Commission approves EU funding for nature, environment and climate action projects

The European Commission approved on November 25 an investment package of more than €290 million for 132 new projects under the LIFE programme for the environment and climate action.

This EU funding will mobilise a total investment of €562 million, with projects in almost all Member States, the Commission said, adding that the new LIFE projects will help Europe become a climate-neutral continent by 2050, put Europe’s biodiversity on a path to recovery by 2030, and contribute to the EU green recovery post-Covid-19. This is the first batch of projects selected under the new programming period 2021-2027 which sees an increase of the funding by almost 60%.

“The climate and biodiversity crises are truly existential crises and there is no time to lose,” EU Commission Executive Vice-President for the European Green Deal Frans Timmermans said. “COP26 in Glasgow acknowledged the need to accelerate our actions still this decade. With the European Green Deal, the European Union is working to reduce emissions, restore nature, and ensure sustainable use of resources. We can only succeed if we work together, across sectors. LIFE projects are a perfect example: they bring citizens, public bodies, industry and NGOs together to work for the climate and environment,” he added.

For his part, Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevicius stressed that currently the interconnected crises of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution are the defining challenges. “To address them, we need a profound transformation of our societies and economies, achieving a carbon-neutral future and learning to live within the boundaries of our planet. LIFE projects show how this can be done. They have a strong impact on the ground, showcasing the added value of European cooperation,” Sinkevicius said.

With this new package, the Commission has earmarked some €223 million to projects on environment and resource efficiency, nature and biodiversity, and environmental governance and information. It is also investing more than €70 million in various climate change mitigation, adaptation, and governance and information projects.

Examples of projects from across Europe

According to the Commission, a major transnational project will restore degraded peatlands in Belgium, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands and Poland. Actions foreseen include restoring the carbon sink function of peatlands, contributing to the EU’s ambition to be climate-neutral by 2050. The project will also raise groundwater levels and help conserve species and habitats protected under the EU Birds and Habitats Directives.

Another project will see Italian chefs promoting climate-smart, nutritious and affordable diets, reducing food waste through awareness-raising, communication and education campaigns, targeting customers, staff and others. This project contributes among others to the Farm to Fork Strategy, the Circular Economy Action Plan and the Waste Framework Directive.

A Bulgarian project team will protect breeding, wintering and migrating populations of bird species by reducing deaths from electricity infrastructure. They will identify the riskiest medium-voltage power lines and replace overhead electricity lines with underground cables in the most important sections. This project contributes to the EU Birds Directive’s implementation on the ground.

A Polish project will demonstrate the feasibility of using renewable energy for cooling public buildings and a project from France will set up an innovative system to optimise resource use and recover waste from local construction and public works. Both projects support the EU Renovation Wave, launched in October last year.

According to the Commission, 39 LIFE nature & biodiversity projects will support the implementation of the EU Birds and Habitats Directives as well as the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030. They have a total budget of €249 million, of which the EU will pay €134 million.

Moreover, 45 LIFE environment and resource efficiency projects will mobilise €162 million, of which the EU will provide €78 million. €55 million will be invested in 10 projects to reduce waste, contributing to the EU’s Circular Economy Action Plan. Another €50 million will fund 16 water quality projects.

Additionally, 8 LIFE environmental governance and information projects will raise awareness of environmental issues such as biodiversity loss and air pollution. They will also give public authorities the tools to promote, monitor and enforce compliance with EU environmental legislation. These have a total budget of more than €19 million, of which the EU will contribute close to €11 million.

Furthermore, 17 LIFE climate change mitigation projects will have funds of approximately €66 million, of which the EU will provide around €35 million. Project examples include promoting climate neutral farming as well as improving heat recovery in iron and steel manufacturing.

Also, 17 LIFE climate change adaptation projects will mobilise some €52 million. Nearly €29 million of which will come from LIFE funds. Projects include adapting forests to extreme weather events and boosting the climate adaptation capacities of Europe’s health infrastructure.

Finally, 6 LIFE climate governance and information projects will improve climate governance and inform the public and stakeholders about climate change. The total budget is €13 million of which the EU is contributing more than €7 million.

The LIFE programme is the EU’s funding instrument for the environment and climate action. It has been running since 1992 and has co-financed more than 5,500 projects across the EU and countries outside the EU. The LIFE programme funding for the 2021 – 2027 period stands at €5.4 billion. LIFE has four new sub-programmes: nature and biodiversity, circular economy and quality of life, climate change mitigation and adaptation, and clean energy transition. The projects approved on November 25 and the four sub-programmes will start receiving financing from 2022.

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