The Project

The LIFE Programme and the Natura 2000 Network

The financial instrument for the environment (LIFE) started thanks to the support of the European Parliament. MEP Hemmo Muntingh, in particular, advocated the need for a European environmental fund. In its first phase (LIFE I: 1992-1995), the programme had a budget of 400 million Euros and this money helped finance 731 environmental projects. Throughout the 1990s, LIFE helped develop inventories of potential Natura 2000 sites, forging an inextricable link with the Natura 2000 network, which protects the most threatened habitats and species across Europe.

Natura 2000 is the EU's network of nature conservation areas, created to ensure the survival of Europe's most valuable species and habitats. It is not limited to nature reserves, but is based on a much broader principle of conservation and sustainable use of the natural environment.

LIFE played a crucial role in the preparation of management plans for Natura 2000 sites. Funds were used to design, develop and adopt such plans. France was instrumental in the development of the "Document of Objectives" (DOCOB), a template for project management planning that is still used today.

Multiple LIFE projects have since developed thousands of such management plans. In addition, a specific chapter called "LIFE TCY - Third Countries" contributed to raising awareness of environmental issues in third countries.

The LIFE Programme 2014-2020, with a budget of €3.4 billion, was divided into two sub-programmes: one for Environment (representing 75% of the total financial envelope) and one for Climate Action (representing 25% of the envelope). During this programming period, the new category "Integrated Projects" was introduced, a type of project that helps EU Member State authorities to implement environmental and climate plans, programmes and strategies, developed at regional, multi-regional or national level.

The LIFE Programme 2021-2027 has a total budget of 5,432 million Euros and is one of the main contributors to the European Green Deal. This new programme consists of two areas and four sub-programmes: Environment Area (64% of the budget), with the sub-programmes "Nature and Biodiversity" and "Circular Economy and Quality of Life"; Climate Action Area (36% of the budget), with the sub-programmes "Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation" and "Clean Energy Transition".