In just a couple of days, we will welcome the New Year, but before the celebration it is worth looking back at what has been achieved this year. Although the year has been full of difficulties and challenges, Latvia has taken another step towards mitigating climate change and protecting the environment. Currently, 14 LIFE projects are being implemented in Latvia and their activities are aimed at restoring, protecting, and improving the environment we live in. These projects are financed by the European Commission’s LIFE programme.
WHAT ARE THE PROJECT ACHIEVEMENTS IN 2020?
- The CAP LIFE LAT project aims to increase the number of successful LIFE programme projects in Latvia by providing support to project applicants and implementers. In 2020, two annual LIFE Info Days were organised both in person and remotely as part of the project. In addition, 10 specialised training seminars and more than 300 in-depth consultations were provided about the LIFE programme. In result, a record number of applications were submitted from Latvia in this year’s call for projects – the European Commission received 76 submissions that included participants from Latvia. In comparison, 37 projects with the participation of Latvian organizations were submitted last year.
- The GrassLIFE project focuses on the restoration of valuable grasslands and the most visible component of the project is without doubt its eye-catching mobile herd. This year, the project’s mobile herd went to 28 sites, grazing in total on 261 ha of biologically valuable grasslands owned by the state, local governments and private landowners. In 2020, habitat restoration within the project covered approximately 499 hectares. Various innovative grassland management methods were tested. In addition, several information campaigns were implemented in the framework of the project. GrassLIFE introduced everyone to meadows through the perspective of special events that included listening to the concert of the “Birds of the Meadow” band, watching the “Mobile Herd” show, and getting to know insects at “The Naughty Insect” love festival. Meanwhile, the campaign “Sow a square metre of meadow!” received great response in autumn with more than 1,800 people from all over Latvia wanting to sow meadow seeds on their property.
- Did you know that Latvia accounts for the second largest share of agricultural greenhouse gas emissions in the European Union? The Craft LIFE project is dedicated to testing and demonstrating three innovative agricultural methods to reduce Latvia’s GHG emissions in the future. This year, the first controlled drainage system was installed in one of the project’s demonstration farms. It is one of the methods being tested in the project. Furthermore, this year, crops that were obtained using the no-till method were gathered for the first time. After harvesting, it was concluded that the yield was as high as that obtained from tilled fields! In addition, project activities in 2020 included the testing of a biochar incorporation technology on an industrial scale.
- The Alina LIFE project is working on an innovative formula for paints and coatings that is environmentally and human friendly and will replace harmful paint and coating components with a safe and sustainable state-of-the-art material. In 2020, cooperation agreements with the main leaders of the European paint industry were signed in the framework of the project regarding the development of new paint formulations. As set out in the agreements, the newly created paint formulations will be freely available to other small and medium-sized paint companies in Europe. What is more, anyone interested will have access to information on both the chemical composition of paints and the raw material supply chains. All new paints will be compliant with the EU Ecolabel. The first four environmentally and human friendly paint formulations have already been developed in cooperation with leading industry partners.
- Latvia is rich in priceless coastal habitats which need to be protected from negative anthropogenic pressure and the spread of invasive species. This work has been undertaken by the LIFE CoHaBit project, focusing on the restoration of habitats in Piejūra Nature Park. This year, the nature protection plan of Piejūra Nature Park for the next 12 years was drafted and approved within the project. Practical habitat maintenance work was also carried out as part of the project. This autumn, a new information centre with modern equipment was opened in Carnikava: its functions include raising public awareness about the tasks completed and developed in the project, as well as providing information about Piejūra Nature Park in general.
- The LIFE AQPOM project ensures conservation of the lesser spotted eagle in Latvia. This year, 117 nests were found and 19 artificial nests were built for lesser spotted eagles within the project. By this autumn, 420 micro-reserve applications for the protection of nesting sites were submitted within the project, and so far 333 applications with the total micro-reserve area of 2458.47 ha have been approved. Additionally, work continued to restore feeding sites for lesser spotted eagles in Kūja Nature Park and the Lubāna Wetland Nature Reserve on Grīvu Island. The grazing season has ended in the restored territories of Lubāna Wetland, and the grazing animals are taken from the floodplain to their winter shelter.
- The LIFE OrgBalt project aims to demonstrate innovative climate change mitigation measures through a variety of innovative methods for managing both forest land and nutrient-rich organic farming land. This year, more than 30 reference sites for measuring greenhouse gas emissions and environmental parameters have been established in Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia within the framework of the project. Active work has been conducted to establish demonstration sites for climate change mitigation measures, which were selected in the project, in Latvia and Finland, and greenhouse gas emissions and environmental parameter measurements have been methodologically calibrated in the Baltic States.
- LIFE Fit for REACH is an international project that helps companies in the three Baltic States to improve the management of chemicals and implement the requirements of the European Union’s REACH Regulation in a timely manner. In 2020, project partners continued to inform and train companies in Latvia about the possibility to reduce emissions of hazardous substances into the environment and to replace hazardous substances used in their daily work with less harmful alternatives. At the same time, activities for substituting hazardous substances were held in partner companies, and in most cases they are nearing completion.
- For the LIFE AskREACH project, this year has been full of activities. As of September, the new free Scan4Chem application has been available in Latvia. It will help consumers to find out whether the products they choose contain substances of very high concern, because with Scan4Chem any consumer can easily send a message to the supplier or manufacturer requesting information about the presence of dangerous chemicals in their products.
- This year, the first integrated LIFE project – LIFE GoodWater IP – was launched in Latvia. The aim of the project is to improve the condition of 9 water bodies at risk over the course of eight years. This year, two rivers, namely, Aģe and Mergupe with their tributaries, were mapped for the first time in Latvia as part of the project, which means they were surveyed along their entire length, recording all obstacles (including beaver dams) and river sections where restoration works will have to be carried out to improve spawning opportunities for migratory fish. Furthermore, a grant programme has been prepared for next year to support small projects in the field of water management.
- Within the framework of the LIFE PHIPP project, new technologies for recycling low-quality waste paper are tested in Cēsis. The most notable event of the project in 2020 was the delivery of all the necessary equipment that will be assembled in a single production line at the beginning of 2021. In addition, the project has become more visible to the general public through the initiation and repeated use of social media advertising. Along with the development of a technology transfer plan, negotiations have started with potential project partners.
- This year, the implementation of the LIFE EcosystemServices project was concluded. Within the project, the identification and assessment of natural values unique to Latvia were performed for the first time on the coast of Latvia, in Saulkrasti and Jaunķemeri, using the ecosystem services approach. The ecosystem services assessment process allowed to determine the range and quality of ecosystem services provided by coastal ecosystems typical to Latvia, which mainly includes coastal forests and dunes. The monetary value of these services was also calculated. The methodologies developed and the results obtained in the project are included in the Recommendations for the Integration of the Ecosystem Services Approach in Spatial Planning and in the Toolkit for the Integration of the Ecosystem Services Approach in Planning Processes. These materials are a practical guide for spatial planners helping them to adopt spatial development solutions that are based on knowledge and data and that strike a balance between natural, social, and economic needs.
- The LIFE Peat Restore project was launched in 2016 to restore degraded peatlands, thus also increasing their carbon sequestration capacity. In 2020, three new brochures on peatlands in Augstroze Nature Reserve, Baltezers Mire Nature Reserve, and Lake Engure Nature Park were prepared within the project. On 31 May 2020, the project team participated in the Peat Fest to explain the role of peatlands in climate regulation, as well as to provide information on the importance of restoring peatland ecosystems in mitigating climate change. In addition, the third report on project monitoring was published and dams were built on drainage ditches in Baltezers Mire Nature Reserve.
- The LIFE Local Adapt project focuses on the introduction of specific indicators for adaptation to climate change in cooperation with the municipalities involved in the project. This year, the seventh project newsletter was published and discussions were initiated on extending the project until 31 December 2021.
Find out more about the LIFE programme and LIFE projects on the website of the LIFE support unit.
PROJECT “PAPER – HEMP INSULATION PILOT PRODUCTION” (LIFE PHIPP, LIFE17ENV/LV/000335) IS IMPLEMENTED WITH THE FINANCIAL SUPPORT OF THE EUROPEAN UNION LIFE PROGRAM AND STATE REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT AGENCY REPUBLIC OF LATVIA ADMINISTRATION OF LATVIAN ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION FUND.