Towards a climate neutral EU:
efficient allocation of EU funds

LIFE-MICACC: Introduction of sustainable ecosystem-based water management practices coordinated by municipalities

Organisation: Clean Air Action Group, Hungary Website: Added: February 08, 2022
Project start date: September 01, 2017
Project end date: November 30, 2021


The project’s main goal was to test, introduce and foster the integration of sustainable, ecosystem-based water management approaches into natural resources management strategies and land-use planning practice of local governments in Hungary, and thus to improve the resilience of vulnerable municipalities by reducing their risks stemming from climate change.

• Pilot projects were completed in five small, rural municipalities with a moderate total budget of EUR 560,000 (between EUR 10,000 and EUR 125,000 for individual projects) to address water-scarcity problems and the retention of excess water in created wetlands and green infrastructure, using ecosystem-based natural water-retention measures (NWRM). Examples include: historical clay-pits as water reservoirs in Bátya; NWRM against upland erosion and flash floods in Püspökszilágy; wastewater effluent as a valuable natural resource in Ruzsa.

• Several events were held and a knowledge base was created with documents and informational brochures for disseminating practical knowledge. In targeting multiple stakeholder groups (local decision makers, public administration, economic actors, media, these actions also helped to build partnerships at catchment level. Several municipalities became interested in similar solutions as word of the project grew more widespread.

• Cost-effectiveness and long-term economic sustainability of the pilot sites were key aspects, even at the planning stage; self-sustaining or low-maintenance solutions were applied (e.g., easy maintenance access was designed to allow regular sediment removal at the wooden dams in Püspökszilágy, meaning that any minimal maintenance costs are less costly than sediment damage to the built environment).

• The involvement of municipalities as key actors in coordinating the pilots brought several benefits: strong motivation, n integrated territorial approach, knowledge of local natural assets, and embeddedness in local society.

• Project partners included: the Hungarian Ministry of Interior (Coordination Office for Municipalities); the municipalities of Bátya, Püspökszilágy, Rákócziújfalu, Ruzsa, Tiszatarján; the Association of Climate-Friendly Municipalities; the General Directorate of Water Management; Pannon Pro Innovation Services Ltd.; and WWF Hungary.

The project has been the inspiration for several spin-off efforts at multiple levels:

  • NWRM were included in the call “Viable Municipalities” (TOP_Plusz-1.2.1-21), in the OP for Regional and Municipal Development (2021-2027);
  • the General Directorate of Water Management (the national water-management authority) created a new department (Települési Vízgazdálkodási Főosztály) focusing on municipality-level water-management, with proactive colleagues;
  • the Ministry of the Interior, via its Coordination Office for Municipalities, channelled project results into state administration (a government report was prepared with recommendations for updating the regulatory framework and for better integration of municipalities in local water-management planning); and
  • a follow-up project, LIFE LOGOS 4 WATERS, continued working on the further development of some of the pilots, extending them to river-basin level.

Financial data

Total budget: EUR 2,546,783 

EU contribution: EUR 1,528,069 (60%)


• Nature-based solutions (NBS), such as NWRMs, should be prioritised in case of any kind of EU-funded infrastructural development. The funding of irreversible hard-engineering solutions should be justified only if the developer proves during the application process that there are no existing NBS alternatives for the development.

• Financial sustainability should be a key factor already at the planning phase of EU-funded projects. Long-term maintenance should be a key requirement of EU-funded projects, with a focus on self-sustaining and low-maintenance solutions (such as many NBSs). Budgetary provision is not always enough: the partners’ general motivation, their willingness to take risks, and to accept innovative solutions, are often more relevant than financial assets in guaranteeing long-term maintenance. In the selection process, tools should be involved to detect non-financial aspects of commitment.

• Following the principal of subsidiarity, municipalities should be key actors in realising local EU funded projects. Local governments are strongly committed; they have an integral cross-sectoral, territorial and community-focused approach – as opposed to bigger administrative units, which tend to work in silos; they are also aware of local natural assets and are embedded in local society. However, not every municipality leader has the same efficiency in cooperating: success can depend on the municipal leader's level of commitment and ability to cooperate. Such skills and competences should be assessed, and improved if needed, prior to the disbursement of EU funds.

• Prestigious and highly skilled environmental NGOs (such as WWF) should be involved in the drafting of calls for EU funding (and in the of case of innovative pilot projects, also as project partners) to guarantee a scientifically based, professional approach to the climate and environmental impacts of EU projects.

• There should be sufficient focus on monitoring to provide science-based physical evidence to underline achieved results and assess risks, especially in case of innovative and pilot projects in climate adaptation.

• EU-funded projects should foster cooperation between stakeholders of natural territorial units, such as river-basins, as opposed to strictly administrative territorial units.

• Public administration should form professional, agile and proactive project teams (such as the Coordination Office for Municipalities at the Ministry of the Interior) who are able to catalyse innovative projects and reach legislative bodies to create possibilities for updating the regulatory framework.

• Successful and high-demand pilot projects should be upscaled, and dedicated calls for tenders should be created for them within each OP, allocating at least 25% of the OP budget to the upscaling of successful innovative pilot projects aimed at climate mitigation or adaptation.

Information sources Personal interview with WWF project lead

Other info

European Climate Initiative (EUKI)
This project is part of the European Climate Initiative (EUKI). EUKI is a project financing instrument by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action (BMWK). The EUKI competition for project ideas is implemented by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH. It is the overarching goal of the EUKI to foster climate cooperation within the European Union (EU) in order to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.