The adoption of the Single European Act in 1986, which for the first time gave EU environmental policy a firm treaty basis, along with the Fifth Environment Action Programme, approved in 1993, really opened the door for the LIFE funding mechanism.These two developments set the pace of environmental reform for the next decade and the LIFE programme was one of the EU’s essential environmental tools.The programme also consists of a new category of projects, jointly funded integrated projects, which will operate on a large territorial scale.
The amended regulation (Regulation (EC) No 1404/96) stated that 46 percent of the programme budget should be dedicated to nature conservation actions - this programme strand became LIFE-Nature.
A further 46 percent was dedicated to 'other actions designed to implement EU environment policy and legislation.' This strand of the programme became LIFE-Environment.
A third strand (five per cent of the budget) addressed actions in countries on the shores of the Mediterranean and Baltic Seas - later LIFE-Third Countries - and accompanying and technical assistance measures (three per cent of the budget). LIFE-Environment projects had to contribute to innovation or policy implementation in the fields of environmental monitoring, clean technologies, waste management, the identification and rehabilitation of contaminated sites, the integration of environmental concerns in town and country planning, aquatic pollution reduction and the improvement of the urban environment.
The objective was to demonstrate new methods and techniques that would have the potential for pan-European application and would pave the way for implementation of existing policies in different environmental fields, or for the future development of policy.
The first phase of LIFE was succeeded by LIFE II, also running for four years but with an increased budget of ECU 450 million, covering an enlarged EU (Austria, Finland and Sweden joined in 1995).
With LIFE II, the programme was split into three categories - LIFE-Nature, LIFE-Environment and LIFE-Third Countries.During its first phase (LIFE I), which ran from 1992 to 1995, LIFE had a number of components: The rates of EU assistance for projects ranged from 30 percent for income-generating investments to 100 percent for technical assistance measures.For most projects in the first two categories described above, the level of assistance was limited to 50 percent of project cost.The LIFE multiannual work programme for 2014-2017 has been adopted by a Commission Decision on 19 March 2014, after having received a positive opinion of the Committee for the LIFE Programme for the Environment and Climate Action on 17 February 2014.The work programme applies from the date of its adoption and enters into force as of its publication in the Official Journal of the European Union.For the first time LIFE project funding also will be provided through innovative financial instruments.