EESC opinion: Mid-term evaluation of the LIFE programme
The opinion states that it is still too early to carry out a proper assessment of the LIFE programme over the 2014-2020 period; nonetheless, it gives recommendations on the new features introduced in the programme from 2014 onwards (such as the so-called "Integrated Projects" and the new financial instruments developed under the LIFE programme by the European Bank of Investment) and reiterates the strong support of the Committee to an independent funding programme dedicated to the environment, biodiversity and resource-efficiency. The Commission asked both the EESC and the European Committee of the Regions to draw up exploratory opinions on the mid-term evaluation of LIFE. The CoR adopted its opinion on this subject at its plenary session of 8-9 February 2017.
the LIFE programme has been an essential part of the EU environmental policy over the past 25 years, contributing directly to demonstrating the EU's added value to citizens and creating a bridge between the EU, local authorities and citizens; it also contributes in a decisive manner to addressing the implementation gap which affects the EU environmental legislation;
the LIFE programme has proved to be a flexible instrument, adapting over time to new constraints and challenges;
the LIFE programme is too often used to offset the consequences of measures and policies which undermine the natural capital and biodiversity in the EU; much more consistency between public departments is needed to make sure that action under the LIFE programme does not come as a mere correction of other measures;
the current policy consisting in funding the Natura 2000 network primarily through the EU's regional development funds and the second pillar of the Common Agricultural Policy is considered unsatisfactory. The opinion proposes to change this policy, by increasing substantially the LIFE budget and by earmarking a portion of it to Natura 2000;
the opinion generally welcomes the new features introduced in the programme in 2014 as new evidence showing how flexible it is, pointing out that it is still too early to assess them properly;
when it comes to project selection, the opinion states that the co-funding rates currently applied are often a barrier for potential applicants, especially from the NGO community; it calls on the Commission to consider higher co-funding rates in some cases; it also highlights that, in some countries, co-funding leads in practice to a politically biased project selection, with national governments attributing public support sometimes in a rather controversial way;
last but not least, considering the recent successes of international negotiations such as the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda and the Paris Agreement on climate change, the opinion highlights that the LIFE programme will have to fulfil new tasks and be expanded after 2020, including, for instance, on climate adaptation.
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