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The strategy of the European Commission for the outermost regions, revised in 2017, reinforces the eligibility of the ORs in the LIFE program, the main instrument of the European policy on the environment and climate action. Adaptation to climate change – «including the preparation of the outermost regions in the face of extreme weather conditions», page 10 of the Communication – and the modernization of waste management in these overseas territories become priorities for investment in projects. The Commission also undertakes to have a specific strategy in place in 2019 on adapting to climate change in the ORs, in consultation with the Member States and with the regions (page 11). It is considered that these territories are «especially vulnerable» to global warming «and, in particular, to the rise in sea level and extreme weather conditions», as the passage of Hurricane Irma revealed in Saint-Martin, in September of 2017 (page 10).
The LIFE program of the European Union started in 1992. It has financed more than 4,600 public and private initiative projects. Until 2013, the total investment had been 3,100 million euros. In the budgetary framework 2014-2020, the program has been increased to 3,400 million euros. During this sexennium, LIFE has mobilized investments worth 18.4 million euros in six projects that include eleven partners from outermost regions. Five of these projects are active in the Canary Islands and the other in Guadeloupe. The direct contribution of the EU to these initiatives has been 11.8 million euros, 64% of the investment generated. The European Commission has opened this April 4 the 2019 call for projects for the LIFE program. As in 2018, the preparation of the outermost regions for «extreme weather conditions, particularly in coastal areas», and the adaptation of waste management in the ORs to European legislation (Execution Decision 2018/2010 of the Commission, on the LIFE program for 2018-2020) are once again a priority in the allocation of funds. Spain is the country with the highest allocation in the LIFE program, 127 million euros in the budgetary framework between 2014 and 2020, followed of Italy, with 124 million euros. France and Portugal, with RUP regions, have received 44 and 16 million euros, respectively.
The LIFE Program in the EU outermost regions
What activities is the LIFE program supporting in the outermost regions during the 2014-2020 cycle? In Guadeloupe, the National Park Authority of the island is trying to reintroduce the manatee, which Christopher Columbus mistook for mermaids when he brought it to America, hence, the project is called LIFE Sirena. The manatee is in danger of extinction in the Caribbean, and has disappeared from Guadeloupe. French Guiana is the only European territory with a population of manatees. To reintroduce the species in Guadeloupe, 5.9 million euros will be invested, of which 3.5 million have been contributed by the European Union through the LIFE program. The project started in 2015 and will run until February 2021.
In Tenerife and Gran Canaria, in the Canary Islands, blue finch is being investigated, a priority species in the European catalog of threatened birds. The project, begun in 2015, will conclude in February 2020. Its budget is 1.2 million euros, of which the LIFE program contributes 674,000. It is managed by the state public company Tragsa, and has, among other partners, the regional government and the Cabildo de Gran Canaria, the local authority of the island.
In Gran Canaria, the University of Las Palmas coordinates an innovation project to recycle waste of bananas in useful products in aquaculture. The private company Alevines y Doradas S.A. is one of the partners. It started in 2016 and will conclude in 2019. Its budget is 1.6 million euros, of which the EU has contributed one million.
The Cabildo of Gran Canaria and the regional public company Gesplan are two of the partners of the transnational project to develop a method of tree growth that will be applied in the repopulation of desertified areas of the Canary Islands, Italy and Greece. Its budget is 2.8 million euros, and the EU has contributed 1.7 million through the LIFE program.
Another transnational cooperation project is investigating the conservation of the Egyptian vulture, alimoche or guirre in the Canary Islands and Italy. In the outermost region it has an institutional partner, the public company Gesplan. Its budget is 5 million euros, of which LIFE funds contribute 3.8 million.
The private company Triton Water Technologies SL, based in Lanzarote, in the Canary Islands, is one of the partners of the transnational project on energy efficiency in water filtering in desalination processes. It is led by the Spanish Cartiff Foundation, and has partners in Greece, as well as the Canary Islands. Its budget is 1.7 million euros, to develop the project between 2016 and December 2019. The European Union has contributed 1 million euros.