30 April 2018 A new technique for mooring posidonia grass (Posidonia oceanica) to the Sardinian sea bed is improving its chances of survival.
Human activity is killing off posidonia in the Mediterranean at an alarming rate. Meadows of the sea grass have regressed by an estimated 34% over the past 50 years. Their demise is bad news for marine biodiversity that relies on the habitat for oxygen, protection and nutrients.
As part of efforts to conserve the marine meadows, LIFE-funded project Res Maris has collected cuttings of posidonia grass that have come loose from the natural motion of waves and currents, and replanted them in the protected area of Capo Carbonara on the Sardinian coast.
Many of the cuttings survived the transplant and, one year after the intervention, they are growing again in high densities. The replanted meadows survived where their predecessors did not thanks in part to mats of synthetic resin that conservationists have used to moor the vegetation to the sea bed.
It will take years to assess the full impact of the restoration work on the posidonia meadows of Capo Carbonara, but early signs of recovery are encouraging. As the sea grass grows, the Res Maris project is shifting its attention to the cause of the threat.
Studies carried out by Providune, an earlier LIFE project, point towards mass tourism as the key culprit for retreating posidonia. An estimated 4 000 boats drop their anchor on the shores of Capo Carbonara each summer. The anchors uproot sea grass and fragment underwater meadows. It is crucial to inform visitors of which sites to stay clear of to keep the meadows healthy.
Tourists are not alone in needing guidance. Locals also damage their neighbourhood ecosystem by dumping garbage into the sea, growing invasive plants in their garden, and scuba diving in the wrong places.
"Our goal is to inform and train,” said project manager Laura Lentini. “Which is why we have launched awareness raising actions for tourists, residents and local schools.”
These outreach activities include a series of mini documentaries involving the local community. One is partly filmed and narrated by children at Sardinian schools. The documentaries are broadcast on the project website and YouTube channel.
Laura Lentini says that direct involvement of Capo Carbonara’s community has proved key in engaging the people most concerned by their message.
Conserving Capo Carbonara is a complex challenge. The Res Maris project will have to rely on public support for years to come to safeguard its sea beds, its coastal dunes and other threatened habitats, against increasing tourism, climate change and invasive alien species.
Strong ties with locals are vital to provide comprehensive, long-term solutions.
24 April 2018 The LIFE HEROTILE project is launching production of a new generation of roof tiles that keep buildings cool. After four years of LIFE-funded development, Italian tile manufacturer, Industrie Cotto Possagno, will start manufacturing the product in May.
What sets these tiles apart is their shape. Interlocking elements on the terracotta surface allow air in but trap rain out. Depending on the weather, the added ventilation can reduce the amount of energy needed to keep living spaces fresh and comfortable by as much as 50%. This is welcome news across the Mediterranean, where climate change is driving temperatures to new extremes.
The green design of the tiles was thought up by European industrialists and academics at the University of Ferrara in Italy. It was optimised in Braas Monier’s technical centre near Frankfurt, Germany, and field tested in buildings as far as Israel.
“Without the LIFE programme, we couldn’t have put together the partners needed to develop this technology,” said Mario Cunial, manager of LIFE HEROTILE.
Built on a family company running back to the 16th century, Industrie Cotto Possagno has inherited unique experience in working with terracotta. Today, Cunial insists that the quality of tiles is tightly linked to the value that they add to ventilation systems.
“Twenty years ago, our sector spoke about the permeability or the mechanical resistance of our tiles. Now we talk about their sustainability,” said Cunial. “Manufacturers agree that something has to be done about climate change, and LIFE has given us the chance to band together and bringing a solution to the market with a scientific and international approach.”
As of May, his company will be producing the first tile to meet Italy’s new green rules for public procurement. If adopted across the Mediterranean, Cunial says that the product’s impact on passive ventilation could cut 4 million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year.
With 5 billion square metres of roofs to tile in the rest of Europe and a dozen jobs working each production line, Industrie Cotto Possagno is also excited about the economic prospects of the technology.
Over the coming weeks, the factory line manufacturing tiles in Possagno, Northern Italy, will roll out its first 100 000 units in natural red and light grey. If they sell well, four more plants can come online to ramp up production to 100 million a year.
Find out more about how LIFE funding has helped Industrie Cotto Possagno close this gap to market by visiting the HEROTILE website.
18 April 2018 The LIFE programme has launched its 2018 call for project proposals. This year, we are investing close to €400 million in nature conservation, environmental protection and climate action. We are also introducing a streamlined application process to make it easier for you to request LIFE funds.
As a bottom-up funding instrument, LIFE provides applicants with flexibility to truly innovate. We support projects that are either tackling climate change, or protecting nature and the environment. Further funding categories are tailored to the scale and objective of projects, but their approach, duration, consortium and budget remain up to you to decide.
Most LIFE projects are so-called Traditional Projects that can be coordinated by any legal entity registered in the EU, including public institutions, businesses and non-governmental organisations. Many traditional projects demonstrate best-practices, run pilots, raise public awareness or spread breakthroughs in environmental practices.
Since 2014, the LIFE programme also accepts applications for larger-scale Integrated Projects, which implement strategic EU plans on the environment and the climate on a large territorial scale. These projects can also have regional, multi-regional, national or trans-national scope. Integrated Projects are open to public administrations or other entities large enough to coordinate complementary funding from private, national or other EU sources. Examples of Integrated Projects are available in LIFE’s recent IP factsheet.
As of this year, the LIFE programme has simplified its application process for traditional projects on Environment and Resource Efficiency, and Nature and Biodiversity. In this new, two-stage application procedure, candidates will outline their idea in a concept note by mid-June. Shortlisted candidates will then submit a full project proposal in autumn 2018. The LIFE programme has introduced this new approach to lighten your workload. This year, applicants for Traditional Projects on climate action will continue to submit single-stage applications by September 2018.
Applicants for funds will notably score higher if they address thematic priorities such as removing water pollutants through natural retention areas, developing better ways of sorting and recycling plastics, or measures backing the EU Emissions Trading System. The full list of thematic priorities is available in our Guidelines for Applicants for LIFE Environment and Resource Efficiency and Climate Action.
Overall, the LIFE programme is also interested in promoting projects whose results are sustainable, transferable and clearly offer EU added value. Our assessment criteria are listed in the evaluation guide contained in LIFE’s application packs for Traditional and Integrated Projects.
Among other criteria, we assess the technical coherence and quality of projects on the basis of how likely results are to outlast our funding. Dissemination activities should go beyond simply raising awareness of project results, replicating them ideally in broader contexts. Projects should also demonstrate a quantifiable environmental impact.
For further details, make sure to read our 2018 Guidelines for Applicants to Traditional and Integrated Project, contact your national contact point, join us in Brussels on 4 May for the 2018 LIFE Information and Networking Day, or stream the event live from our website.
18 April 2018 Working on a commercial solution to an environmental or climate challenge? You can now download LIFE application packages for traditional projects on the environment and resource efficiency , and climate action . Here are our 8 tips for getting your Close-to-Market proposal approved.
1. Show the impact
Clearly explain how your project will serve the environment. Make sure that its benefits are ambitious, credible and well quantified in the Key Project Level Indicators for environment and climate action projects detailed in your application pack.
2. Think sustainable
To help us assess the technical coherence and quality of your application, tell us how your project’s objective will outlast its funding. How will the products or services that you develop thrive on the open market? LIFE’s close-to-market projects must also produce a Business Plan as part of their compulsory deliverables.
3. Transfer & replicate
Outline how you will help replicate and transfer your results, notably to other sectors, regions or countries, beyond the duration of the project. Clarity will help your proposal meet the award criterion on sustainability, addressing continuation, replication, transfer potential in the evaluation guide for environment and climate action projects.
4. Follow guidelines
Refer to the application guide for environment and climate action projects when detailing the problem you address, the solution you propose, the team you pitch and why your project is worth funding. It spells out the criteria by which your proposal will be evaluated.
5. Pick your team
Describe the staff involved in each action and demonstrate that your partners are capable of taking on the challenges ahead and motivated to overcome them.
6. Plan ahead
Before writing, start budgeting. Make sure that each expense reflects market prices and that it is justified given its impact on sustainability and your business potential.
7. Get writing
Start writing your business plan as soon as possible for the duration of the project and the 12 months following its conclusion. A good business plan will help you and investors grasp your market, competitors, costs and sources of income, offering tangible milestones to follow your progress.
8. Read up
Read through the 2018 application guide, evaluation guide and other resources in the LIFE application package in your application package. For further tips, explore the work of existing LIFE projects, join our LIFE Information and Networking Day online and contact your national contact point with any questions.
All applicants for funding under the LIFE sub-programme for Climate Action must submit their full proposal by September. As of this year, applicants for LIFE Environment & Resource Efficiency projects will submit their proposals in two-steps, with a simple concept note expected by 12 June, and full proposals for shortlisted candidates in January 2019.
This year, the LIFE programme is investing close to €400 million in cleantech and climate action. Part of those funds are earmarked for bringing green solutions to market. If your business idea is on the brink of technical and commercial maturity, LIFE can help it off the ground. Past projects have notably helped SMEs conduct market studies, build prototypes and ramp up production.
17 April 2018 Solar is growing cheaper than fossil fuels, especially for smart electricity consumers connected to smart grids. With help from the LIFE programme, Cyprus is learning to roll out solar photovoltaics in ways that save money for both households and utilities.
The peer-reviewed journal Energy has recently detailed findings by George E. Georghiou and his team at University of Cyprus.
As part of the LIFE Smart PV project, Georghiou helped spread smart meters, flexible electricity tariffs and energy-saving advice to 300 solar-powered homes across Cyprus. One year later, their occupants had shifted daily habits, cutting energy bills, greenhouse gas emissions and reliance on the island’s costly electricity grid. The move heralds a welcome trend in Europe’s increasingly renewable energy sector.
"We want to increase the fraction of solar electricity that homes use themselves" said Georghiou.
At present, rooftop photovoltaics rarely supply more than a third of the electricity consumed by the homes that install them. This is true in rainy Germany and sunny Cyprus alike because the challenge for solar today is not volume but timing.
Homes typically consume a lot of electricity in the evening, when solar panels no longer work and fossil fuel plants fill-in for them.
To shift patterns in domestic energy consumption, LIFE Smart PV has worked alongside the Cypriot electricity regulator and distribution grid operator to introduce time-of-use tariffs. Bills started rewarding customers for doing their laundry or running water pumps at periods of low electricity demand.
The local utility has installed smart meters that monitor energy consumption in close to real time and share the data with consumers through a tailor-made app. The company also sent energy experts to draft plans with home owners on how to reduce their consumption and save money on bills.
These measures reflect new EU rules for protecting consumers and decarbonising the energy sector. According to Georghiou, households taking part in the study saved up to €20 a month and reduced the carbon footprint of their electricity consumption by over 10%.
"Households in the study also reduced their peak demand for electricity by around 3%" said Georghiou. This is crucial because savings on future electricity grid infrastructure will be shared by all electricity consumers, not just the ones with solar panels.
With follow-up Horizon 2020 funding for the TwinPV initiatives, and Interreg Mediterranean support through the StoRES project, Georghiou is now investigating how to scale up results using battery storage.
Already insight from LIFE SmartPV’s energy consumers is feeding into tariff discussions between utilities, policy makers and the regulator in Cyprus. This elusive data also offers rare guidance to law makers and the energy sector across the EU as it shifts to smarter and more sustainable electricity networks.
10 April 2018 The President of Italy, Sergio Mattarella, has awarded 17-year old Simone Borsetti the title of Alfiere della Repubblica for “improving the environment and health” in his home town of Ferrara in northern Italy. While still at school, Borsetti has helped monitor environmental strains on public well-being in the frame of the LIFE-funded Gioconda project.
The Alfieri della Repubblica recognises young Italians who have distinguished themselves in acts of solidarity, courage or for promoting the common good. President Mattarella attended an official ceremony at the Quirinale Palace in Rome on 12 March to bestow the award on 29 girls and boys and congratulate them in person.
Many recipients this year were commended for their commitment to promoting the environment, “both as a safeguard of the territory and as a development of cultural and social heritage” in Italy.
Borsetti was nominated on the basis of work that he conducted alongside GIOCONDA coordinators Professor Marinella Riemma and Dr Federica Manzoli. Their team collected environmental data and conducted public surveys on the perception of pollution at the Copernico Carpeggiani Technical Institute - Borsetti’s high school in Ferrara.
Results have fed into the Gioconda project’s efforts to help local authorities protect the environment and public health by involving young people in the decision-making process. In recent years, the project has collected data on air quality and noise pollution in Naples, Taranto, Ravenna and Valdarno in Italy.
By comparing the measurements with the risks that local teenagers perceive and their desire to invest in solutions, project participants are piecing together a tool for decision makers to better evaluate the costs and benefits of future policies.
Already the insight provided by young volunteers is gaining traction among local officials and government services. Proposals that surfaced from the work that Borsetti took part in have notably led the municipality of Ferrara to update its Urban Plan for Sustainable Mobility.
GIOCONDA has worked with the Copernico Carpeggiani Technical Institute for three years. The project has gathered support from Ferrara’s mayor as well as municipal and regional services to promote the environment, mobility, education and health.
Since receiving the award, Borschetti has been thanked in person by the Prefect of Ferrara, Michele Campanaro, and local Councilor, Aldo Modonesi. The prefect commended the quality of the teaching in Borschetti’s school where students, given adequate support, can “find the right motivations and the necessary stimuli to put their talents to good use."
The Copernico-Carpeggiani Institute will present GIOCONDA’s activities during the 2017-2018 school year to the public on 26 May. In the meantime, you can watch the Alfiere della Repubblica award ceremony online.
The European Commission has shortlisted six finalists from among 62 best LIFE projects and will collect your vote until 25 April to determine who will bring home this year’s People's Choice Award:
- Clean Air: A breath of fresh air
- PERHT: Green mobility hubs in historic towns
- Housing Landscapes: Making social housing climate-proof
- AIRUSE: Cleaner air for Southern European cities
- URBANCOWS: A perfect balance between urban beaches, lagoons and cows
- EKO-LIFE: Green up your life by eating and moving differently
The winner will be announced alongside this year's laureates for nature conservation, environmental technologies and climate action at the LIFE Awards Ceremony on 23 May Brussels, Belgium. The European Commission is holding the celebration as part of its high-level Green Cities Summit this year from 22-24 May.
6 April 2018 The LIFE programme is now accepting proposals for Technical Assistance projects in both sub-programmes for Environment and Climate Action.
These projects provide, by way of action grants, financial support to help applicants prepare integrated projects. Applications are open until 8 June 2018 at 16:00 Brussels local time.
Calls for traditional, Preparatory and Integrated Projects are provisionally expected to be launched on 18 April.
2 April 2018 Man-made s
helters in Spain and Portugal are salvaging thousands of rabbits and the ecosystems that depend on them.
Wild rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) once covered the Iberian peninsula in their millions, earning Spain its name, which derives from the Phoenician for “Land of Rabbits”. Today, populations in the wild have dwindled in some parts to below one individual per hectare. The decline is depriving the region’s countryside of one of its signature residents and sending shockwaves up the food chain.
“Loss of habitat and recent outbreaks of deadly viruses are ravaging wild rabbit populations across Spain,” said Miguel Angel Simon from the Regional Government of Andalusia in Spain. He points out that their disappearance is threatening the species that feed on them too. The Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus) has suffered a particularly alarming decline. Back in 2002, it was arguably the most threatened feline on Earth.
In recent years, the LIFE-funded Iberlince project has introduced a shock survival plan, shipping thousands of rabbits from the southern coast of Cadiz and releasing them in Andalucia. To smoothen their relocation, Simon has overseen the construction of state of the art rabbit refuges.
“The problem is that rabbits tend to spend their entire life within 60 meters of where they are born,” said Simon. “Moving them over this distance is like if you went to sleep in your bed tonight and woke up in Tokyo tomorrow morning. If we don’t offer them shelter, they will really struggle to adapt by themselves, and may not survive until they do.”
To welcome their guests, conservationists working on LIFE Iberlince have dug rabbit holes in enclosed areas and fortified them with wood or concrete pipes to keep their occupants safe from predators. In times of need, Simon says that transport pallets have also provided handy short-term and cost-effective shelters for peaks in new arrivals.
“Rabbits hide in wood and branches exceptionally well,” said Simon. It allows them to escape from carnivores like foxes and hide from large birds of prey. The concrete pipes are also just wide enough for rabbits to burrow in, but too narrow for predators to follow.
As the rabbit population grows, its offspring is allowed out of the enclosure to recolonise the surrounding neighbourhood. Over the past five years, the project has released over 40 000 rabbits on private land and natural parks in Andujar, Cardeña and Doñana in southern Spain.
Simon says that the long-term survival of these colonies hinges on how well they respond to future waves of disease. Still, surrounding ecosystems are already feeling the benefits of their return, with Iberian lynx numbers rising from under 100 individuals to well over 500 in 2017. If these rates can be maintained, the species could even have its endangered status reviewed as early as 2025.