Now in its fifth phase, the LIFE programme is the EU’s longstanding funding instrument for the support of the environment, nature conservation and, since 2014, for climate action also. Its general objective is to contribute to enhancing the implementation, updating and development of EU environmental and climate policy and legislation by co-financing pilot, demonstration or (for conservation of priority species/habitats) best practice projects which typically have a value in the range of one to five million euros over a duration of 3 to 5 years. Awareness-raising and dissemination projects are also possible. The programme’s priorities are established in Multiannual Work Programmes with the latest running from 2018-2020. Calls are launched annually in April/May. For the Environment sub-programme a new two-stage application process now exists with stage one concept notes required to be submitted by mid-June.

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EU Budget

€2.79 billion for projects (EU support varies from 55% to 75% for priority habitats/species). As of 2018, €1.657 billion remains available after the 2017 approvals. The 2018 call has a value of €317 million for environment and €80 million for climate.


Environment sub-programme:

  • Environment and resource efficiency
  • Nature & Biodiversity
  • Environmental Governance and Information

The specific objectives for this larger part of the programme include water; soil; forests; the circular economy; health, including noise and chemicals; and air quality and emissions, including the urban environment.

Climate Action sub-programme:

  • Climate Change Mitigation
  • Climate Change Adaptation
  • Climate Governance and Information

This strand also funds further climate projects by leveraging private finance through loans and guarantees via local banks.

Under both sub-programmes another distinct type of intervention – ‘Integrated Projects’ (IPs) is also permitted. These are large-scale (e.g. regional or national) territorial approaches mobilising complementary funding sources and wide stakeholder involvement to implement a nature/water/waste/air/climate plan or strategy as required by EU legislation, e.g. River Basin management. An indicative 3 IPs are to be supported for each Member State.

Project example

Since the current LIFE programme launched in 2014, just a single Irish project has been approved through the first 4 annual calls for proposals. The overall objective of the Living Bog project is to improve the conservation status of part of the State’s remaining intact ‘Active Raised Bog’ habitat, through the protection and restoration of 12 Natura 2000 ecological network sites in 7 counties across the Midlands. The project, which runs from 2016-2020, is the largest of its kind ever undertaken in Ireland and will reverse the man-made decline (mainly from turf harvesting and associated drainage) of 2,649 hectares of an ancient but fragile wetland resource which supports hundreds of plants and species, including many of Ireland’s rarest animals, birds and insects, as well as serving as a useful flood protection and a significant carbon sink. The project further aims to secure local landowner and community co-operation and foster a greater national understanding of the importance of raised bogs through a variety of outreach and public awareness projects. Damming measures, infilling of drains, removal ofcertain flora, form part of the overall restoration plan to re-create the necessary hydrological and ecological conditions, along with fencing and walkway improvements, fire plans and amenity provision. €4 million support has been provided to the Department of Culture, Heritage & the Gaeltacht by LIFE.


Unusually for a programme managed by the European Commission, applications must be submitted via the competent national ministry.

In the case of Ireland this is:

Pat Martin

EU and International Environment Policy, Department of Communications, Climate Action & Environment, Custom House, Dublin 1.

Email:   Twitter: @EULIFE_PROG_IE

Tel: 01 6782316

Life programme in Ireland