Explanatory Memorandum to COM(2018)385 - Programme for the Environment and Climate Action (LIFE)

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This proposal provides for a date of application as of 1 January 2021 and is presented for a Union of 27 Member States, in line with the notification by the United Kingdom of its intention to withdraw from the European Union and Euratom based on Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union received by the European Council on 29 March 2017.

Reasons and objectives

Environmental and climate problems impact on health and the quality of life of EU citizens, and on the availability and status of natural resources, implying social and economic costs. The transition to a low-carbon and circular economy is a project of economic modernisation for Europe and a priority of the Juncker Commission. The transition to a modern, clean and more circular economy requires major shifts in investments towards new infrastructures, new technologies, new business models, and new modes of production and consumption of all types of goods and services, including food and natural resources. The EU is a global leader for environmental protection and climate action. Over the past 40 years, it has put in place a broad range of environmental policies, funds and tools, amounting to the most modern standards in the world. The EU wants to maintain and enhance this role.

Living well, within the limits of our planet is a necessity and a priority. LIFE plays a catalytic role in helping the transformation of the Union into a clean, circular, energy efficient, low carbon and climate resilient society. Through its targeted support to policy and market uptake actions, the LIFE programme preserves, protects and improves the quality of the environment, protects human health and pursues the prudent and rational utilisation of natural resources.

Furthermore, LIFE also provides a contribution to the EU's commitments under the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, the Energy Union and the 2030 energy and climate policy framework and the long-term decarbonisation objectives. It is also consistent with the EU's ambition to become a global leader in renewable energy.

As advocated in the 'Next steps for a sustainable European future', the United Nations 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals are an essential guiding framework for all EU policies and as such, shall be mainstreamed throughout the future Multi-annual Financial Framework.

While activities under the LIFE Programme for 2014 to 20201 tackle certain problems directly on the ground, the programme's main impact is indirect through its catalytic role: the support for small scale actions intended to initiate, expand or accelerate sustainable production, distribution and consumption practices, and protection of natural capital, by:

– facilitating the development and exchange of best practice and knowledge;

– building up the capacities and speeding up the implementation of environmental and

climate legislation and policies and facilitating the clean energy transition;

– helping stakeholders to test small-scale technologies and solutions, and

– mobilising funding from other sources.

Regulation (EU) No 1293/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 December 2013 on the establishment of a Programme for the Environment and Climate Action (LIFE) and repealing Regulation (EC) No 614/2007 (OJ L 347, 20.12.2013, p. 185).

This approach should be further pursued under the Multiannual Financial Framework for the period 2021 to 2027.

Climate mainstreaming across all instruments of the next Multiannual Financial Framework will increase the funding available for the needed innovation, social adjustment, and empowerment of business, employees and citizens to develop the capacities and skills to help tackle climate change. The LIFE programme will contribute to small scale innovation, helping citizens to take action on the climate and for their communities.

Consistency with other Union policies

The LIFE programme is the only EU fund dedicated solely to environmental and climate objectives. With its relatively modest budget, it is targeted at a niche between EU programmes supporting research and innovation on the one hand and EU programmes financing large-scale deployment on the other hand. Thus the programme bridges the gap between the development of new knowledge and its implementation.

At EU level, large investments in environmental and climate actions are primarily funded by major funding programmes, integrating environmental and climate aims in their objectives (mainstreaming), including the regional development funds, agriculture and rural development funds, maritime and fisheries funds, the research and innovation programme Horizon Europe, the Connecting Europe Facility, as well as external policy instruments and Union financial instruments, whereas LIFE’s main impact is indirect through its role as a catalyst supporting small-scale actions intended to initiate, expand or accelerate clean and sustainable production, distribution and consumption practices, and improving the quality of the environment and contributing to reaching the Union's climate objectives.

Synergies shall be sought between the grants financed by LIFE and other EU programmes, (e.g. demonstration projects under Horizon Europe), as the programmes, while having distinct goals and being different in size and nature, have inter-related activities. Horizon Europe will contribute to tackling environmental challenges and EU priorities through research and innovation activities - informed through the strategic planning process - in particular in dedicated “clusters”. As a general rule Horizon Europe shall cover activities that support the development, demonstration and market uptake of innovative solutions that have a transnational dimension, and which are first-of-a-kind for the EU and have a potential for replication in the Union. The catalytic effect of the traditional LIFE projects will be to develop, test or showcase suitable technologies or methodologies for implementation of EU environment and climate policy on the ground within specific contexts, which can subsequently be deployed at large scale, funded by other sources. The potential of InvestEU could be used to finance strategic nature and integrated projects, and to support the uptake of the Programme.

In some areas (i.e. nature and biodiversity, including marine ecosystems) the LIFE Programme plays a unique and essential role. Synergies and complementarities have been observed in particular with rural development programmes, but also, for example, between climate change adaptation projects and the disaster risks management. Those synergies and complementarities should be strengthened under the next LIFE Programme 2021-2027, also by adjusting the scope of the research programme with regard to certain activities supporting the transition to clean energy that contribute to climate change mitigation.

Integrating the Clean Energy Transition sub-programme into the LIFE Programme increases the overall coherence of the EU funding while offering a rich potential for synergies with actions on environment and climate.

A clear complementarity exists to the funding of research and innovation action in the clean energy field under Horizon Europe. The research and innovative solutions developed in Horizon Europe through the support of front-runners will provide the next generation of technologies and good practices that at a later stage can be replicated with the capacity-building support of the Clean Energy Transition sub-programme.

The Clean Energy Transition sub-programme and the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) are complementary in terms of nature and of underlying intervention logic. In particular, the cross-border dimension is core to the CEF intervention logic.


Legal basis and Subsidiarity

Article 192 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) is the basis for EU action on the environment and climate change. The activities supporting the transition to clean energy are also covered by this legal basis as they directly contribute to climate change mitigation. Already under the current LIFE Programme certain activities improving energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy are funded as substantial contributions to climate change mitigation, often also generating environmental co-benefits (e.g. improving air quality).

Most environmental problems are transboundary or transnational and cannot be adequately solved by Member States alone. EU intervention is required to establish adequate mechanisms for dealing efficiently with such problems and avoiding coordination failures.

Furthermore, environmental assets are European public goods whose good management is essential to the proper functioning of the single market.


Retrospective evaluations

Although the recent mid-term evaluation of LIFE 2014 to 2020 (MTE)2 was undertaken at an early stage of the programme implementation, when only the 2014 and 2015 projects had started, it confirmed that the programme is on track to be effective, efficient and relevant and it is providing a contribution to the Europe 2020 strategy. Furthermore, most stakeholders see LIFE as being a very important instrument for addressing environmental and climate priorities.

Stakeholder consultations

As part of the LIFE mid-term evaluation a wide range of consultation activities were conducted, including (i) a 12-week public consultation with more than 250 responses, (ii) six specific surveys with more than 200 responses, and (iii) over 150 interviews (and where

Report on the Mid-term Evaluation of the Programme for Environment and Climate Action (LIFE) (SWD(2017) 355 final).


relevant site visits) of the key stakeholder groups, including project beneficiaries, project coordinators, Commission services, EASME officials, external monitoring experts and financial instruments’ stakeholders.

The opinion of the Committee of the Regions and the European Economic and Social Committee on the results of the mid-term evaluation have also been taken into account, as they envisaged possible options for the LIFE Programme post 2020.

For the purposes of this proposal, the broad stakeholder consultation was complemented by opinions received from Non-Governmental Organisations and further consultation activities with stakeholders in Member States.

The consultations confirmed the relevance of the programme for addressing the needs and problems in the area of climate and environment and the importance of its continuation, including all main types of interventions. However, the need for simplification of its administration was highlighted. A strengthening of the catalytic effects and the potential of integrated projects was suggested.

Impact assessment

In order to improve the performance and catalytic role of the programme, two options were explored in view of improving its accessibility for applicants from all EU Member States. The option to provide centralised support to the entire National Contact Point (NCP) Network instead of the present national capacity building projects (accessible for only certain Member States) was assessed positively and should be implemented. The option to increase the level of co-financing may be considered at a later point in time and possibly be adjusted during the programme implementation.

Several complementary options were considered to improve the performance and catalytic role of the Programme. They were positively assessed. The extension of the use of integrated projects, in future strategic integrated projects (SIPs), is considered to be the mechanism that generates the highest impact based on the pilot experience of integrated projects in the present LIFE programme. The increase in the scope and volume for strategic integrated projects is considered a top priority. This would require an increase in the budget compared to the current LIFE budget.

It results from the impact assessment that the support for capacity building for the clean energy transition contributing to climate change mitigation, currently funded under Horizon 2020 for the period 2014-2020, should be moved into LIFE in the next MFF. The reason was the greater suitability of the LIFE programme in terms of intervention logic, objectives and delivery mechanisms as well as targeted group of beneficiaries as compared to the research and innovation framework which is more suited for the development of first-of-a-kind technologies than to support their replication and upscaling. Integrating a Clean Energy Transition sub-programme into LIFE would address these shortcomings and increases the overall coherence of the Union funding while offering potential for synergies with other actions on environment and climate. In the field of Climate Action, the LIFE programme will, in continuation of the 2014 – 2020 LIFE programme, also include a sub-programme on Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation.

The impact assessment also considered how the Programme could play a stronger role in the implementation of the Union nature and biodiversity policy. While the option for a large shared management fund under LIFE was considered inefficient, LIFE could play an enhanced role in the mainstreaming of nature and biodiversity policy into other EU policies and financing programmes, based on a more balanced budget complement that would leverage funds from these other financing programmes.

It also concluded that the Programme should continue financing small grants for biodiversity through the voluntary scheme for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services in Territories of European overseas (BEST).

In order to consolidate the nature and biodiversity elements of the Programme, a specific sub-programme has been created, in the field of Environment, for Nature and Biodiversity. The Environment field also includes a sub-programme for Circular Economy and Quality of Life, which aims to support the other aspects of the Union's environment policy, particularly the transition to a circular economy, the sound and efficient management of environment resources such as air, water and land, and the promotion of good environmental governance.

The options to enhance replication and to increase both the flexibility of the programme and the possibility to target key and emerging issues through simplifying the Regulation and the Multiannual Work Programme have no serious negative implications; both should be introduced.

The impact assessment received a positive opinion with reservations from the Regulatory Scrutiny Board on 13 April 2018.

In its opinion on the draft impact assessment, the Regulatory Scrutiny Board requested further clarification on the monitoring regime and proposed indicators of this initiative. The Board also asked to acknowledge the implications for LIFE’s philosophy, structure and delivery mechanism of the proposed extensions of LIFE’s scope on nature. The recommendations contained in the opinion were incorporated in the report. In particular, the impact assessment was expanded to reflect how the identified shortcomings related to the monitoring regime for the current programming period will be addressed. Furthermore, the list of indicators for the assessment of the Programme was revised to better align with the objectives of the programme. A more in depth analysis of the options for the extension of the LIFE's scope on nature and biodiversity has been inserted in Annex 8 and the description of the option redrafted in the impact assessment.


The summary sheet and the positive opinion of the Regulatory Scrutiny Board are available




In line with the new Financial Regulation, the programming and detailed decisions on the management of the Programme are deferred to the multiannual work programmes. At this stage appropriate measures for simplifying the management procedures, as identified in the impact assessment, shall be taken.


The budgetary implications and the human and administrative resources required for the implementation of the Programme are set out in the financial statement attached to this proposal.


Implementation plans and monitoring, evaluation and reporting arrangements

The LIFE programme is directly managed by the European Commission. The implementation of some components has been delegated to the executive agency EASME, as established for the implementation of the 2014 – 2020 LIFE Programme. In view of the overall positive assessment of the implementation of the current programme, also the 2021-2027 LIFE

Programme implementation might be delegated to an executive agency, subject to the outcome of the cost-benefit analysis and related decisions to be taken.

Evaluations will be carried out in line with paragraphs 22 and 23 of the Interinstitutional Agreement of 13 April 20163, where the three institutions confirmed that evaluations of existing legislation and policy should provide the basis for impact assessments of options for further action. The evaluations will assess the Programme's effects on the ground based on the programme indicators/targets and a detailed analysis of the degree to which the programme can be deemed relevant, effective, efficient, provides enough EU added value and is coherent with other EU policies. They will include lessons learnt to identify any lacks/problems or any potential to further improve the actions or their results and to help maximise their exploitation/impact.

The Commission proposal for the 2021-2027 Multiannual Financial Framework set a more ambitious goal for climate mainstreaming across all EU programmes, with an overall target of 25% of EU expenditure contributing to climate objectives. The contribution of this programme to the achievement of this overall target will be tracked through an EU climate marker system at an appropriate level of disaggregation, including the use of more precise methodologies where these are available. The Commission will continue to present the information annually in terms of commitment appropriations in the context of the annual draft budget.


The EU should also track its biodiversity-related expenditure to fulfil its reporting obligations under the Convention on Biological Diversity. Requirements for tracking in other relevant

Union legislation should

also be met.

To support the full utilisation of the potential of the programme to contribute to climate objectives, the Commission will seek to identify relevant actions throughout the programme preparation, implementation, review and evaluation processes.

Interinstitutional Agreement between the European Parliament, the Council of the European Union and the European Commission on Better Law-Making of 13 April 2016; OJ L 123, 12.5.2016, p. 1–14.