Environment in the EU: new opportunities

Environmental technologies and services are an important success story at European level, generating an increase of employment in the sector of around 3% per year. Good news for companies in this sector, already world leaders in recycling and energy efficiency. Adding to this there are also many opportunities for companies active in the environmental sector, since the benefits of a resource efficient economy are being felt in many sectors. Considering this, special attention should be paid to the EU LIFE programme for the 2014-2020 cycle. The Commission published the call for proposals for 2015 in 1 June with a total budget for grant projects of 240 811 337 euros. Of this total, 184,141,337 euros are allocated to the Environment sub-programme and 56.67 million euros for the Climate Action sub-programme. Proposals must be submitted by legal entities registered in the European Union.

In addition to grants, a set of two financial instruments will also be implanted, the Natural Capital Financing Facility (NCFF) and the Private Finance for Energy Efficiency (PF4EE). The management of these instruments is up to the European Investment Bank (https://www.eib.org/products/blending/ncff/index.htm) being the projects financed through national financial intermediaries.

Main innovations introduced:

The adoption of a Multi-Annual Work Programme, the first lasting for four years and the second lasting three years, which will allow for an intermediate evaluation of possible changes to be made in the thematic priorities that will take effect in the second one. The Multi-Annual Work Programme for the 2014-2017 period sets the framework for the implementation of LIFE, and the respective sub-programmes. It also specifies the indicative allocation of funds among the priority areas, types of financing, the themes of projects that implement the thematic priorities set out in Annex III of Regulation (EU) No 1293/2013, the technical methodology for project selection, the criteria for the award of grants and indicative timetables for the calls for proposals.

The Climate Action sub-programme was another of the updates to this cycle. Incidentally, when adopting the financial framework it was established that investment in projects related to climate change would comprise 20% of the entire budget by 2020.

Other new actions include the introduction of Integrated Projects, which involve a completely new design. These are projects that will implement strategies or plans for the environment, nature / biodiversity or climate change at an enlarged territorial level (national, transnational, regional or multi-regional).

Finally, it is worth mentioning the innovative financial instruments: PF4EE and NCFF. These instruments are managed by the European Investment Bank (EIB) and will be tested during the whole multi-annual work programme to address the limited access to adequate and affordable commercial financing for investments in energy efficiency as well as to assess the potential investment mobilization in the priority areas "Nature and biodiversity" and "Adapting to climate change".

Main beneficiaries of the programme:

Any organization legally registered in the European Union can apply to the programme, including NGOs, government entities, research organizations and universities as well as private companies.

Types of projects of special interest for companies:

Under the "traditional" projects, and given that there is still a window of opportunity for companies and other organizations in the bet for innovation and demonstration of new technologies and procedures, all the projects that apply a technique or method that has never been tested before and have potential benefits for the environment, or projects that put into practice, rehearse, evaluate and disseminate actions, methodologies or new or unknown in the project context approaches are specially interesting. On the other hand, projects must have a high potential for replicability, meaning that its technical, geographical, ecological or socioeconomic context can be applied elsewhere in similar circumstances.

Advice for potential candidates:

- Ensure timely preparation of the proposal;

- Proposals that fail usually are poorly designed or do not fit in LIFE;

- It is extremely important to read all the guides, pay attention to compliance with all the rules and exceptions, the LIFE project impact on policies and legislation and the effective dissemination of the project and creation of networks with other projects; - Framing the project objectives in the thematic priorities;

- Do not include actions that are not related to the project's objectives;

- Clearly define the objectives and quantify them and ensure that there is a European added value;

- It is also important to ensure the financial coherence of the project.

For more information about this program: https://ec.europa.eu/environment/life/

Joana Dias
Magellan, association for the representation of Portuguese interests abroad

Note: This article was written in collaboration with the Coordinating Team for the LIFE programme, the Portuguese Environment Agency - Agência Portuguesa do Ambiente (APA).

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