LIFE’s large-scale integrated projects use many funding sources to tackle some of the planet’s pressing environment and climate problems. But they also fund off-shoot projects which propose complementary activities. LIFE IP-ZENAPA’s consistent focus is on biodiversity, bio-economy and climate action.
LIFE ZENAPA is a large-scale LIFE project in Germany and Luxembourg. It’s one of the so-called integrated projects whose size allows beneficiaries to receive and use funding from many sources, including the EU, national and private sectors.
ZENAPA has been working since 2016 to develop carbon-neutral zones in large protected areas in Germany and Luxembourg. These national parks, nature parks and biosphere reserves work as partners under the Institute for Applied Material Flow Management (IfaS) at the University of Trier.
"It's a very good possibility to put regional money into regional projects and to make sure the money stays here", explained Lars Temme from Der Nationalpark Hunsrück-Hochwald, one of the partners.
The European Commission aims to make the best use of allotted funds through these projects in order to increase their impact in agreed areas. Complementary projects should either have the same objectives as their integrated project in a different region, or be able to build on those objectives in the same region.
For ZENAPA, this means that every complementary project is assessed based on its ability to deliver in 2 of 3 areas: biodiversity, bio-economy or carbon-neutral activities.
“We screen proposals or set up new projects which have the same goals as ZENAPA”, explained Peter Heck, ZENAPA project manager. Thanks to this consistent basis for forming partnerships, “all of our partners understand the connection between the opportunities to create more ‘value per hectare’ – known as bio-economy – and biodiversity and climate mitigation. Climate protection is not in opposition with urban and rural development,” says Professor Heck.
Greenhouses on rooftops
Within ZENAPA, the GROOF project is an example of this. GROOF is run under another EU programme, INTERREG, as part of the EU’s cohesion policy.
It is currently looking for locations in north-west Europe where rooftop greenhouses can be constructed. The idea is to show how greenhouses on roofs can recover waste heat produced by buildings, and collect CO2 produced by people and building activities to grow plants. They can also reduce CO2 emissions because plants are grown and used in the same location.
“In these urban areas, we can make use of existing land to produce organic food from CO2,” says Professor Heck. Buildings which adopt this technique can make significant steps towards the same objective of the ZENAPA project: becoming CO2–neutral and generating support for the local bio-economy.
Following calls for participants, the GROOF team will test different roof greenhouse solutions on at least 4 pilot plants between now and 2021. Part of this process will be to consider any legal, financial and technical barriers to the scheme.
Strengthened bio-economy for city and countryside
While the GROOF project is exploring better use of existing urban structures, another complementary project kicked off in January to respond to rapid urban expansion in Leipzig and to see how the city and its surroundings can mutually benefit.
Forecasts based on federal government figures suggest that Leipzig will continue to be Germany’s fastest-growing city in the next decade. Such growth is set to have big impacts on the region and its resources.
In recognition of this, the IfaS institute at Trier University and Leipzig city are running the WERTvoll project. WERTvoll is a city-rural partnership looking to build a new cooperative land-use strategy. The goal is to generate greater demand for regional products and services, help the city reach its climate targets, and make better use of regional resources.
A consortium of partners including the Leipzig water body and the Schweisfurth Foundation are laying down plans together with small neighbouring villages. Part of the work will cover how to identify gaps to strengthen the local bio-economy as part of the compensation owed when new residential areas are developed.
ZENAPA makes sure that approval for projects funded from other sources, such as the European Regional Development Fund (EFRE in German), can guarantee biodiversity, bio-economy or carbon-neutral benefits. Examples include a project to improve heating systems in the district, and another to convert a former industrial site into a zero emissions residential area.
ZENAPA’s activities continue to gain regional support from authorities. Thanks to the fundraising efforts of climate change manager Christoph Benkendorff, for example, €238 500 in funding was awarded in January to Rhaunen (Rhineland-Palatinate) by the regional secretary of state for the environment. This will fund new low-energy street lighting, the installation of a biomass heating system for a local school, and other local community energy-saving projects.