More funding for the LIFE environment and climate action programme needed

Plenary session of the European Committee of the Regions

The Committee of the Regions supports PES member Marco Dus in requesting an additional 1.330 billion Euro for the Programme for the Environment and Climate Action (LIFE). The decision was reached at the Committee of the Regions' Plenary Session, where the CoR members adopted an opinion drafted by Marco Dus, Municipal Council of Vittorio Veneto (Italy).

"The LIFE programme is an essential part of the EU's work to protect our environment and combat climate change. We can see the positive results of these projects, protecting the environment and improving human health and well-being, everywhere. They range from climate action and bio-diversity protection to support for cycling infrastructure. At the same time, over the last years the programme has created some 17 000 new jobs in the EU", emphasised Marco Dus. "We need to make sure that there is sufficient funding for the future LIFE programme in order to support cities and regions in their implementation of work on the ground.

Giving an example from his own region, Marco Dus explained that "the LIFE programme brings us benefits both on the local level throughout the EU and on a global scale." For instance, from 2012 to 2015, LIFE provided funding for a project that helped farmers in Vallevecchia, Venice to protect their vulnerable coastline. The project supported farmers in installing new water management infrastructure and adapt to more eco-friendly water usage. As a result the coastline saw a 35% increase in freshwater bird populations and an 85% increase in other species. At the same time, agricultural output increased.

Now is the time to increase support for environmental action. With the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) telling us that we have a mere twelve years to avoid an environmental catastrophe, Dus underlines that we need to include environmental value in economic decision-making. "It is no coincidence," he says, "that the Nobel Prize for the Economy went to the US economists William Nordhaus and Paul Romer. The former studied the links between climate change and the economy, while the latter's research focuses on internal growth, i.e. how investments in human capital, knowledge and innovation foster long-term growth. This is how I see the LIFE programme: as an investment policy that encourages innovation and respects environmental sustainability."

The draft opinion also criticises the European Commission's proposals to expand the area covered by LIFE programme, adding new initiatives, such as energy efficiency measures, without providing sufficient additional resources.  "With new areas coming under the LIFE umbrella," stressed Dus, "we request that LIFE's funding be increased in correspondence with the widening of its mandate".

Dus further wishes to make participation in the LIFE programme easier for local authorities, by including personnel- and administrative costs in the activities covered. Last but not least, he recommends that all projects funded through LIFE should contribute to the programmes core environmental objectives and should promote the use of green public procurement.

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