LIFE, the European Commission’s funding line for environment and climate policy projects, celebrated its 30th anniversary on 21st May. The EU LIFE Programme is the only EU fund directly managed by the European Commission and has been one of the most important public sources of funding for environmental projects since 1992, supporting 4,600 projects across Europe.
LIFE supports projects through four sub-programmes:
- Nature and Biodiversity
- Circular Economy and Quality of Life
- Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation
- Clean Energy Transition
including both national nature conservation projects and multi-regional programmes and strategies.
LIFE, 30 years of green ideas
The need for an environmental programme came in the late 1980s, when more and more people became aware of the threats to the environment. Large-scale disasters, such as the Chernobyl disaster, focused attention on the need for higher levels of environmental protection. Problems such as holes in the ozone layer over the poles and global warming have accelerated European environmental policymaking. So, in 1992 the LIFE programme was created. During this period, LIFE has co-financed some 4,600 projects with a total contribution of around € 6.5 billion.
The list of LIFE projects accessed between 1992 and 2022 can be found here.
The overall objective of LIFE is to contribute to the transition towards a green, energy-efficient, low-carbon, climate-resilient circular economy, including through the transition to green energy, as well as to protecting and improving the quality of the environment and halting and reversing biodiversity decline, thereby contributing to sustainable development.
LIFE projects in CARPATHIA
Conservation Carpathia appreciates the support of the European Commission through the LIFE programme for the two projects it has accessed.
- The ecological reconstruction of forest and aquatic habitats in the Upper Dâmbovița Valley, Făgăraș Mountains LIFE11/NAT/RO/823 was part of Conservation CARPATHIA’s activities in the period 2012-2018 and ended with results that largely exceeded the proposed objectives.
In the framework of this project, we acquired 990 ha of forests for protection and identified and purchased 294 ha of virgin and semi-virgin forests, which we then further protected by entering them in the National Catalogue of virgin and quasi-virgin forests. Thanks to this project we have restored 17 km of erosion ditches, about 70% more than originally planned in the project. We planted more than 1.1 million seedlings across 404 ha of thinned forest, double the area and 11 times more seedlings than originally planned.
With the support of the Faculty of Forestry at the Transilvania University of Brașov, we carried out a scientific experiment and initiated a process to convert 405 ha of artificial monocultures to a natural, mixed, native composition by planting more than 62,000 deciduous seedlings. The project also included the restoration of alder galleries along 20 km of watercourses – this priority habitat was restored along a 23 km stretch of the river.
We developed first a monitoring system to analyse the results of conservation activities and to understand the long-term effects of the rewilding process, based on annual surveys of indicator species such as woodpeckers, otters, herons and vegetation. We also tracked socio-economic metrics that help us understand and demonstrate the impacts of changes from an extractive, unsustainable economy to a non-extractive, sustainable economy.
An active communication programme has resulted in a large number of articles in the regional and national press about the LIFE project and, in particular, the ecological reconstruction work. This has been accompanied by a series of field visits by local, regional, national and international groups, stakeholder workshops to inform the public about the restoration work and to encourage the exchange of experiences. ‘Ecological reconstruction of forest and aquatic habitats in the upper Dâmbovița Valley’ was of particular importance for the idea of creating a future National Park in the Făgăraș mountains. It gave examples of good practice in ecological reconstruction, promoted the pioneering FCC project in Romania and helped to obtain additional funding from other sources for the conservation or restoration of other forest areas.
There was, however, one conservation objective that could not be met – the rehabilitation of the aquatic ecosystem of the Dâmbovița basin to allow upstream fish migration. Bureaucratic bottlenecks led to a massive delay in this activity, which even required a one-year extension of the project period. Last-minute legislative changes made it impossible to implement changes needed to the dam structure.
For more details and results, see the final report here https://www.carpathia.org/life/.
- Creation of a wilderness area in the Southern Carpathian Mountains, Romania, LIFE18 NAT/RO/001082 runs from 2019-2024.
The project aims to save 3,300 ha of natural forests, spruce monocultures and areas affected by non-compliant logging by purchasing them for complete protection and ecological reconstruction. Ecological reconstruction across 500 ha of forests affected by past logging. Restoration of 250 ha of alpine juniper, rhododendron and mountain pine destroyed by human intervention. Reintroduction of bison and beaver in the southern Făgăraș mountains. Creation of a human-wildlife coexistence model on an area of about 80,000 ha based on a system of prevention – intervention – compensation. Involvement of civil society through the development of ambassador programmes, volunteering and environmental education. Organisation of local and national events. Development of green businesses to improve conservation status, create jobs and income opportunities for local people, local businesses that can contribute financially to the management of protected areas and even to a private compensation fund for landowners.
The full project plan can be found here https://www.carpathia.org/ro/life-carpathia/
On-going projects in Romania
LIFE16 NAT/RO/000778, Fish for LIFE
LIFE18 NAT/RO/001082, LIFE CARPATHIA
LIFE19 NAT/RO/000602, LIFE TransilvaCooperation
LIFE19 NAT/RO/000023, LIFE Rosalia