Investing in our countryside
Nature is the bedrock of a green economy and any sustainable future. It makes our air cleaner, reduces the danger of floods, restores our ecosystems, and helps fight climate change. Innovative financial instruments can trigger more private and public investment needed to keep our countryside healthy and productive in the long run.
Integrated LIFE projects (IPs) are good examples of such innovative green financing. Creating a new stream within the EU LIFE programme for the environment, nature conservation and climate action, IPs were introduced to help Member States comply with key EU legislation in four areas: nature, water, air and waste.
The main feature of these projects is their all-encompassing approach: they involve many stakeholders and promote the use of at least one other funding source, be it EU, national or private.
By integrating environment into other areas, such as agriculture, fisheries and Structural Funds, LIFE IPs will be "contributing to the objective of mainstreaming environmental issues across all policy areas", according to Daniel Calleja Crespo, the Commission's Director-General for Environment,
Essentially, they also show that business and nature protection can go hand in hand. The first six IPs include three nature projects which aim to improve the management of environmentally protected Natura 2000 sites. These have a combined budget of €56.3 million, of which €33.3 million is funded by the EU. The projects can facilitate the coordinated use of €393 million of complementary funding through other available EU funds.
First nature projects
Belgium's BNIP project will implement Prioritised Action Framework targets for the Natura 2000 network in Belgium, through improved co-operation, and capacity-building between the Flemish, Walloon and federal authorities. The aim is to improve stakeholder involvement and to develop integrated site-management plans and better monitoring.
In Italy, LIFE IP GESTIRE 2020 will create an integrated management structure for the Natura 2000 regional network in Lombardy. This should make biodiversity conservation actions more effective – for example, by tackling invasive alien species – and will help to better achieve the objectives set out in the Habitats and Birds Directives.
FRESHABIT aims to improve the ecological status, management and sustainable use of freshwater habitat Natura 2000 sites in Finland. It will revive populations of the freshwater pearl mussel (Margaritifera margaritifera), a key indicator species, and develop new ways of assessing the status of their habitats. "The project will scale up freshwater conservation actions to a level we have not seen in Finland before," said Timo Tanninen, Director General of the Department of the Natural Environment at Finland's Ministry of Environment.