In November I was asked to attend a European Parliament workshop discussing how best to use the new €3.46 Billion LIFE budget to support Environment and Climate, the two elements that LIFE now covers. RRC, on behalf of the LIFE+ RESTORE partners, was chosen as one of two outstanding LIFE projects (from over 4000 others) to highlight key areas of ambition within the new programme. Whilst RRC and RESTORE could not quite compete with the visually stunning backdrop of the other LIFE example project 'Safe Islands for Seabirds' in the Azores, ours was held aloft as clearly delivering the ambition that LIFE expect to see on communication and information exchange for all future LIFE applications. The message was that projects must now deliver 'high impact', be very well communicated and have clear replicability to influence and guide others.
It was great to see the interest of the European Investment Bank in the LIFE Programme, and their commitment to find financial instruments to increase the Programme budget through investment in both the Environment and Climate routes. One of the concerns for the LIFE Programme, raised by the European Court of Auditors, was the breadth of ambition and aims of the programme, especially as it now encompasses Climate, under both Directorates. It was good to hear the strong support that this was exactly the aim of LIFE as the committee viewed it as being one of the few instruments that remained to make a difference to environment and climate issues.
For those thinking about LIFE funding for future projects, the cap on the number/value of applications accepted per country will disappear for 2018, and they will all be assessed on merit, but also be aware that the ratio of success to applications has currently risen to 1 to 10, so make it count. Make sure to highlight the contribution your application will make to 'green jobs', and you will be up the list in a flash! For those of us who have recently (in 5 years of the end date) been in receipt of funding, the stipulation to actively maintain websites and other 'assets' of the project is being followed up carefully by the commission.
Finally, as the UK, we should congratulate the Environment Agency and the Rivers Trust in securing one of the multi-million € Integrated Projects, one of 6 in total out of 30 proposals. Brussels felt like a long way to travel in one day, but gave a great feeling to have been asked to represent what we had achieved, from RESTORE and from the RRC's inception as a 1993 LIFE project. It was also good to say hello to a Dutchman with whom I shared an extraordinarily zig zaggy canoe trip in search of Houting (the self-styled Tiger of Denmark), a remarkable fish for its inability to swim up even the gentlest of obstruction bypass channels.
In the immortal words of Renton "CHOOSE LIFE"