New LIFE funding to trigger EUR 3.2 billion for a greener world


Channelled through the LIFE programme for the Environment and Climate Action, the European Commission is investing EUR 116.1 million in the latest integrated projects on nature, water, air, climate change mitigation and climate change adaptation. The funding will trigger an additional EUR 3.2 billion to support the implementation of environmental and climate legislation.

On 15 February 2019, the European Commission announced an investment of EUR 116.1 million for the latest integrated projects funded under the LIFE programme. The funding will support projects in Austria, Bulgaria, Czechia, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Portugal and Slovenia.

The new investment will help Member States to tap into resources to respond to citizens' concerns on air and water quality and halt the loss of biodiversity.

Karmenu Vella, European Commissioner
for the Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries

The LIFE programme has been running since 1992. The budget for 2014-2020 is set at EUR 3.4 billion in current prices. Introduced in 2014, integrated projects are large-scale projects that help Member States to comply with European Union (EU) legislation in five areas: nature, water, air, climate change mitigation and climate change adaptation.

The 12 integrated projects selected for investment have a total budget of EUR 215.5 million. It is estimated that EU co-financing (EUR 116.1 million) will be complemented by a further EUR 3.2 billion from EU funds (agricultural, regional and Structural Funds), Horizon 2020, national funds and private-sector investment.

Clean air for all

One of the beneficiaries is a Bulgarian project (LIFE IP CLEAN AIR) which brings six major municipalities together in a bid to tackle air pollution. In 2016, nearly 90 % of Bulgaria’s urban population was exposed to high levels of particulate matter (PM10), well above the EU average. Project activities include a pilot programme to replace highly polluting domestic heating systems and drafting national recommendations for the transition to low-carbon heating. The aim is to improve the air quality (in line with legal requirements) in the municipalities of Sofia, Burgas, Veliko Tarnovo, Montana, Ruse, and Stara Zagora, home to one-third of the Bulgarian population.

Air pollution is also a major problem in Hungary, with urban air quality breaching PM10 limits set out in the EU Air Quality Directive. Ten municipalities collaborating in the LIFE-IP HUNGARY project will install automated monitoring stations, establish a network of air quality consultants and eco-managers, and build capacity among decision-makers at both the regional and local level. Information campaigns will encourage citizens to change the way they heat their homes and travel around. With complementary EU funding, municipalities will be able to fund programmes for upgrading domestic heating systems and develop sustainable public transport and infrastructure for cycling and electric vehicles.

These two integrated projects have a combined budget of EUR 32.6 million, of which EUR 19.6 million come from LIFE. Altogether, around EUR 1.77 billion of complementary funding will be mobilised.

Protecting nature

Integrated projects in Czechia, Hungary, Portugal and Slovenia will conserve Europe's nature by supporting biodiversity policy and improving the management of the EU Natura 2000 network of protected areas. In addition to a combined budget of EUR 73.7 million, of which EUR 44.2 million comes from the LIFE programme, these four nature projects will coordinate the use of EUR 157 million of complementary funding from European, national and public-sector funds.

Targeting the climate

Four climate action projects with a combined budget of EUR 75.9 million (LIFE contribution EUR 32.4 million) will make use of a further EUR 778.3 million in complementary funding from EU, national and private-sector funds. Emission reduction is the focus in Finland, Italy and Slovenia, where the project activities include capacity building, zero-emission road transport and carbon sequestration with the aim of meeting national targets.

These are large-scale efforts: for example, the project in Finland is expected to directly achieve 60 % of the required emission reductions by 2030 in sectors outside the EU’s Emissions Trading System and foster a 15 % increase in public investments in low-carbon clean-tech solutions.

In Greece, a climate change adaptation project will build local and regional capacity to deliver the national climate change adaptation strategy.

The water of LIFE

In Austria and Estonia, two integrated environment projects are combining river-basin management with flood-risk management and nature conservation to sustain biodiversity and vital ecosystem services. The results from the Austrian LIFE IP IRIS AUSTRIA project will feed into a national implementation strategy aimed at securing the future of the country’s rivers.

Commenting on the recent developments, Commissioner for the Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Karmenu Vella said: “LIFE Integrated Projects are a perfect example of EU funds making a real difference on the ground, improving the quality of life of millions of European citizens. The new investment will help Member States to tap into resources to respond to citizens' concerns on air and water quality and halt the loss of biodiversity.”

For the next long-term EU budget 2021-2027, the Commission is proposing to increase LIFE funding by almost 60 %.

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Funding and LIFE