Proposal for a Regulation establishing a new LIFE programme for 2021-2027

In “A European Green Deal”

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For a brief overview of the key points of the adopted text and its significance for the citizen, please see the corresponding summary note.

The LIFE programme, launched in 1992, is the only EU fund entirely dedicated to environmental and climate objectives. To date, it has co-financed, mainly through grants, over 5000 projects. Enterprises, in particular SMEs, public bodies, and private non-commercial organisations are beneficiaries of these projects.

The present LIFE programme covers the period 2014 to 2020 and has a financial envelope of €3.5 billion. It supports small-scale projects aiming to share best practices, to test technologies, and to speed up the implementation of relevant EU legislation and policy. LIFE also acts as a catalyst for investment, notably trough integrated projects, and facilitates the implementation of large-scale actions. The mid-term evaluation of the current programme confirmed its effectiveness and EU added value, identifying however some opportunities for improvements.

On 1 June 2018, the European Commission proposed a regulation establishing a new LIFE programme for 2021-2027 aiming to:

  • contribute to the shift towards a clean, circular, energy-efficient, low-carbon and climate-resilient economy, including through the transition to clean energy
  • protect and improve the quality of the environment
  • halt and reverse biodiversity loss, thereby contributing to sustainable development

The Commission proposes €5.45 billion in current prices to be earmarked to the new programme containing two main portfolios, Environment and Climate Action, and covering four sub-programmes:

  • Nature and Biodiversity
  • Circular Economy and Quality of Life
  • Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation
  • Clean Energy Transition

The conservation of nature and biodiversity, including marine ecosystems, remains an important area of action. New type of projects, ‘strategic nature projects’, are introduced to support programmes of action in Member States for the mainstreaming of nature and biodiversity policy objectives into other EU policies, such as agriculture and rural development, and to ensure that relevant funds are leveraged to implement these objectives.

As regards transition to circular economy, LIFE funding would target projects related to best technologies, practices and solutions developed at local, regional or national level. This also includes integrated approaches for implementing waste management and prevention plans, and addressing marine litter.

To support the shift towards a clean energy, especially in regions that lag behind and have difficulty to absorb funding from the ESIF, the new programme would encourage investment and activities focusing on energy efficiency and small-scale renewables.

Investments in climate action through LIFE funding would be expanded. Therefore, 61 % of the financial envelope of the new LIFE programme would be climate-related.

The programme would continue to support projects related to the implementation of air and water quality plans and legislation at local, regional, national and trans-national level. The ‘strategic integrated projects’ would be an appropriate tool to mobilise other Union, national or private funding.

The proposal also aims to simplify the LIFE management and to ensure a broader geographical access to the fund.

In the Parliament, the Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety is in charge of the file. It appointed Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy (ALDE, Netherlands) as rapporteur and adopted its position in November 2018.

On 11 December 2018, the Plenary voted on the proposal by 580 votes in favour to 41 against, and 45 abstentions. MEPs proposed to increase the financial envelope for the new LIFE programme up to €7.27 billion in current prices. The funding allocated to Environment portfolio would be 73.2 % of the total LIFE budget. Almost all the amendments from the ENVI committee were approved. In addition, the expression 'low carbon economy' was replaced by 'net zero economy' while 'just transition' and 'degradation of ecosystems' were added to the LIFE general objective.

On 20 December 2018, the Council agreed a partial general approach backing the Commission’s proposed budget.

The inter-institutional negotiations started on 9 January 2019. There was exchange of views on key aspects, such as:

  • capacity building projects and geographical balance of LIFE spending
  • the quality of projects as selection criteria
  • co-financing rates
  • programme monitoring and evaluation
  • implementation of work programmes through delegated or implementing acts

On 11 March 2019, the third trilogue resulted in a "common understanding" but the final agreement on LIFE depends on the amount of the allocation for the programme negotiated under the MFF 2021-2027.

The MEPs adopted the partial agreement at the Plenary on 17 April 2019.

Negotiations on the LIFE regulation resumed in December 2020, following agreement on the MFF. ENVI Committee appointed the MEP Nils Torvalds (Renew, Finland) to replace Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy as rapporteur.

The co-legislators reached a provisional agreement, which sets LIFE's budget at €5.432 billion, 64 % of which will be devoted to environment action. €2.143 billion would go to the Nature and Biodiversity sub-programme. LIFE is expected to support a high number of biodiversity projects and tackle degradation of ecosystems, now included along with other modifications in its general objective. 61 % of LIFE's budget will be climate-related contributing to the EU budget-wide target of at least 30 % of expenditure supporting climate objectives. Co-financing rates are reintroduced and projects with the highest potential to achieve LIFE's objectives will have priority.

On 16 March 2021, the Council adopted its position at first reading. The Parliament voted its legislative resolution on 29 April 2021. 

The new Regulation was published in the EU Official Journal on 17 May 2021 and applies from 1 January 2021.


Further reading:

Author: Dessislava Yougova, Members' Research Service,

As of 20/06/2024.