Presented by the EU’s LIFE programme for environment and climate action, the awards honoured winners in three different categories from Slovenia (Nature), Portugal (Environment), and Hungary (Climate Action). A special award recognising successful adaptation to COVID-19 went to an Italian project for its work in the time of coronavirus crisis.
Frans Timmermans, Executive Vice-President for the European Green Deal said:
Actions speak louder than words, and these LIFE projects are proof of that. All these endeavours show that, with careful investment and a lot of hard work, Europe is ready to tackle the climate and biodiversity crises. Restoring the balance with nature is an essential step to becoming a resource-efficient, competitive, and climate-neutral economy.
European Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Virginijus Sinkevičius, added:
The inspiring winners and finalists of these LIFE Awards show that solutions to the planetary challenges of biodiversity loss, climate change, resource scarcity, and even health emergencies exist. LIFE projects combine technology, innovation, expertise, cooperation, but above all lots of dedication to deliver smart solutions. These individual success stories need to be replicated across the EU at speed and scale in order to help the EU achieve its ambitious EU Green Deal goals.
The LIFE Awards recognise the most innovative, inspirational and effective LIFE projects in the fields of nature protection, environment and climate action. The winning projects were selected from 15 finalists for their outstanding contribution to environmental, economic and social advancements. They also scored well in terms of impact, replicability, policy relevance, cross-border cooperation and cost-effectiveness.
Life Award for Nature:
LIFE DINALP BEAR (Slovenia)– the team managed and monitored brown bear populations in the northern Dinarides and southeastern Alps. Overall, there has been a 43% reduction in sheep attacks, while the number of bears hit by traffic is also down by a quarter. Human-bear conflicts have also decreased, while attitudes towards bears have improved in the partner countries of Croatia, Italy, Austria and Slovenia.
LIFE Award for Environment:
Flaw4Life(Portugal) – Project partners created an alternative market for fruit and vegetables that were too small, too large or too ugly to sell in regular outlets. Their work has reduced food waste by more than 2 300 tonnes to date, a sum comparable to the annual amount of unused food from 13 000 people. This project was also the most popular among the public, earning it the LIFE Citizens’ Prize.
LIFE Award for Climate Action:
FIRELIFE(Hungary) – The team taught teachers, social workers, farmers and forest fire prevention experts to enhance forest fire prevention across the country. As a result, the number of forest fires decreased by nearly a third, and the size of the area damaged fell by nearly 90%. Other countries can follow FIRELIFE’s checklist to develop their own fire-prevention systems and tools.
Adapting to COVID-19 Award:
There is a clear link between human health, the environment and climate, and these interdependencies were the focus of several LIFE projects. A special, Adapting to COVID-19 Award, went to Italy’s PrepAIR project for its work in the time of COVID crisis.
LIFE PrepAIR set out to monitor and improve air quality for 23 million people in the Po Valley. When the pandemic struck, the team helped another Italian project to investigate the link between air pollution and the spread of COVID-19, as well as the impact of the lockdown on air pollution and greenhouse gases. The findings should increase understanding of the complex dynamics that cause pollution in the Po Valley. This will help authorities adopt better strategies to improve air quality in the region. The LIFE PrepAIR team also published its PrepAIRed! educational materials for use by teachers during the lockdown.
The other finalists were:
- LIFE-Aurinia Reviving the habitats of the marsh fritillary butterfly (Germany)
- LIFE for Safe Grid Protecting the imperial eagle from the dangers of uninsulated power lines (Bulgaria)
- LIFE+SCALLUVIA Building a flood defence and recreational area at Belgium's Kruikeke Bazel Rupelmonde site (Belgium)
- WOLFLIFE Maintaining a thriving wolf population in the Carpathian Mountains (Romania)
- LIFE COGENERATION PL Managing energy recovery of municipal waste and sewage sludge (Poland)
- LIFE DEBAG Changing consumer behaviour to curb plastic bag pollution in the marine environment (Greece)
- LIFESURE Manufacturing eco-asphalt on road construction sites (Spain)
- WISER LIFE Reducing and reusing landfill waste while creating green jobs (Ireland)
Climate Action category
- LIFE Carbon Dairy Milk production with fewer emissions (France)
- LIFE HEROTILE Roof tiles with higher air permeability and improved energy performance (Italy, France, Germany)
- LIFEPeatLandUse Evaluating ecosystem services to help lawmakers take sound land-use planning decisions (Finland)
- LIFE RE Mida Treating landfill gases to reduce emissions (Italy)
The LIFE programme is the EU’s funding instrument for the environment and climate action. It has been running since 1992 and has co-financed about 5 400 projects across the EU and in third countries. At any given moment, some 1 100 projects are in progress. The budget for 2014–2020 is set at €3.4 billion in current prices and covers a sub-programme for environment and a sub-programme for climate action. For the next long-term EU budget 2021-2027, the Commission is proposing to increase LIFE funding by almost 60%.