New LIFE for environment and climate projects
In June, the European Commission launched its first call for proposals for projects to be funded by the new LIFE programme 2014-2020. This year, a total of over €280 million is available, including €44 million for climate action projects.
“In the next seven years, innovative environment and nature conservation projects around Europe will receive more funds than ever before,” said European Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik, launching the call for 2014. “This will help achieve sustainable growth through investment in a resource-efficient economy and will help Member States and local authorities to implement plans and strategies in key policy areas like nature, waste, air and water.”
Between now and the end of the decade, LIFE will have a budget of €3.456 billion to invest, one-quarter of it in climate action. The multiannual work programme sets out the framework and topics for the first four years, until 2017, and the Commission will issue a new call for project proposals each year.
This is the first time LIFE has been divided into two sub-programmes, targeting environment and climate respectively, with funds specifically earmarked for actions to combat climate change. European Climate Action Commissioner Connie Hedegaard welcomed the ambitious new boost to climate projects around Europe: “This will help bring to life cutting-edge low-carbon technologies and scale up the climate solutions already out there. These funds will also help achieve the EU’s climate legislation and policy objectives.”
For the first time, LIFE project funding also will be provided through innovative financial instruments. The LIFE Environment sub-programme contributes to one such instrument, the pilot Natural Capital Financing Facility (NCFF), which falls under the Nature and Biodiversity priority area and which will help finance biodiversity projects, amongst other things, while the climate sub-programme contributes to another financial instrument, the Private Financing for Energy Efficiency (PF4EE).
Since it was launched in 1992, LIFE has co-financed some 4171 projects, investing approximately €3.4 billion in protecting Europe’s environment and climate. It is the only EU funding programme dedicated exclusively to these areas, and more specifically to projects that develop and implement EU environment and climate action policy and legislation. It contributes to sustainable development and to achieving the objectives of the Europe 2020 strategy, the 7th Environment Action Programme and other EU environment and climate strategies and plans.
As well as the climate action sub-programme, the new funding programme contains other novelties. For example, it will prioritise more than ever before projects that can be successfully replicated. Evaluation of previous projects shows that one of the best ways to ensure value for money is by generating examples and results that can be picked up and used elsewhere in Europe.
Four-fifths of the LIFE programme funding will go to projects, generally financing 60 % of total eligible costs. In the environment field, a range of ‘traditional’ projects will be supported similar to those financed under the previous LIFE+ programme, covering best practice, innovation and demonstration, and dissemination and information initiatives. The new programme highlights three priority areas under the sub-programme for environment: environment and resource efficiency; nature and biodiversity; and environmental governance and information, each with its own thematic priorities. The LIFE multiannual work programme already identifies specific project topics under each thematic priority. Projects addressing these topics will get extra points in the award evaluation process.
Up to 30 % of LIFE project funding will be dedicated to a further innovation: integrated projects. These will be specifically aimed at putting major EU environment and climate action plans and strategies into effect on a wide territorial scale, actively involving stakeholders, and aiming to leverage the mobilisation of additional funds for complementary activities.
Under the sub-programme for environment, the aim will be to implement the Prioritised Action Frameworks (PAFs) for Natura 2000, or river basin, waste or air quality management plans. LIFE projects should be catalysts for action, helping to kick-start activities, overcome obstacles and encourage the financing and political will for further progress.
The sub-programme for environment aims to develop and/or apply methods and technologies to respond to environmental challenges across Europe, focusing on the conservation of nature and biodiversity, resource efficiency and environmental information.
The climate action strand has three priorities: mitigating climate change, adapting to climate change, and climate governance and information. Projects will be selected exclusively on the basis of merit. Transnational projects are especially welcome, as cross-border cooperation is crucial for tackling climate change.
Projects to help adapt to climate change can cover a range of priority themes, including the cross-border management of floods and coastal zones – especially densely populated areas and coastal cities. Others focus on ‘mainstreaming’ adaptation measures into urban planning, building and management of natural resources; sustainable use of water; and mountain and island areas.
The Commission is also encouraging applications from projects for urban adaptation that take up the topics identified in the EU’s 2013 Adaptation Strategy such as green infrastructure and innovative technologies. These projects could be linked to the EU’s Mayors Adapt initiative, launched in March 2014 to help cities to prepare for the impacts of climate change.
Funds are already available for integrated projects for environment, as are operating grants for NGOs under both sub-programmes. As of 2015, both sub-programmes will cover NGOs and integrated projects.