Sustainable, green and climate-friendly projects across Europe have been recognized in the LIFE Awards, with projects to fight forest fires, discourage food waste and better manage brown bears receiving the top prizes.
The LIFE programme funds environmental and climate-related projects across the continent. The prize-giving event was part of EU Green Week. With the coronavirus restrictions in place across the continent it was a virtual ceremony, and finalists watched as the prizes were announced via webcam from their home countries.
A project in Portugal called FLAW4LIFE which takes mis-shapen and 'ugly' fruit and vegetables and sells them in an alternative, parallel cooperative market won both the Environment and Citizens awards, the latter the result of a public poll.
Efforts across the southern and Dinaric Alps to encourage a cohesive and sustainable policy for the management of the brown bear population won the LIFE Awards Nature category. The LIFE DINALP BEAR project brings together different stakeholders in the region to create a common international approach to this important species.
The FIRELIFE project in Hungary took home the Climate Action award for its innovative approach to forest fire awareness. With wildfires a relatively new phenomenon in central Europe, the goal of the project was to educate the population on the risks and consequences, and to draw together stakeholders such as landowners to create a long-lasting prevention strategy.
A special 'Adapting to COVID-19' award was given to the Italian PrepAIR project, which had initially been funded to develop new strategies to improve air quality in the northern Po Valley region.
The project partners reacted quickly to the pandemic, helping colleagues in another initiative to investigate the link between air pollution and COVID-19, plus the impact of the lockdown on air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. The goal is to better understand the different factors which contribute to poor air quality in this highly-populated region of Europe.
Reacting to the awards, European Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Virginijus Sinkevičius said: "The inspiring winners and finalists of these LIFE Awards show that solutions to the planetary challenges of biodiversity loss, climate change, resource scarcity, and even health emergencies exist. These individual success stories need to be replicated across the EU at speed and scale in order to help the EU achieve its ambitious EU Green Deal goals".
The LIFE programme is the EU's funding instrument for environmental and climate projects, and currently has a budget of 3.4 billion euros across six years.