LIFE, much more than just a word

Do you know what is behind the word “LIFE” that always goes with medCLIFFS?

LIFE (or LIFE Programme) is the European Union’s instrument exclusively dedicated to financing initiatives in favour of the environment and climate action.

Nature conservation and environmental protection projects are often bold proposals that go beyond what has been done so far, because they seek a decisive change in society and a strong positive impact on the environment. They involve continuous work over long periods of time, with numerous actors involved and investments in costly green infrastructures, which are carried out through the collaboration of several public and private entities from very diverse sectors.

In order to carry them out, it is essential to have access to significant and guaranteed funding over time, which is precisely what the LIFE Programme facilitates.


An example: LIFE medCLIFFS


Habitat of Mediterranean sea cliffs at Cap de Creus in an unfavourable state of conservation, covered by invasive plants. Credits: Sara Mora Vicente.

LIFE medCLIFFS, for example, is a nature conservation project approved in 2020 under the Biodiversity area. It runs for 5 years (2021-2026) and is managed by a total of six partners and three affiliates, with a total budget of more than 1.4 million euros, 60% of which is co-financed by the LIFE Programme of the European Union.

The most important expense of the LIFE medCLIFFS, apart from the cost of personnel, is the subcontracting of work for the control of invasive species with innovative and highly specialised techniques. These tasks will improve the conservation status of more than 36 ha of the cliffs in Cap de Creus, which is approximately 12% of the total area occupied by this habitat in Cap de Creus. Without co-funding from the LIFE Programme, it would be difficult to eliminate invasive species in such a large area to improve its conservation status, which is currently unfavourable.


Conserving nature in Europe since the early 1980s

The first legislation adopted in Europe for nature conservation was the Birds Directive in 1979. It established the first special protection areas for birds and called for specific funding to be earmarked for their management. This pioneering legislation meant that in 1982 the European Parliament decided to allocate a small budget to co-finance a dozen conservation projects, which was renewed in 1983.

Since then, funding for nature projects has grown through different instruments: ACE (Action Communautaire pour l’Environnement, 1984-1991), MEDSPA and NORSPA (specific programmes within ACE to support environmental projects in the Mediterranean and Northern European areas respectively) and ACNAT (Action by the EU for Nature, 1991-1992).


1992: The Habitats Directive and the birth of LIFE

In 1992, following the adoption of the Habitats Directive, the LIFE Programme was created with the aim of contributing to the implementation, updating and development of environmental and climate legislation and regulations at European level.

Since then, LIFE has funded around 1800 nature and biodiversity projects across Europe, enabling the development of the Natura 2000 network, as well as raising public awareness on the need to protect nature and ensure its long-term conservation. It has been implemented through various funding periods: LIFE I 1992-1995, LIFE II 1996-1999, LIFE III 2000-2004 (with an extension until 2006), LIFE+ 2007-2013, LIFE 2014-20 current period, LIFE 2021-2027.


The LIFE Programme now

Since 2021, the LIFE Programme is managed by CINEA (European Executive Agency for Climate, Infrastructure and Environment) and focuses on four action areas: nature and biodiversity, circular economy and quality of life, climate change mitigation and adaptation, and clean energy transition.

A call for project proposals meeting the priority objectives in the different action areas is launched annually. The LIFE 2023 call for proposals is now open, with a total of 611 million euros available to finance new LIFE projects across Europe.



Text: Roser Melero Vilella.