20 Candles for the LIFE programme - May '12

LIFE, the EU’s financial instrument for the environment, celebrated its 20th anniversary this May. For the last 20 years Europe’s wildlife and natural resources have been benefitting from the LIFE programme. LIFE is in fact an acronym: L’Instrument Financier pour l’Environnement (“financial instrument for the environment” in French). The LIFE programme first opened its doors in 1992 aiming to co-finance projects involved in implementing European environmental policy. This work started in the then 12 Member States to create an initial Natura 2000 network.  Since then, LIFE has focused more on nature conservation and has reached a wider range of environmental protection and information dissemination services. Today, LIFE is co-financing projects in all 27 Member States where it continues to contribute in a substantial and effective way to nature conservation by addressing contemporary challenges such as biodiversity decline, habitat loss and resource efficiency.

In total, since 1992, LIFE has co-financed some 3506 projects, contributing approximately €2.5 billion to the protection of the environment and mobilising a further €4.8 billion in other public and private contributions. LIFE is divided into two programmes: the LIFE Environment programme and the LIFE Nature and Biodiversity programme. LIFE Environment co-finances innovative or pilot projets that contribute to the implementation of European environmental policy and the development of innovative policy ideas, technologies, methods and instruments. LIFE Nature and Biodiversity co-finances projects that contribute to the protection and conservation of endangered habitats and species  that are afforded special protection under the EU’s Birds and Habitats Directives.

The LIFE Nature and Biodiversity program focuses on projects targeting actions within the Natura 2000 network of protected areas, or actions that support the establishment of this network. Therefore, LIFE has had a significant impact on the Natura 2000 network, targeting some 2200 Natura 2000 sites, or approximately 8% of the network. LIFE has contributed to the restoration of approximately 320 000 hectares in Natura 2000 sites, leading to the designation of hundreds of new sites.

In Cyprus, since 1992, two LIFE Nature projects have been implemented and four are currently being implemented. Among the latter, a pioneering project for the restoration and management of Oroklini Lake- which is a Natura 2000 site- has started this year, with BirdLife Cyprus being one of the project partners. You can read more about the LIFE Oroklini project here.

To mark the 20th anniversary of the LIFE  Programme,  more than 300 events took place across Europe throughout  May,  organised by LIFE projects present or past. In Cyprus, two celebratory events took place in May. On 23 May an Open Day for the LIFE Oroklini project was organised at Voroklini Community Council building. There, participants had the opportunity to receive information on the project, its actions and progress and also on the importance of this amazing wetland. The event also featured a visit at Oroklini Lake where visitors enjoyed the birds of the lake with telescopes and binoculars. On 29 May partners from the four LIFE Nature and Biodiversity projects that are currently being implemented in Cyprus (PLANT-NET CY, ICOSTACY, OROKLINI, JUNIPERCY) organised an event to celebrate the 20 years of the LIFE project, at the Environmental Information and Education Centre, Athalassa Park. The public enjoyed the event which was also attended by the Minister of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environment.

From its outset 20 years ago and through its development during successive programming periods, the importance of the LIFE programme lies in the fact that it is the sole source of funding for the conservation, restoration and management of certain species and habitats at EU level (according to the first assessment of the conservation status of Habitats Directive species and habitats (Article 17 report), published in 2010).

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