The only direct source of EU environmental and climate funding has been praised in a recent evaluation.

While other EU green money is dished out as part of schemes where environmental and climate objectives are secondary to other aims, the EU’s LIFE fund is exclusively dedicated to tackling climate change and supporting environmental projects.

Conservationists have hailed the fund for supporting the restoration of protected areas and saving species such as the Spanish Imperial Eagle, the Iberian Lynx, the La Gomera Giant Lizard, the Bearded Vulture and the Adriatic Sturgeon. As well as nature conservation, the LIFE programme also covers projects on energy efficiency, renewables, and reducing the negative impact of chemicals on health and the environment.

Many LIFE projects include beneficiaries from multiple countries, and some involve cooperation between EU Member States, accession countries and non-EU countries such as Albania, Serbia, Belarus and Ukraine. Projects of different sizes are funded, including those led by small, medium and large enterprises, universities, local authorities and various grassroots NGOs.

Environmentalists are now calling on EU governments to allocate a larger share of taxpayers’ money to the scheme when they hash out the details of the bloc’s next 7-year budget over the coming months.

€3.4 billion was allocated to the scheme for 2014 to 2020.

EEB Policy Officer for Biodiversity and Ecosystems, Leonardo Mazza, said:

“The LIFE programme is money well spent: estimates predict the scheme will have created around 74,500 jobs over seven years. And it is estimated that projects funded in 2014 will produce a benefit to society of some €1.7 billion – more than four times the overall LIFE budget for that year. To meet EU citizens’ expectations on environmental protection, LIFE should receive at least 1% of the next EU budget, and at least 50% this should be dedicated to nature and biodiversity projects.”

In a recent survey, 95% of EU citizens said protecting the environment was important to them personally. 84% said they want more of the EU’s budget to be spent supporting environmentally-friendly activities.