmartWaterPhoto: LIFE SmartWater

“Within water plants, everything is automated,” said Axel Sacharowitz, CEO of 3S Antriebe. But beyond, automation is rare – and expensive, he adds. The novelty of the 3S Antriebe design is that automating valves in the network will no longer mean digging up pipes to access the interconnectors. The valve-controlling motor is separate, installed in a box less than a meter below ground level, but still able to open and close the valve below.

The separate motor box is not the only new trick that 3S Antriebe is offering. A battery and a SIM-card inside are also promising to reinvent water conservation.

Wireless wonders

The motors used by 3S Antriebe run on lithium-ion batteries – so there is no need for an external power supply, and no need to build switching cabinets in remote locations or drill pavements to lay cables.

Each battery lasts more than a year and can be easily replaced. This overcomes one of the major impediments to intelligent water supply networks. “Smart homes and smart grids can roll out because houses always have electricity available,” said Mr Sacharowitz. “This is not the case in water infrastructure.”

The motors have a record low stand-by power consumption of just 10 mW, which allows the motor to hibernate. This is where the SIM-card comes in.  In the event of an emergency, a call from the control centre can awaken the machine and open or close the valve in mere seconds, managing water flows with mouse-clicks rather than spanners.

Save more water

Jurjen Den Besten also sees potential for using this wireless technology proactively, to bring new sophistication to identifying leaks in the network. To track down small leaks, OASEN is segmenting its network and keeping tabs on the water flowing in and out of each section. Flow sensors on the new remote-controlled valves will automate much of the task, and allow the utility company to investigate its pipelines from the comfort of the control room.  It is working with graduate students from Delft University of Technology on algorithms that hunt down furtive leaks automatically. The software can run silently overnight, opening and closing valves like a puzzle game until it homes in on a punctured pipe.

“The sensors have worked well in the lab, but now we can show their merits in the field,” said Mr Sacharowitz. “That’s largely thanks to the SmartWater project. LIFE funding is allowing us to roll out the technology sooner than we could have without it.”  For Mr Den Besten, the hope is that leaks will become a thing of the past. “At present, all water networks leak,” he said. “But I believe that we can eventually build new ones that don’t.”

How it works:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JxU0-wgQWFU

Clean tech meets clean air

Photo: LIFE MałopolskaPhoto: LIFE Małopolska

26 September 2017Three LIFE-funded projects will take the stage this year at the European Clean Air Forum in Paris, France. The event brings together policy makers from across EU institutions, national governments and cities throughout Europe. Over two days, they will discuss with NGOs, academics, private companies and the general public how to reduce air pollution in the EU. As part of the event, the LIFE-funded projects Chimera, CLINSH and Małopolska Region will share their expertise in a session dedicated to business opportunities in the clean air sector.

The Clean Air Forum

Conference organisers said that concerns over air pollution have been a key driver of EU environmental policy since the late 1970s. Sustained efforts have managed to regulate, and reduce, air concentrations of carbon monoxide, sulphur oxides, lead, and other pollutants that harm public health. There is nonetheless scope for improvement. Over 130 cities in the EU still suffer from poor air quality, with pollutant concentrations above standard thresholds. As a result, air pollution remains the main environmental killer in the EU, causing over 400 000 premature deaths each year.

The Clean Air Forum will address these challenges in sessions focussing on air quality in cities today, the impact of pollution from the agricultural sector and the emergence of business opportunities in cleaning air further.

The LIFE-funded projects will share experience on these business opportunities from three very different backgrounds. Chimera is reinventing ways to dispose of chicken manure. CLINSH is reducing the pollutants emitted by ships on inland waterways. Małopolska has been helping households in southern Poland replace old stoves and solid-fuel boilers. What the three projects have in common is a proven track record in protecting public health and the environment, and a level of business acumen that could help other well-meaning initiatives grow into self-sustaining enterprises.

What to do with chicken farm waste?

Image: LIFE Chimera Image: LIFE Chimera

Chimera grew out of a commercial need. Chicken farmers spend serious money disposing of manure. Tro P Engineering, a tech firm in Chiaravalle, Italy, is building small plants that process this manure on-site. This is tricky as chicken waste contains toxic elements, including nitrogen oxide, ammonia and methane.

But it also contains the nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium needed to make compost. Managed intelligently, CHIMERA is transforming an environmental strain into valuable heat, electricity and fertilisers. To validate the technology on a commercial scale, LIFE-funds are backing a partnership with Renders&Renders, a Dutch chicken farm counting more than 200 000 heads.

Reducing pollutants from inland shipping

Photo: LIFE CLINSH Photo: LIFE CLINSH

The LIFE CLINSH project brings together regions, ports and energy experts to prepare Europe’s inland shipping industry for stricter air quality rules. Large volumes of goods are still transported to cities across the EU by navigable rivers and canals. Safeguarding inland shipping’s niche role in a clean air future means shedding its emission of pollutants. Partners across the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and the UK are testing off-the-shelf technologies such as catalytic converters, alternative shipping fuels and port-based electricity sockets that will power docked vessels, allowing crews to switch off on-board generators. These experiments will allow the inland shipping industry, and the authorities regulating it, to explore the upcoming energy transition before embarking on it fully.

Building the capacity to modernise boilers in Poland

Image: MalopolskaImage: LIFE Małopolska

In Małopolska province, the challenge is more social than technical. The region is beset by some of the worst air quality across the EU. The main culprits are obsolete household boilers burning wood and coal in poorly insulated building. Local municipalities want to modernise some 155 000 homes, but lack the funds and capacity to do. The LIFE Integrated Project Małopolska Region will help bridge this gap by providing loans and the resources needed to explain why air quality is important and how to improve it. Public education campaigns and a network of eco-managers will help municipalities and homeowners gain access to cleaner heating.

The European Clean Air Forum will provide an opportunity for these projects to network and exchange good practices with their audience and each other. It takes place on 16-17 November at the Paris town hall. Delegates can attend free of charge and are invited to register online.

 

Northern bald ibis project has illegal hunters in its sights

Photo: LIFE Northern Bald IbisPhoto: LIFE Northern Bald Ibis

22 September 2017An innovative LIFE project is working to protect the critically endangered northern bald ibis (Geronticus eremita) from illegal hunting during its annual migration this autumn. Led by the NGO Waldrappteam, the species reintroduction project LIFE Northern Bald Ibis - Reason for Hope is focusing efforts on the prevention of illegal hunting, collection of evidence and (when necessary) prosecution of poachers. This is in line with the logic of the EU Roadmap towards eliminating illegal killing, trapping and trade of birds.

Prevention

Waldrappteam reports that a total of 36 north bald ibises has just set off from breeding sites in Austria and Germany, heading towards a wintering site in southern Tuscany (the Natura 2000 site, WWF Oasi Laguna di Orbetello). Last year, at least five of the species were illegally killed by hunters in Italy on route to the site.

To prevent a similar situation this year, the project team has fitted geolocation devices to each ibis. Members of the team try to follow the birds during their migration, stay near them at stopover sites and inform regional game wardens and police about their presence.

Significantly, for the first time this year the project can call on the assistance of a task force of volunteers working along the migration route in Italy. This includes 500 members of the animal welfare NGO, ENPA (Ente Nazionale Protezione Animali) and members of FACE Italia, the Italian hunting and conservation federation, who will also be informed when there are northern bald ibises in the area. This additional support is expected to substantially bolster the project’s ability to prevent illegal hunting.

Collecting evidence

Photo: LIFE Northern Bald Ibis Photo: LIFE Northern Bald Ibis

Some of the migrating birds are fitted with so-called ‘dead body indicators’. These high-tech tracking devices send an alarm and location data if the bird is shot.

This allows a rapid response by the project team or volunteers to get to the crime scene quickly and ensure that evidence can be gathered to support prosecution of the poacher.

Prosecution (and conviction)

Earlier this year the Italian supreme court upheld the conviction and fine of a poacher who illegally shot and killed two northern bald ibises in 2012. While the fine was small (2 000 euros), the deterrent effect could be large, particularly as the perpetrator lost his hunting license and the conviction allows Waldrappteam to launch a civil case for damages against him. The project beneficiary estimates that each bird lost costs it 40 000-50 000 euros (the money invested in captive breeding and in monitoring on the migration route).

A lawyer and prosecutor involved in this pioneering legal action spoke at the annual conference of the European Network of Prosecutors for the Environment (ENPE), which took place recently in Oxford.

Did you know?

  • In 1504, the northern bald ibis became one of the world’s first protected species – thanks to a decree issued by the Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg
  • The species is classed as critically endangered by the IUCN, with a wild population of only around 500 birds, mostly based in Morocco and Turkey
  • Prior to recent reintroductions, the northern bald ibis had been extinct in Europe for more than three centuries
  • LIFE Northern Bald Ibis will establish (via reintroduction) three viable and self-sustaining northern bald ibis colonies migrating annually between Austria/Germany and Tuscany by the end of 2019

 

Applicants seek more than €1 billion in EU funding from LIFE

Applicants seek more than €1 billion in EU funding from LIFEFigure 1 – breakdown per thematic area
Click on image to view full size

21 September 2017The European Commission has received 629 proposals for environment and climate protection projects by the LIFE programme's deadlines in September 2017. Applicants come from all 28 EU Member States and request more than €1 billion in EU funding – four times the available budget (which is some €254 million).

Of the new proposals, 507 focus on nature conservation and the environmental sector, while 122 proposals address climate change (see Figure 1 – breakdown per thematic area).

More than 3 100 organisations spread across all 28 Member States applied for LIFE programme funding. The majority of these (56%) are private entities, a category that includes non-governmental organisations, as well as companies. The remaining 44% of applicants are public institutions. About 18% of all applicants are small and medium-sized businesses.

More proposals for transnational projects

Applicants seek more than €1 billion in EU funding from LIFE Proposals submitted in 2017
Click on image to view full size

The LIFE programme is based on a bottom-up approach: It is up to applicants to decide on the project duration and budget, and whether they would like to run the project on their own or join forces with partners from their own or another country. In 2017, 88% of the proposals were submitted by a consortium of partners. More than half of the proposed projects involve partners from different countries – a steep increase compared to last year's call for proposals (when only 36% of project proposals included a transnational element.

Next steps

Between November and next March, expert panels will evaluate the proposals selecting the best ones for funding. The European Commission will then inform all applicants in early 2018 whether or not their proposal has been successful. Project proposals will be revised and grant agreements prepared in spring 2018 so that the new projects can be launched from July 2018 onwards.

Link: 2017 call for proposals for LIFE action grants.

LIFE supports climate action in agriculture and forestry

Operation-CO2 Photo: Operation-CO2

19 September 2017Agriculture and forestry have great potential to help the EU meet its ambitious climate goals. Peter Wehrheim from the European Commission’s Climate Action directorate-general calls LIFE a “field laboratory” for developing and testing new methods and knowledge.

His colleague Simon Kay also emphasises the programme’s importance in this in-depth interview.

The policy background

Integrating forestry and agriculture into EU climate policy is a challenge. A new Regulation, put forward in 2016 by the European Commission, however, is set to fully include the land use sector in EU Climate Action policy from 2021. The proposed legislation establishes common rules on how to incorporate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF) into the EU's 2030 climate and energy framework.

In addition, the Commission has proposed the Effort Sharing Regulation to limit national emissions of GHGs in sectors not covered by the EU Emissions Trading System from 2021. This proposed legislation, a successor to the Effort Sharing Decision of 2013, covers non-CO2 emissions from agriculture (e.g. from enteric fermentation or fertiliser use).

Together with the EU’s Emissions Trading System, the Effort Sharing Regulation and the LULUCF Regulation aim to reduce the EU's GHG emissions by at least 40% below 1990 levels by 2030.

Committed to innovative action

Peter Wehrheim Peter Wehrheim, Head of the
Land Use and Finance for Innovation
Unit (DG CLIMA)

Given the significance of forestry and agricultural land use to reach more ambitious climate targets, the EU already supports climate action in agriculture and forestry through a raft of funding instruments and policies, such as the LIFE and Horizon 2020 programmes, as well as the Common Agricultural Policy (e.g. through rural development programmes and linking payments to climate-smart agriculture). However, the new LULUCF Regulation formally incorporates the forestry and agricultural land use sectors into the EU’s 2030 climate mitigation target as well. Consequently, LIFE and other EU instruments could do even more to support innovative climate action in these sectors.

These measures are all part of the strategy for meeting the EU's commitments made under the Paris Agreement, according to Peter Wehrheim, Head of the Land Use and Finance for Innovation Unit in the Directorate-General for Climate Action (DG CLIMA).

Monitoring and governance

Integrating GHG emissions from LULUCF into the 2030 climate and energy framework presents several challenges. "Firstly, it is important to have solid knowledge on the actual emissions," says Mr Wehrheim. This is complicated by the fact that agricultural land and forests not only emit (e.g. through deforestation) but also store carbon. Thus 'removals' (i.e. the GHGs sequestered in the soil and trees) must be taken into account when calculating emissions.

The difficulty in measuring the flow of carbon in and out of a large store (the carbon flux), such as the soil or a forest, is another issue. "This is a relatively small change on a very big number and it's quite a challenge to be able to measure it scientifically," explains Simon Kay, Senior Expert in the Land Use and Finance for Innovation Unit.

Simon KaySimon Kay, Senior Expert
in the Land Use and Finance
for Innovation Unit

In addition, soil and forests are highly susceptible to impacts that are not human related. An unusually hot, dry period, for example, can alter the way that soils absorb and release carbon, causing a change in the carbon flux. Consequently, the accounting system for GHG emissions and removals must be robust enough to cope with this change. The Commission is currently upgrading this accounting system and the methodology for Member States' calculations of GHG emissions and removals from LULUCF, which should make the existing rules "more fit for purpose for the next decade", according to Mr Kay.

Accounting challenges

Upgrading the accounting system and methodology has its own set of challenges. For example, forests' absorption of carbon is cyclical, depending on the age of the trees. "Basically, we can expect that forests absorb less or more in the past and in the future depending on their age," Mr Kay explains.

The carbon storage of forests can therefore increase or decrease without any changes to their management. The revised rules aim to take this into account. "We also forecast that there will be a decrease in the absorption of carbon dioxide in European forests in the next two decades or so, so we wanted to see what we can do to try to address that problem," he adds. The accounting system therefore explicitly encourages trees to be harvested when mature, so they can be replanted with younger trees that absorb more carbon, thereby balancing emissions with removals.

LIFE-Restore Photo: LIFE-Restore

Another issue is avoiding double counting of the emissions and removals from biomass. "These have to be calculated correctly across the whole accounting framework because biomass is used in other sectors," says Mr Kay. In the LULUCF proposal, they are accounted for when the biomass is harvested in forests, which is administratively convenient and relatively precise compared to doing so at a later stage, such as when a wood product is landfilled or incinerated. "That would make it very complicated to measure because tracing a piece of wood through the economy is very difficult," he explains.

The needs of agriculture

Agricultural land presents a different statistical challenge. Many Member States have good forest inventories, making it relatively easy to determine their carbon stocks, but only a few have measured carbon in soils and very few have this information at farm level. At EU level, the Land Use/Cover Area frame Survey (LUCAS) provides harmonised and comparable statistics on land use and land cover. "Member States are working with us under the current regulation to improve their systems for monitoring agricultural land," Mr Kay says.
"Ensuring there are regular, timely, cost-effective – and in some cases even free for users – datasets is fundamental, in order to be able to provide European-scale monitoring," he adds. Data is also vital for scaling up and promoting successful climate-smart agro-forestry practices.

Mr Kay points to the EU's Copernicus programme as a useful provider of data services for farms, cooperatives and farm advisory services, such as information on land use change, the cover type of a managed forestland, wetland areas and how farming is evolving. Furthermore, the INSPIRE Directive will help provide standardised environmental and geographical data. Projects working at farm or forest level, for example, will be able to build on these datasets and adapt them to more local circumstances.

LIFE's work on climate action

Photo:Green-Deserts Photo:Green-Deserts

The EU signed the Paris Agreement in April 2016 and consequently has set ambitious climate and energy targets for 2030 and 2050. A recent workshop in Brussels emphasised the need for the agriculture and forestry sectors to step up action to help meet the EU's goals.

It showcased some innovative approaches to climate action, illustrated by several projects supported by LIFE, Horizon 2020 and the 7th Research Framework Programme, and how they can help farmers and foresters take up climate-smart production methods. The agenda and the presentations from the workshop are available online.

The LIFE programme has already made a significant contribution to climate action, affirms Mr Wehrheim, and it is expected to continue to do so. For instance, it has helped agriculture and forestry meet environmental objectives, such as maintaining or increasing biodiversity, and improving air and water quality, as well as contributing to climate change mitigation and adaptation. LIFE projects are also important for developing and testing new methods and knowledge. Mr Wehrheim describes the programme as a "field laboratory", generating valuable practical examples that showcase how new ideas can work, which can then feed into policy at EU or national level.

One example of this innovative approach is provided by the Integrated Project, LIFE-IP ZENAPA, which is “scaling up investments in renewable energy that are compatible with local nature protection objectives," says Mr Wehrheim. The revenues will be used to increase and improve the potential of the local bio-economy in these areas, as well as to support nature conservation and related tourist developments. "This is developing more coherent land-use strategies in rural areas, taking climate and energy solutions and nature conservation objectives into account at the same time," he concludes.

More information about the Commission's policies and work on climate action is available on DG CLIMA's webpage.

Apply now for 2018 Natura 2000 Awards!

Natura 2000 Awards

15 September 2017The call for application for the 2018 Natura 2000 Awards, which honours leading nature conservation achievements, is open until 15 October 2017. Hurry up and send your application, and get the recognition you deserve!

As you know the Natura 2000 Award is dedicated to rewarding excellence in the management and promotion of the network and to raising awareness of Natura 2000 and its benefits to European citizens. It also contributes to the fourth priority area of the Commission’s recently adopted Action Plan to improve the protection of nature and biodiversity in the EU, for the benefit of its citizens and the economy.

The Award is open to any entity involved in activities related to Natura 2000. Local and national authorities, businesses, land owners, NGOs, educational institutions and individuals from all 28 EU Member States are eligible to apply for the five award categories: Conservation, Communication, Socio-economic benefits, Reconciling interests /perceptions, Cross-border cooperation and networking. In addition to the five categories prizes, an “EU Citizens’ Award” will go to the application receiving the highest number of votes from EU citizens in the course of May 2018.

The winners will be announced by the Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Karmenu Vella at a high-level ceremony in May, on the occasion of the European Natura 2000 day.

For more information on how to apply, please visit the website.

Bringing sustainable mobility to life on campus

Photo: Ed ThorpeThe new underground carpark
provides exact data on the number
of vehicles coming to campus
Photo: Ed Thorpe

13 September 2017To mark EU Mobility Week, we visited Erasmus University Rotterdam (the Netherlands), one of the partners in U-MOB LIFE, a project that is promoting sustainable mobility on university campuses through a new knowledge-exchange network.

A university issue

Sustainable mobility policies have typically been oriented to what cities can do, with some more recent attention on practices that private enterprises can introduce for their employees. However, universities are significant traffic generators in the towns and cities where they are located - large numbers of students, employees and visitors travel to, from and within campuses every day.

“Mobility can account for up to 50-60% of the carbon footprint of the whole university,” says Dr Giuliano Mingardo of Erasmus University Rotterdam. “We want to be one of the most sustainable universities in the Netherlands. So, if we can make a difference on mobility, the impact can be very large.”

A LIFE exchange project

Photo: Ed ThorpeA former overground carpark has been
transformed into an attractive green
space. Photo: Ed Thorpe

The idea of a LIFE project to promote peer exchange between universities engaged in sustainable mobility came from the Foundation Equipo Humano and the private environmental consultancy Novotec in Spain. They developed an initial partnership with the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (Spain), Università degli Studi di Bergamo (Italy) and Politechnika Krakowska (Poland) alongside Erasmus University Rotterdam.

Since the project began in July 2016, the partners have been working to identify and share good practices and to begin establishing a wider network of universities to work on sustainable mobility. To this end, the project has already organised the first European Conference on Sustainable Mobility at Universities, held in Barcelona in March.

Disincentivising car use

Erasmus University Rotterdam’s participation in the project is based on more than a decade’s work on sustainable mobility, which started with small initiatives to encourage bike use. Five years’ ago, it launched an ambitious new sustainable mobility policy that included new parking charges, reimbursement of commutes by public transport and the installation of new showers for people cycling to campus.

These changes were made as part of a major campus renovation, which included the construction of a new underground car park that facilitated the introduction of a payment system and saw overground car parks converted into green spaces or new buildings. Nevertheless, it still took months of difficult negotiations with both senior management and the employees’ union to agree the need for a charge and the rate.

“We do not have a baseline from when parking was free, but now we are able to monitor precisely the impact of our activities,” says Dr Mingardo. A €1 charge in 2013 was increased progressively to €2.50 by 2015. This helped reduce the number of parking transactions from nearly 65 000 in the final six months of 2013 to under 55 000 for the same period in 2015, a decrease of over 16%.

Further inspiration

Erasmus University Rotterdam is
one of 48 universities committed to U-MOB
LIFE's sustainable mobility initiatives
Photo: Ed Thorpe

Through U-Mob, Dr Mingardo is particularly keen to learn how other universities have worked better with local transport authorities, for example to increase services to university campuses, improve naming and signage or agree discounted prices. “We have also been inspired by information and communication activities that other universities have carried out, particularly towards students.”

The project partners are now developing training modules for sustainable mobility managers at the universities. The modules will focus on best practices for promoting cycling, public transport, walking and rational car use, as well as other aspects of sustainable mobility planning, such as stakeholder involvement and data collection.

As of this month 48 universities have signed letters of commitment – of various levels – to take part in U-MOB LIFE. The hope is that the energy and knowledge developed during the project will be enough to encourage sufficient engagement to sustain the network after the project’s end. This aims, ultimately, to make a long-term and widespread contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions associated with university campuses.

Visit the U-MOB LIFE website here.

Sign up now for LIFE wastewater treatment event at the 2017 EIP Water conference!

Eurosite meetingPhoto: BIOSUR (LIFE11 ENV/IT/000075)

12 September 2017The latest and most replicable wastewater treatment solutions developed by the LIFE programme will be showcased at a side event at 2 pm on 26 September of the 2017 conference of the European Innovation Partnership on Water. The conference is taking place at the Porto Congress Centre, Portugal.

The event, 'The LIFE programme: funding opportunities & innovative solutions on wastewater treatment', will include presentations on the programme’s topics within the water sector for the following years, as well as a slot on LIFE funding opportunities and the future call for projects. It will also address a range of questions in the field of wastewater management, including:

  • How 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?

The event is aimed at potential LIFE project applicants along with investors and stakeholders in the water sector in search of innovative and marketable solutions to reduce the environmental impact of water and wastewater treatment.

Initiative for water innovation

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. It supports the creation of market opportunities for these innovations, both inside and outside of Europe.

The annual EIP Water conference is one of the largest events on water in Europe, bringing 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, which are all in an excellent position to use and replicate the solutions developed by LIFE.

Register for the side event at this link. The number of places is limited.
The draft agenda is available here.

LIFE project contributes to key European COST Action conference

FutureForCoppiceSPhoto: LIFE FutureForCoppiceS

08 September 2017The project LIFE FutureForCoppiceS took part in the recently held final conference of COST Action FP1301 EuroCoppice.

This European COST Action (2013-2017) event in Limoges (France) brought together diverse groups to exchange knowledge, and develop innovative management and utilisation concepts and techniques, for modern multifunctional coppice management systems. Over sixty people attended the conference, which successfully wrapped up the COST Action activities.

The LIFE project shared with attendees the contribution it has made to the future of coppicing as a sustainable forestry practice in Europe. Project manager Andrea Cutini, of CREA-FL (Italy) was among the invited speakers to a special panel discussion held during the conference. The LIFE project team also contributed to other discussions and the conclusions of the conference.

Innovations on a traditional practice

Coppicing is a traditional method of woodland management, in which trees or shrubs are periodically cut back to ground level to stimulate growth and to provide useful wood, such as timber, wicker or firewood. A coppice is an area where this is the predominant form of management.

The LIFE FutureForCoppiceS project is demonstrating the sustainability of different coppice management systems. It is applying both new and existing indicators of sustainable forest management to a network of long-term experimental plots in southern Europe. The project will improve the knowledge base and help optimise sustainable forest management into the future, taking into account changing environmental and climatic conditions.

A coppicing renaissance

The organisers of the EuroCoppice conference and the panel discussion considered the event to be a tremendous success. Participants left with new knowledge and contacts that will be useful in the years to come, as they help shape the future of coppices in Europe.
Far from being an outdated traditional management technique, coppicing is undergoing a renaissance. This is because, through innovative management and the multifunctional utilisation of traditional coppice forests, coppicing still provides answers to the ecological, economic and social challenges faced by the European forestry sector. For example, it maintains biodiversity, benefits local economies and provides a source of renewable bioenergy.

For more information, visit the LIFE FutureForCoppiceS website

Detective Teseo goes barking up the beetle tree

On the scent of the trail! Photo: Emilia Capogna and
Sönke Hardersen

07 September 2017An Italian LIFE project has trained a dog to nose around hollow trees in the hunt for hermit beetles. The clever mutt named Teseo uses its great sense of smell to detect the odorous larvae of this protected insect.

The hermit beetle (Osmoderma eremita) is the focus of the MIPP project, which developed this non-invasive way of monitoring its numbers. With this method, the project team can keep track of the conservation status of the dead wood-loving beetle. Using man’s best friend saves time and doesn’t damage habitats or interfere with the insects.

A better method

Several dog breeds were considered for the task, but the project team opted for a golden retriever. The dog was trained to identify different odours associated with the presence of hermit beetle larvae by rewarding correct signalling. In the field, Teseo signals the presence of beetle larvae in a tree by barking, while looking alternately at the source of the scent and its handler.

Teseo has already proved his worth. He has a higher success rate for detecting beetle larvae (73%) than two people conducting traditional wood mould sampling (34-50%). Moreover, the dog was much quicker and posed no risk to insects living in the trees.

The MIPP team published a paper on their dog training programme in a special issue of the open access journal Nature Conservation. All the papers in this issue were based on contributions made at a European workshop organised by the LIFE project in Mantova in May 2017. They concerned new monitoring approaches for saproxylic beetles and other insects listed in the Habitats Directive.

Conservation detection dogs

“A conservation detection dog is a powerful tool for locating Osmoderma eremita and these results can be useful for other related European species of Osmoderma,” concluded the MIPP team in their paper.
Such trained dogs can be used to detect mammals, reptiles and birds. Teseo, for example, comes from a line of dogs trained to find illegally imported animal parts. The MIPP project shows that these dogs can also be useful for monitoring selected invertebrates in conservation projects.

Further information can be found on the MIPP project’s website

Choosing the optimum green transport route

Greenyourmove

06 September 2017The GreenYourMove (GYM) LIFE project's platform for calculating emissions is up and running. The platform consists of a new method for selecting the best routes from an environmental point of view for getting to your destination using all types of transport.

This research project is bringing together six partners from across Europe (Greece, Czech Republic and the Netherlands) under the coordination of the University of Thessaly. The online platform is part of its plan to develop navigational applications that are suitable for PCs, tablets and mobile phones. The main aim is to reduce Europe's carbon footprint.

An early version of the navigator was presented to Greek public transportation operators in April of last year ahead of the completion of the database of the platform.

The model's main innovation is that it takes into account the type of vehicles used in the partner country's transport network, along with the weather conditions, air-conditioning use, the condition of the roads, and the amount of users in the vehicle and its speed. In order to find the optimal route, it also integrates GTFS data from transportation companies

GreenYourMove participated in ESCC 2017, the 4th International 'Energy, Sustainability and Climate Change' Convention, in Santorini earlier this year. It will also be featured in the European Mobility Week 16-22 September.

For more information visit the project website: www.greenyourmove.org.

 

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