History of LIFE
Adoption of the Single European Act in 1986 served as the basis for establishing the LIFE Programme. Together with V Environmental Action Programme (1993), these acts contributed to the reform of the European system of nature conservation, and the LIFE Programme became the sole financial mechanism of the European Union, entirely dedicated to environmental protection. During the subsequent editions, the programme's structure has changed to best implement the objectives of EU Member States in the field of environmental protection, and from 2014 – also as part of a separate sub-programme for the Climate Action.
LIFE I Programme (1992-1995)
Implemented since 1992, it consisted of five components with a total budget of ECU 400 million (European Currency Unit – the currency before euro). Projects could be funded in the range of 30-100% (on average 50%). Updated priority areas were presented annually. A total of 731 projects were carried out during that edition.
LIFE II Programme (1996-1999)
Along with the expansion of the European Community in 1995 with new Member States (Austria, Finland, Sweden), the budget has increased, reaching the amount of ECU 450 million. Starting with the second edition, the programme has been divided into three components (LIFE-Nature, LIFE-Environment and LIFE-Third countries, i.e. not in the EU). An amendment to the regulation determined the breakdown of the budget between the components in the ratio of 46:46:5, the other 3% remained at the disposal of the European Commission. Among the candidate countries to the EU, Romania was the first to get involved, followed by Slovenia, Hungary, Estonia, Lithuania and Slovakia.
In 1999, the so-called Life Week was also organised – the first international meeting of people and institutions involved or interested in the programme. The meeting with time became the Green Week – an event organized once a year in Brussels, which consists of, among others, a series of workshops, seminars and an ecological fair, during which environmental projects are presented.
LIFE III Programme (1999-2006)
The implementation of the third phase of the programme was scheduled for five years, and its budget has been increased to EUR 640 million. New mechanisms of popularizing international projects that would involve several Member States simultaneously were developed. Regulation (EC) no 1682/2004 extended the operation of the instrument by two years, granting and additional EUR 317 million. The extension of the Programme was aimed at preserving the continuity of activities until the beginning of the new financial perspective of the European Union for the period 2007-2013.
During three editions carried out in EU Member States and neighbouring countries, a total of 2,750 projects were carried out, including 5 in Poland, by providing financial support of EUR 1.36 billion. The total cost of all the environmental projects carried out during this time with the support of the LIFE programme is estimated to be more than EUR 4 billion.
LIFE+ Financial Instrument (2007-2013)
The fourth stage of the programme – LIFE+ was established by EC Regulation no 614/2007 for the years 2007-2013. Its implementation has been granted a budget of EUR 2.143 billion. The financial instrument consisted of three thematic components: I – Nature and biodiversity, II – Environment policy and governance, and III – Information and communication. The novelty in this perspective was the funding of educational and information campaigns (component III) to increase knowledge and awareness of environmental issues, as well as increased participation of Member States in the selection process and the management of implementation of projects carried out in those countries. In total, during the course of the LIFE + Programme, a total of 1,403 projects was carried out in the European Union, including 64 in Poland Implemented projects.
LIFE - Programme for the Environment and Climate Action (2014-2020)
The current Programme was established on December 11, 2013. EC Regulation No 1293/2013. Support is planned for activities that protect the environment – in the amount of EUR 3.4 billion. Functioning of the LIFE Programme in the coming years (2014-2017) is specified by the Multi-annual Work Programme 2014-2017. LIFE Programme was divided into two sub-programmes: for the Environment and for Climate Actions, whose budget for the years 2014-2017 amounts to EUR 1.3 billion and EUR 0.45 billion. Integrated projects have joined the group of traditional projects, addressing environmental problems on a large area in a comprehensive way, and technical assistance projects.