MEPs have today echoed calls from over 200 NGOs to increase the amount of money allocated to the only direct source of EU environmental and climate funding.

Last May, the Commission proposed earmarking around €5.4 billion to the ‘LIFE fund’ under the next budget period — up 60% compared to the fund’s current envelope of €3.5 billion. But now, MEPs on the European Parliament’s Environment committee have called on EU governments to give the fund €7 billion between 2021 to 2027.

While other EU money is spent 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.

A recent European Commission evaluation of the scheme shows that the LIFE fund 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.

 

One example of how the LIFE fund contributes to nature conservation is through floodplain restoration projects, such as on the River Slampe in Latvia. This week a European Environment Agency report shows that restoring areas next to rivers can improve the health of currently degraded river ecosystems.

Today the EU’s own financial watchdog hailed the “multiple benefits” brought about by these types of ‘green infrastructure’ projects and recommended that the European Commission and EU Member States make use of green infrastructure in managing floods.

Sergiy Moroz, Policy Officer for Water and Biodiversity at the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), said:

“Increasing the budget for the EU’s only fund dedicated to protecting the environment and climate is a no-brainer given the recent worrying warnings on global warming and nature loss. Ensuring this fund receives 1% of the overall EU budget should be the bare minimum. The LIFE programme has proven its worth by supporting the restoration of protected areas and saving species as well as creating jobs and providing seed funding for innovative ideas. EU governments must now recognise this.” 

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