The generously funded European Union “Life” programme, which is aimed at environmental and climate improvements, strives for balanced nature protection and entrepreneurship interests only in words. As the experience of “Balticfloc” company, a recipient of “Life” award, shows it is almost impossible for a merchant to break into the closed club of acquirers of environmental funds.
The overall budget of “Life” programme in the current planning period 2014 – 2020 is 3.4 billion euros. At this moment, approximately a half of this amount has remained, and it is accessible also to Latvia – public organizations, municipalities, state institutions and, theoretically, also entrepreneurs. The budget will remain approximately the same also in the next planning period.
PROJECT FOR CAPACITY OF PROJECTS
So far, 48 “Life” projects have been implemented in Latvia, their total funding constituting approximately 40 million euros.
These projects have involved studying birds, care of bogs, liquidation of land reclamation, compilation of regulatory enactments, organisation of public relations campaigns, writing books and so on. “Life” programme is by no means the only source of funding of environmental projects. For example, the so-called Nature Counting project with the budget of 9.5 million euros, for the yet unknown purpose of which all habitats of Latvia were identified, is funded from the Cohesion Fund. Whereas recipients of this funding in Latvia are mostly the same – various state authorities and non-governmental organizations closely related to these authorities, as well as the same researchers. And breaking into their closed company is a quite difficult task. Apparently, this has been noticed also in Brussels, which has organised a capacity raising project for better implementation of “Life” programme. Last weekend, awards were presented to the best projects in several nominations. The Ministry of Environmental Protection and Regional Development praised its subordinate authorities and regular cooperation partners.
MILLIONS FOR ENVIRONMENTAL PROJECTS
“Life AQPOM” was announced the most ambitious project. It is a 2.22 million worth lesser spotted eagle research project, implemented by the Latvian Fund For Nature. This species and its researchers have received the gold package.
The territorially most extensive project is “Life HYDROPLAN”, which is implemented with the budget of almost one million euros in an area of 14,000 hectares by the University of Latvia. Probably, broader audience recognises this project as restoring the hydrological regime of wetlands or Ķemeri National Park, during which the once installed reclamation system and artificially modified river bed were liquidated.
The publicly most active project “Life Birds in Ādaži” was implemented by another state institution – the State Centre for Defence Military Objects and Procurement. It is an investment worth one and a half million euros in exchange for unimpeded use of Ādaži polygon for its military purposes.
In the opinion of “Life” panel of judges, the most significant project has been “NAT-PROGRAMME”, implemented by the Nature Conservation Agency. The budget of the project combined with the national co-funding – 1.6 million euros. The outcome of this project is a book on management of EU significance protected nature areas “Natura 2000” until 2030.
One of the objectives of “Life” programme is linking of environmental protection with national economy, introducing more nature-friendly methods in manufacturing. This process is even given a special designation – Close to Market. Jānis Rudzītis, the Director of the Latvian Environmental Protection Fund, confirms that also merchants and the industry can apply for “Life” project funding.
At the award ceremony, there were two projects that are or may be related to the national economy.
In “Life GRASSSERVICE” project, funding of 1.3 million euros is granted for conducting research on how grass can be used for obtaining biobutanol – a liquid fuel similar to petrol in terms of characteristics – at the same time, managing lawns in a nature-friendly manner. This project is recognised as the most innovative “Life” project in Latvia in recent years. The project is implemented by the Baltic Environmental Forum, founded jointly by environmental institutions of the Baltic states.
FLOWER POT INSTEAD OF MONEY
The only merchant to receive official recognition from the European Commission within “Life” programme and a flower pot from the Ministry of Environment is SIA “Balticfloc” – in the nomination “Highest rated new project”.
The purpose of “Life PHIPP” project is “to develop alternative wastepaper and hemp fibre recycling, producing innovative thermal insulation materials with enhanced thermal conductivity, as well as more efficient wastepaper sorting and recycling in the region”. Actually, it is a prototype of a ready factory – just bring it to any country in the world and start manufacturing a house insulation material similar to stone wool, glass wool or ecowool, using wastepaper. This is how the project idea is explained to “Neatkarīgā Rīta Avīze” newspaper by Edžus Cābulis, the Chairman of the Board of the company. The budget of the project is almost three million euros, out of which the European Union co-funding constitutes almost 1.8 million euros. There is only one problem – for now, this amount of co-funding is available only on paper. The entrepreneur has addressed all banks already three times, but none of them is ready to issue a guarantee. Initially, the European Commission requested a bank guarantee of half a million euros, which equals the annual turnover of the company. Later the amount of guarantee was cut in half, but still the guarantee was not granted. Currently, negotiations with the European Commission continue, and there is a hope that the Commission will exceptionally allow issuance of the guarantee for this project through another company. Otherwise, it somehow looks ugly – a flower pot was given, but funding – refused. Meanwhile, the entrepreneur invests own funds in the project – he has pledged everything he could. Whereas the researchers employed by state authorities and their closely related associations do not have to take such steps. The funding of projects is guaranteed by the state itself. From the perspective of competition, it is unfair.
Formally, “Life PHIPP” project should serve as a good example for other merchants on how to combine funding of “Life” programme with implementation of environmental protection and national economy goals. And how to make the manufacturing process nature-friendly. However, in practice the opposite happens. Some say that the officialdom of Latvia has been given an unofficial message not to attract merchants to “Life” programme.
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.