LIFE - Legal basis

The European Commission manages the LIFE programme through its services Directorate-General for Environment and Directorate-General for Climate Action, and its Executive Agency for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (EASME).

Current legislation

The current LIFE programme was set up by the 2014-2020 Regulation that establishes the Environment and Climate Action sub-programmes of the LIFE Programme for the funding period 2014–2020. The budget for the period is set at €3.4 billion in current prices.

The LIFE multiannual work programme for 2018-2020 details the current funding priorities. It clarifies budgets by specifying what kind of projects can receive support within the sub-programmes for environment and climate action. In total, €1 243.81 million are earmarked for work on nature conservation and environmental protection, and a further €413.25 million for climate action.


The current LIFE programme has four objectives:

  1. Help move towards a resource-efficient, low carbon and climate resilient economy, improve the quality of the environment and halt and reverse biodiversity loss; 
  2. Improve the development, implementation and enforcement of EU environmental and climate policy and legislation, and act as a catalyst for, and promote, the mainstreaming of environmental and climate objectives into other policies and practices; 
  3. Support better environmental and climate governance at all levels, including better involvement of civil society, NGOs and local actors; 
  4. Support the implementation of the 7th environmental action plan.


The multiannual work programme for 2018-20 increases LIFE's budget for nature conservation and biodiversity by 10% compared to the previous work programme. In parallel, the total number of project topics in the environment sub-programme has come down from 87 to 42.

Another marked change from previous years is the introduction of a two-stage application procedure for traditional projects under the environment sub-programme: Candidates present a lighter outline of their work at the first step of the application process. They receive feedback on this outline and, if successful, they submit the full version of their proposal.

LIFE mid-term evaluation 2017

The European Commission's mid-term evaluation of the LIFE programme for the 2014-2020 funding period concluded that LIFE is delivering in line with set targets. There is evidence of a positive cost-benefit ratio when comparing funding to societal gains. For instance, it is estimated that projects funded in the 2014 call for proposals will produce a benefit to society of some €1.7 billion, more than four times the overall LIFE budget for 2014.

It was also found that LIFE is on track to be internally and externally coherent with relevant objectives. LIFE helps to make the application of EU environmental and climate legislation and policies consistent across the EU. The programme is also helping to exchange best practice, transfer know-how and make better use of project results. Integrated Projects show potential to boost the implementation of relevant Union legislation. 

The mid-term evaluation also highlights aspects of the LIFE programme which need to be improved, including simplifying application and reporting processes, increasing strategic focus and improving the targeting and coordinating of communications.

The results of the evaluation guided the discussion on the multiannual work programme (2018-2020) and will contribute to the definition of the next LIFE Regulation.

Documents and resources

Previous regulations and documents are available on the archived LIFE website

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