LIFE is the EU’s financial instrument to support environmental and nature conservation projects. It aims to support the development, implementation, monitoring, evaluation and communication of EU environment and climate action legislation and policy, in particular, the priorities of the EU’s Environment Action Programme to 2020. Since its launch in 1992, LIFE has contributed with around €3.1 billion to environmental protection in Europe and supported 3 954 projects.
The LIFE+ programme, which ran from 2007 to the end of 2013, had a budget of just over €2.1 billion. For the next funding period, 2014-2020, the new LIFE Programme, ‘Environment and Climate Action’, will have an increased budget of €3.46 billion. The structure of the new programme is also different, with a sub-programme aimed specifically at climate change. This strand of the programme will contribute to the shift towards a resource-efficient, low-carbon and climate-resilient economy. LIFE is now made up of two sub-programmes: ‘Environment’, which has a budget of €2.5 billion, and ‘Climate Action’, which has a budget of €864 million. These sub-programmes will be divided into priority areas, with different thematic priorities:
LIFE Environment priority areas:
- ‘Environment and Resource Efficiency’, which is made up of thematic priorities of ‘Water’, ‘Waste’, ‘Resource Efficiency’ (including soil, forests and green and circular economy), ‘Health’ (including chemicals and noise), and ‘Air Quality and Emissions’ (including urban environment)
- ‘Nature and Biodiversity’, which focuses on the implementation of Directives 92/43/EEC and 2009/147/EC (Habitats and Birds directives, respectively); implementation of the Union Biodiversity Strategy to 2020; information, communication and awareness raising campaigns in line with the 7th Environment Action Programme
- ‘Environmental Governance and Information’
Climate Action priority areas:
- ‘Climate change mitigation’, which focuses on the reduction of GHG emissions
- ‘Climate change adaptation’, which supports efforts to increased resilience to climate change
- ‘Climate change governance and Information, which promotes awareness raising on climate matters and better climate governance, as well as contributing to the enforcement of EU climate legislation
Furthermore, as well as pilot, demonstration, best practice and information and communication projects, the new regulation creates several other types of project:
- Integrated projects that aim to implement on a large territorial scale plans and strategies required by EU legislation on the areas of nature, water, waste, air and climate mitigation and adaptation. These projects must mobilise at least one other relevant EU, national or private source
- Technical assistance project that help applicants develop integrated projects
- Capacity-building project that support capacity building in Member States in order to enable them to participate more effectively in the LIFE Programme
- Preparatory projects that aim to support specific needs for the development and implementation of EU environmental or climate policy and legislation
The co-funding rates have also been changed. In the last programming period, LIFE contributed up to 50% of the budget costs for most projects and up to 75% for priority habitats and species listed in the Directives 92/43/EEC and 2009/147/EC. The new co-financing rates are as follows:
- Nature & Biodiversity projects: 60% in general; 75% for projects targeting priority habitats and species
- Integrated, preparatory and technical assistance projects: 60%
- Capacity building projects: 100%
- For projects under the sub-programmes ‘Climate Action’ and Environment’, with the thematic priorities of ‘Environment and Ressource Efficiency’ and ‘Environment Governance and Information’: 60% during the first multiannual work programme (2014-2017); 55% during the second multiannual work programme (2018-2020)
For the next programming period, LIFE has also widened its territorial scope. From 2014 project activities can be carried out outside the EU and in OCTs as long as the coordinating beneficiary is based in the EU and the actions are necessary to achieve EU environmental/climate objectives and needed to ensure effectiveness of interventions carried out in the Member State.
Concerning water, LIFE projects support the management of water resources in the EU and the implementation of water policy, notably the EU Water Framework Directive, by addressing a wide range of issues, including river basin management, water scarcity, water/wastewater management (households and industry) and improving groundwater quality. Out of the 3 954 project co-funded so far, 460 have focused exclusively on water, with over €330 million allocated. In fact, water is the second most tackled theme of the programme.
The new LIFE Programme will address water issues within the LIFE Environment sub-programme. During the 2014-2020 period, LIFE will support projects developing, testing and demonstrating integrated approaches for the implementation of plans and programmes in line with EU environmental water policy and legislation.
The thematic priorities for water include:
- Integrated approaches for the implementation of Directive 2000/60/EC;
- Activities for the implementation of Directive 2007/60/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council;
- Activities for the implementation of the programme of measures of Directive 2008/56/EC with a view to achieving good environmental status of marine waters; and
- Activities to ensure safe and efficient use of water resources, improving quantitative water management, preserving a high level of water quality and avoiding misuse and deterioration of water resources.
The LIFE Programme is open to public and private sector applicants that can implement projects both alone or in partnership.