The LIFE programme

Document Summary: 

Organizational profile: The LIFE programme is the EU’s funding instrument for the environment and climate action. The general objective of LIFE is to contribute to the implementation, updating and development of EU environmental and climate policy and legislation by co-financing projects with European added value. The LIFE programme is divided in two sub-programmes, one for environment (representing 75% of the overall financial envelope) and one for climate change (representing 25% of the envelope).

The climate action sub-programme supports projects in the areas of renewable energies, energy efficiency, farming, land use, and peatland management.

The environment sub-programme funds nature conservation projects in particular in the areas of biodiversity, habitats and species. It provides action grants for best practice, pilot and demonstration projects that contribute to the implementation of the EU’s directives on birds and habitats, the EU’s biodiversity strategy to 2020, and the development, implementation and management of the Natura 2000 network.

Financing Instrument: Loans and equity investments for natural capital and energy efficiency projects provided through the European Investment Bank.

Project scale: Traditional projects receive a co-funding of up to 55%. There is no fixed minimum size for project budgets. While large ambitious projects (i.e. over 5 million € total costs) have been financed several times in the past, small projects (i.e. below 500 000 € total costs) have seldom succeeded due to the limited output and consequently the low added value. There is no pre-defined project duration under the LIFE+ Programme. Usually projects last for 2 to 5 years.

Integrated projects are strategic projects supporting EU Member States to achieve full implementation of Strategies or Action Plans required by the EU environmental and climate legislation. Projects receive a co-funding of up to 60%, with an average of €10 million LIFE grant per project.

Preparatory projects address specific needs for the development and implementation of EU environmental policy and law. The specific topics are indicated in the annual call for proposals. Projects receive a co-funding of up to 60%.

Technical assistance projects provide action grants and financial support to help applicants prepare integrated projects. Projects receive a co-funding of up to 60%.

Recipient countries/ regions/country groups: European Union

Recipient categories: Applicants may fall into three types of beneficiaries: (1) public bodies, (2) private commercial organisations and (3) private non-commercial organisations (including NGOs).

Eligibility Criteria: For action grants, proposals may be submitted by legal persons (entities) registered in the EU.

The legal base for NGOs receiving operating grants is the LIFE Regulation which states that: "Operating grants shall support certain operational and administrative costs of non-profit making entities which pursue an aim of general Union interest, are primarily active in the field of environment or climate action and are involved in the development, implementation and enforcement of Union policy and legislation." (Article 21 of the Regulation). In the past, between 20 and 40 organisations were selected for funding each year. The call for proposals for funding in 2022-2023 will be published in April 2021. Any applicant must:

1. Be a non-profit making legal person;

2. Be independent, in particular from government, other public authorities, and from political or commercial interests;

3. Be primarily active in the field of environment and/or climate action and have an environmental/climate objective which is aimed at:

a. the public good,

b. sustainable development, and

c. the development, implementation and enforcement of European Union environmental and/or climate policy and legislation;

4. Be established (legally registered) in one of the European Union Member States;

5. Be operating at Union level with a structure and activities covering at least three European Union Member States.

Application guidelines:

For traditional projects, you must use the eProposal web application to build and submit your application. The environment sub-programme has a two-stage application procedure:

1. You are first asked to submit a concept note of 10 pages. You can modify a submitted concept note as many times as you want until the call for project proposals is closed.

2. If your concept makes it to the second stage, you submit the full project proposal based on the feedback from the LIFE programme.

The climate action sub-programme follows a single-stage application procedure, meaning that you are asked to submit full project proposals from the start.

NGOs can apply for LIFE action grants under the two sub-programmes “environment” and “climate action”. They can also apply for operating grants. The call for proposals for funding in 2022-2023 will be published in April 2021.

In each EU country there is a national contact point (and sometimes several regional contact points) to help you with your application. These national contact points organise information and networking events and proposal writing workshops in the different EU countries. They can also point you in the direction of local partners.

Publication Date
Wednesday, 28 October 2020
Applicable location
Sustainable land use
Biodiversity conservation
Climate change
Forest conservation and management
Financing opportunities