LIFE program: the European Union in defence of the environment

Towards the end of the 1980s, following environmental disasters such as Chernobyl and greater awareness of issues such as the ozone hole and global warming, the European Union began to plan the creation of a program that allow for the pursuit of environmental protection in a more organised and structured way than previously done. Thus, in 1992, the LIFE Program was launched, a financing instrument for actions in the environmental and climate field which, up to 2013, co-financed more than 5,400 projects with a total contribution of approximately 3.1 billion Euros. Moreover, during the current 2014-2020 programming, the goal is to contribute with an additional 3.4 billion Euros.

LIFE, the Climate and Environment sub-programs

The LIFE program is divided into two sub-programs: the “environment” sub-program (for which 75% of the available budget is earmarked) and the “climate action” sub-program (which commits the remaining 25% of the program’s budget). Let’s see together what the call foresees and who can participate.

The objectives of the LIFE programme

The 2020 agenda of the European LIFE program for the Environment and Climate Action, in force from 1 January 2014 to 31 December 2020, pursues the following general objectives:

  • Support for the transition to a resource-efficient economy, the protection and improvement of the quality of the environment and the interruption and reversal of the biodiversity loss process;
  • Improving the development and implementation of the European Union's environmental and climate policy and legislation;
  • Promoting the integration and dissemination of environmental and climate objectives in the various policies of the European Union and in the public and private sectors;
  • Support for environmental governance by stimulating the participation of civil society, NGOs and local actors.

Environment sub-programme

In particular, the actions that are financed in this area concern:

  • Projects in defence of Nature and biodiversity and in particular of those species or habitats that are recognised as endangered; projects receive funding of up to 60% which, however, can reach 75% if at least half of the costs estimated by the project are due to actions that improve the protection of natural habitats and animal species that are priorities for the EU ( these priorities have been defined in a series of pre-existing directives);
  • Projects that develop technologies, policies and strategies are promoted, especially if they are "close-to-market" (that is, if they are relating to economic activities and that can bring concrete benefits to them). They must improve the management and efficiency of energy resources, soil, water, coasts and marine environments and develop applications concerning the circular economy, urban environments and the management of industrial accidents that have repercussions on the environment. These projects receive up to 55% co-financing;
  • Development of good environmental practices at an administrative level and improvement of the level of information and knowledge on environmental issues. This type of project also receives a maximum co-financing of 55%;
  • Large-scale integrated projects, which generally involve regional or national, long-term (lasting on average between 6 and 10 years), with very substantial budgets (the average funding disbursed is around 10 million Euros), c-financed up to 60%. They can cover all environmental issues;
  • Preparatory projects that deal with certain technical-legal issues (on topics indicated by the European authorities themselves) and technical assistance projects for those who are preparing an integrated project, given their complexity, are also eligible for funding. Both types can be co-financed up to 60%.

Climate Action sub-program

Climate Action sub-program provides funding for the following type of projects:

  • Projects for the mitigation of the effects of climate change that provide applicable solutions that improve energy efficiency, the use of renewable energies, the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and pollutants and that have, in general, a positive effect on European legal and economic strategies on this issue. Projects can be co-financed up to 55%;
  • Projects for adaptation to the effects of future climate change, it means to provide tools to combat phenomena such as fires, droughts, floods, in order to safeguard not only the environment but also the economic sectors that are affected by these phenomena. These projects can be co-financed up to 55%;
  • Development of administrative good practices of climate change management and improvement of the level of information and awareness on related issues. This type of project also receives a maximum co-financing of 55%;
  • Also for this sub-program, funds for integrated, preparatory and technical assistance projects are planned, with the same characteristics as the similar projects under the "Environment" sub-program;

Who can make a proposal for a project financed under the LIFE program?

Any entity registered on the territory of the European Union can submit a proposal for a project financed by the LIFE program regardless of whether it is a public entity, a private company or an NGO.

Particular, compared to other EU programs, is the possibility of participating also completely independently of a partnership.

NGOs active in the environmental field who should participate in this way, could also apply for financing reserved for them (operating grants) in order to support their administrative and logistical costs.

The LIFE program also collaborates with the European Investment Bank (EIB) in order to facilitate investment and access to credit for companies operating in the green economy.

Given the importance that environmental issues are increasingly assuming, the European Commission has proposed to increase the budget available for the LIFE sub-program to 5.5 billion Euros for the 2021-2027 programming, enlarging the number of sub-programs from two to four adding one dedicated to “circular economy and quality of life” and one to “transition to sources of clean energy”.

The duration of the LIFE project

The duration of the project corresponds to the time needed to complete all the actions and achieve all the objectives, therefore on average between 3 and 5 years for the Environment actions and between 2 and 5 years for the Climate actions.

Any expenditure incurred before the start date of the project will not be considered eligible and cannot be included in the project budget.

The expenses eligible for the call

No minimum amount has been set for the project budget, but candidates for information and governance projects on climate action are invited to ensure that the proposed actions are big enough to ensure that the project achieves significant results thanks to added value of the EU.

The expenses must refer to:

  • Personnel costs;
  • Travel expenses and related allowances;
  • Infrastructures up to 25% of the total purchase cost;
  • Equipment and infrastructure up to 50% of the total purchase cost, created specifically for the realisation of the project and never marketed or available as a serial product;
  • Consumables;
  • Costs deriving from the obligations imposed by the collaboration agreement between partners, including the dissemination of information, the specific evaluation of the project, audits and translations, as well as the costs of the financial guarantees requested;
  • External consultancy;
  • Land purchase or long-term leasing;
  • General expenses within the limit of 7% of the total direct eligible costs actually incurred.

Previous LIFE programs from 1992 to date

Through the LIFE program, the European Union has been providing funding for environmental and nature protection projects since 1992. It has so far co-financed over 5,400 projects. Over the years, the LIFE program has taken on the following characteristics.

[H3] LIFE I (1992-1995)

The LIFE I program funded 731 projects focusing on:

  • Promotion of sustainable developments and environmental quality;
  • Protection of habitats and nature;
  • Administrative structures and environmental services;
  • Education, training and information;
  • Actions in non-EU countries.

LIFE II (1996-1999)

The LIFE II program was divided into 3 categories:

  • LIFE-Nature, dedicated to conservation actions;
  • LIFE-Environment, dedicated to actions to implement EU environmental policy and legislation;
  • LIFE-Third countries, dedicated to actions in countries on the shores of the Mediterranean and the Baltic.

LIFE III (2000-2006)

LIFE III, similar to the LIFE II program, lasted 5 years with an increased budget of 640 million euros. It has been enriched by new support measures to encourage the presentation of multinational projects and the creation of networks between projects.

LIFE+ (2007-2013)

The LIFE + program lasted 7 years with a budget of € 2 billion and it was divided into 3 sub-categories:

  • LIFE + Nature and Biodiversity, which has taken over and extended the previous LIFE Nature program;
  • LIFE + Environmental policy and governance, which has taken over and extended the previous LIFE Environment program;
  • LIFE + Information and Communication, to co-finance projects related to communication and awareness campaigns;

LIFE (2014-2020)

The current LIFE programme has a budget of € 3.4 billion and is divided into two sub-programs:

  • Environment, 75% of the overall financial envelope;
  • Climate, 25% of the budget.

The new category “Integrated projects financed jointly” aims to operate on a large territorial scale.

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If you found this article interesting, read also:

PROGRAM CREATIVE EUROPE FOR SUPPORT TO CULTURE AND CREATIVITY

ERASMUS PLUS: PUBLISHED THE NEW PROGRAM GUIDE AND THE CALL FOR PROPOSALS FOR 2020

HORIZON 2020: FROM THE SME INSTRUMENT TO THE EIC ACCELERATOR FOR SCALING UP

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