Programme for the environment and climate action (LIFE) (2014-20)

This regulation establishes the fifth version of the LIFE programme, the EU’s main funding framework for environmental and climate change policy. It focuses on concrete environmental and climate policy priorities as well as areas for action.

Regulation (EU) No 1293/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 December 2013 on the establishment of a programme for the environment and climate action (LIFE) and repealing Regulation (EC) No 614/2007.

The programme for the environment and climate action (LIFE) for 2014 to 2020 aims to contribute to sustainable development and to the achievement of the objectives and targets of the Europe 2020 strategy, the seventh EU environment action programme and other relevant EU environment and climate change initiatives.

The programme has two subprogrammes (environment and climate action). It also introduces integrated projects, which operate on a large scale, starting at regional or multi-city level. These aim to implement environmental and climate change policy by applying plans and strategies based on EU legislation and integrating these policies further into other policy areas. The intention is to mobilise complementary funds, especially EU funds, to do so.

Other new features are two innovative financial instruments for funding projects through loans and equity: the PF4EE (Private for Financing for Energy Efficiency) and the NCFF (Natural Capital Financing Facility), which is co-funded by the Commission and the European Investment Bank (EIB) on a pilot scale.

Overall, at least 81 % of LIFE resources is to be spent on projects.

LIFE’s main objectives include:

use as a catalyst for changes in policymaking on environment and climate action;
promoting implementation and integration of environment and climate objectives in other policies and EU countries’ practice;
better governance;
specific link to EU priorities: resource efficiency, biodiversity loss and climate adaptation and mitigation.

The environment subprogramme (75 % of the budget) has three priority areas:

environment and resource efficiency;
nature and biodiversity (55 % of the budget for action grants under the environment subprogramme);
environmental governance and information.

These priorities cover seven thematic priorities: nature and biodiversity; water, including the marine environment; waste; resource efficiency, including soil and forests and green and circular economy; environment and health, including chemicals and noise; air quality and emissions, including the urban environment; and information and governance.

The climate action subprogramme (25 % of the budget) has three priority areas:

mitigation (contributes to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions);
adaptation (supports efforts to increase the resilience to climate change);
LIFE climate governance and information (e.g. raising awareness of climate matters).

National allocations

During the first multiannual work programme (2014-17), national allocations apply only to ‘traditional’ (i.e. best practice, demonstration, pilot or information, awareness and dissemination) projects and the NCFF under the environment subprogramme. As of 2018, the selection of these projects will be exclusively based on merit.

Territorial scope

Non-EU countries may participate in LIFE, based on a specific agreement with the Commission. Programme activities outside the EU are possible under certain circumstances, as is cooperation with international bodies.

The LIFE programme 2014-20 has a total budget of almost €3,456.7 million.

Further information:

European Commission’s Directorate-General for the Environment website on LIFE and presentation.



Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Regulation (EU) No 1293/2013


OJ L 347 of 20.12.2013


Commission Implementing Decision of 19 March 2014 on the adoption of the LIFE multiannual work programme for 2014-17 (2014/203/EU) (OJ L 116 of 17.4.2014).

Moving towards a low-carbon economy in 2050

Communication (COM(2011) 112 final) — A Roadmap for moving to a competitive low carbon economy in 2050

It presents a roadmap up to 2050 of the various ways the EU’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction target can be achieved.

It contains target milestones to show the extent to which the EU will be on course to create a low-carbon economy.
It sets out policy challenges, investment needs and the role different sectors should play.

Key Points

The European Commission’s analysis suggests that the most cost-effective way of reaching the overall target is to reduce domestic emissions by 40 % and 60 % for 2030 and 2040 respectively, from 1990 levels.

All sectors will have to contribute to the low-carbon transition and the 2050 roadmap sets out the contributions of different sectors:

the power sector can almost totally eliminate CO2 emissions by 2050, especially by producing electricity from renewable sources using existing and more advanced technologies;
transport could reduce emissions by more than 60 % by becoming more sustainable through greater vehicle efficiency, electric vehicles and cleaner energy;
buildings can reduce their current emissions by around 90 % via energy efficiency improvements;
industry can cut its GHG emissions by more than 80 % through more efficient processes, energy efficiency, recycling and new technologies;
Although by 2050 it is projected to represent a third of total EU emissions, agriculture can reduce emissions by 42–49 % through a range of new techniques, including a healthier diet with less meat.
Achieving these targets will require major public and private investment over the next four decades. The communication estimates this could amount to an additional investment for the whole EU of around €270 billion annually, or 1.5 % of EU GDP.

However, the potential benefits, in addition to tackling climate change and using resources more efficiently are immense. The package of measures could:

cut the EU’s annual average energy costs by €175–320 billion;
reduce the EU’s dependency on imported fossil fuels;
stimulate a structural change in the EU economy, creating hundreds of thousands of jobs;
improve air quality to the benefit of the health of EU citizens.


To keep global climate change below 2 oC — the internationally agreed target to prevent the catastrophic consequences of global warming — the EU is aiming to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80–95 % by 2050 compared to 1990 levels.

For more information, see:

‘Climate action’ on the European Commission’s website.

Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions — A Roadmap for moving to a competitive low carbon economy in 2050 (COM(2011) 112 final, 8.3.2011)

EU policy framework for climate and energy (2020 to 2030)

The European Commission proposes a framework for EU climate and energy policies in the period from 2020 to 2030 which builds on the good progress made towards achieving the 2020 targets for greenhouse gas emissions, renewable energy and energy savings. At the heart of the 2030 framework is a 40 % reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

Communication of the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament: A policy framework for climate and energy in the period from 2020 to 2030 [COM(2014) 15 final/2 of 28.1.2014 – not published in the Official Journal].


This communication highlights the need for the EU to transition towards a low-carbon economy building on the substantial progress already made to achieve the Union’s 2020 targets for greenhouse gas emissions reduction, renewable energy and energy savings.

Following a stakeholder consultation on the basis of a Green Paper published in March 2013, the communication reaffirms the importance of pursuing a low-carbon economy which ensures competitiveness and affordable energy for consumers, creates growth and jobs and increases security of energy supplies, while reducing energy import dependence.

The Commission proposes that the 2030 climate and energy framework should be based on full implementation of the 2020 targets and the following:

A 40 % reduction below the 1990 level in EU greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, to be achieved through domestic measures alone. The measures include a combination of 43 % emission reductions compared to 2005 in the Emissions Trading System (ETS) and national actions by Member States to cut emissions by 30 % from sectors outside the ETS.

Increasing the share of energy from renewable sources consumed in the EU to at least 27 %, binding at the EU level but not at national levels so as to give Member States flexibility to meet their targets in the most cost-effective manner.

A reform of the ETS, through creation of a new market stability reserve as well as a tightening of the annual cap on emissions after 2020. A legislative proposal to establish the reserve was published alongside this communication.

Further improved energy efficiency, essential to competitiveness, security of energy supply, and sustainability. A review of the 2012 energy efficiency directive later in 2014 will help establish the future energy saving policy.

A new European governance system for the delivery of energy and climate objectives. Member States would have to draw up national plans for competitive, secure and sustainable energy. The plans will be reviewed and assessed by the Commission.

Key indicators to monitor progress on all aspects of competitiveness, security and sustainable energy.
The Council and European Parliament are invited to endorse the proposal. A decision by the Council is expected by October 2014. The communication is part of a wider package including a legal proposal for reform of the ETS, competitiveness, shale gas, and energy prices and costs.


Proposal for a decision of the European Parliament and the Council concerning the establishment and operation of a market stability reserve for the Union greenhouse gas emission trading scheme and amending Directive 2003/87/EC. [COM(2014) 20/2 of 22.1.2014].

Directive 2012/27/EU on energy efficiency [Official Journal L 315 of 14.11.2012].

Directive 2009/28/EC on renewable energy sources [Official Journal L 140 of 5.6.2009]

Directive 2009/29/EC amending Directive 2003/87/EC so as to improve and extend the greenhouse gas emission allowance trading scheme of the Community (Revised ETS Directive) [Official Journal L 140 of 5.6.2009].

Decision No 406/2009/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council on the effort of Member States to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions to meet the Community’s greenhouse gas emission reduction commitments up to 2020 [Official Journal L 140, 05/06/2009].

Energy Roadmap 2050 [COM(2011) 885 final of 15.12.2011].

Roadmap for moving to a competitive low-carbon economy in 2050 [COM(2011) 112 final of 8.3.2011]

Council Directive 2013/18/EU of 13 May 2013 adapting Directive 2009/28/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council on the promotion of the use of energy from renewable sources, by reason of the accession of the Republic of Croatia [Official Journal L 158 of 10.6.2013].

Strategy on climate change: the way ahead for 2020 and beyond

The Commission assesses the costs and benefits of combating climate change and recommends a package of measures to limit global warming to 2° Celsius. Some of the measures apply to the EU, such as the binding target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and measures on energy, and others have a broader international scope, such as negotiating an international agreement.

Communication from the Commission, of 10 January 2007, entitled: “Limiting Global Climate Change to 2 degrees Celsius – The way ahead for 2020 and beyond” [COM(2007) 2 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

Strong scientific evidence shows that urgent action to tackle climate change is imperative. New research has confirmed that the climate really is changing and there are signs that these changes have accelerated. Impact analyses are beginning to quantify precisely what the cost of inaction or of simply pursuing current policies will be.

In 2005, the Commission laid the foundations for an EU strategy to combat climate change. This document now sets out more concrete steps to limit the effects of climate change and to reduce the risk of massive and irreversible disruptions to the planet. These short-term and medium-term measures target both developed countries (the EU and other industrialised countries) and developing countries.

The EU and its Member States have confirmed their target to limit the global average temperature increase to 2° Celsius compared with pre-industrial levels, the point beyond which the impact of climatic change is believed to increase dramatically. Research shows that stabilising the level of greenhouse gases at 450 ppmv (parts per million volume of CO2 equivalent) would lead to a 1 in 2 chance of reaching the target of a 2°C rise (compared with a 1 in 6 chance if levels reach 550 ppmv, and a 1 in 16 chance if levels hit 650 ppmv).

Costs and benefits of future policy choices

Recent research, such as the PESETA study carried out for the Joint Research Centre and the Stern Review, points out the hefty economic and social costs of failing to take sufficient action to combat climate change. The Stern Review estimates this cost at between 5 and 20% of global DGP.

Climate change will cause widespread damage to populations, ecosystems and resources, as well as to infrastructure and living conditions, ranging from an increase in mortality and disease linked to changes in temperature, damage caused by more frequent flooding and a rise in sea level, increasing desertification in Southern countries and scarcer fresh water resources. The PESETA study focuses in particular on the impacts in Europe on agriculture, public health, tourism, river basins and coastal systems.

According to the impact assessment carried out by the Commission, the investment needed to maintain the level of greenhouse gases at 450 ppmv would cost about 0.5% of global GDP over the period 2013-2030. Global GDP growth would only fall by 0.19% per year up to 2030, a fraction of the expected annual GDP growth rate (2.8%). The Commission also stresses that the global cost needed is overstated, since it does not account for the benefits of combating climate change.

Effectively tackling climate change would in fact produce significant benefits, including fewer damages by avoiding problems. In the same way, reducing our consumption of fossil fuels (especially oil and gas) will help cut costs in importing these resources and substantially improve the security of energy supply. Similarly, reducing CO2 emissions will help improve air quality, which will produce huge health benefits. What’s more, most studies show that mitigation policies would have positive effects on employment, for example in the field of renewable energy and cutting-edge technology.

The benefits of combating climate change will not stop at EU borders. Similar benefits can be expected in other countries if they adopt similar measures to Europe, especially regarding the security of energy supply and air quality.

Action in the EU

The EU has already proved, through internal policies, that is possible to reduce greenhouse gas emissions without undermining economic growth. The Commission stresses that there is the potential to further reduce emissions considerably and echoes its commitment to pursue and extend current measures and to adopt new measures.

The Commission suggests that the EU should adopt targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It calls for the EU to set the target in international negotiations of reducing greenhouse gas emissions in developed countries by 30% (compared to 1990 levels) by 2020. Until an international agreement is made, and without prejudice to the position it will take in these negotiations, the EU should immediately make the resolute and independent commitment to reduce its own emissions by at least 20% by 2020. At the March 2007 European Council, Member States also strongly backed these targets (see below under “Related acts”).

In line with the strategic analysis of the EU’s energy policy (see below under “Related acts”), the Commission recommends taking the following measures on energy:

  • improving the EU’s energy efficiency by 20% by 2020;
  • increasing the share of renewable energy to 20% by 2020;
  • developing an environmentally safe carbon capture and geological storage policy.

The Commission believes that the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) needs to be strengthened by taking measures such as the following:

  • increasing the duration of quota allocations to over five years, as it is now;
  • extending the scheme to other gases and sectors;
  • aligning allocation procedures across Member States and
  • linking the EU ETS to compatible mandatory schemes in other States (such as California and Australia).

In order to limit emissions in the transport sector, the Commission asks the Council and Parliament to adopt, where necessary, proposals to include aviation in the EU ETS and to link taxes on tourism vehicles to their CO2 emissions. There are also plans to reduce CO2 emissions from cars to reach the target of 120 grams of CO2 per kilometre (g CO2/km). The Commission also stresses the need for consumers to do more, to cut the emissions produced by freight transport by road and maritime transport and to address biofuels.

The document suggests cutting CO2 emissions in other sectors, such as by improving the energy efficiency of residential and commercial buildings. It also recommends reducing other gases, notably by adopting and strengthening measures on agriculture and forestry, setting limits for methane emissions from industry and gas engines and including these sources of emissions in the EU ETS, stricter measures on fluorinated greenhouse gases and tackling nitrous oxide from combustion and large installations.

It is also important to rapidly mobilise funds for research on the environment, energy and transport under the Seventh Framework Programme and to increase the research budget after 2013 to promote the development of clean technology and increase our knowledge of climate change. The action plans on energy technology and environmental technology must be fully implemented.

The document also notes that the strategic guidelines on cohesion should be applied, which promote sustainable transport and energy and environmental technologies.

Tackling global climate change after 2020 (Paris Protocol)



Communication (COM(2015) 81 final): The Paris Protocol — A blueprint for tackling global climate change beyond 2020


It describes how the European Union (EU) has taken the lead in pressing for ambitious targets in a legally binding United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change agreement. Without urgent action, climate change will cause severe and irreversible damage to humanity and the environment. All countries must now substantially reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.
It sets out the EU’s objectives for the Paris climate conference and how these could be achieved. These include the long-term goal of reducing global emissions by at least 60% below 2010 levels by 2050.

The agreement, known as the Paris Protocol, should:

include the participation of as many countries as possible, and comprehensive coverage of all sectors, including agriculture, international air and sea transport, and emissions;
include robust commitments to mitigate the effects of climate change;
regularly review those mitigation efforts every 5 years after 2020;
contain rules to monitor, report and verify that every country signed up to the agreement is on track to meet its commitments;
promote investment, by public and private finance, into low-emission, climate-resilient programmes and policies;
encourage more systematic exchange of experience and good practice within, and between, different parts of the world;
support the development and deployment of a wide range of climate technologies, including energy production, water management systems and technologies to combat the effects of extreme weather.
The EU stepped up its climate diplomacy ahead of the Paris conference. It has endorsed a climate diplomacy action plan. It is using many other policies — economic and development cooperation, research, technology, innovation, trade, environment and disaster risk reduction — to support its objectives and help its partners to implement their commitments.

The negotiations were finalised in Paris in December 2015. The new agreement will be implemented from 2020.


The EU’s climate and energy policies are delivering results. EU emissions fell 23% between 1990 and 2014, while GDP grew 46% over the same period. The EU has taken significant steps to become the world’s most emissions efficient economy. In October 2014, EU leaders agreed a new climate and energy framework for 2030, with the target to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40% compared to 1990 levels.

For more information, see:

‘Paris Agreement’ on the European Commission’s website.

Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council: The Paris Protocol — A blueprint for tackling global climate change beyond 2020 (COM(2015) 81 final, 25.2.2015)


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