CLIMATE CHANGE

Barcelona announces €563 million plan to reduce greenhouse gases

The local government has officially declared a climate emergency in a document which includes measures to halve carbon dioxide emissions

Barcelona City Hall officially declared a climate emergency on Wednesday, announcing a sweeping range of measures to halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. The measures aim to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by two million tons from 1992 levels, principally by restricting traffic in the city. To achieve this goal, the local government will invest €563 million in the plan until 2025.

With this document, Barcelona has become the first big Spanish city to back up its promise to fight climate change with concrete measures.

Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau

The climate emergency package outlines 103 different actions, including creating low-emissions zones that are off-limits most polluting vehicles, expanding the areas restricted to traffic, introducing a speed of 30 kilometers per hour in more than half of the city’s streets, and creating new parks.

The declaration also considers multiplying the amount of solar energy that is generated from the rooftops of facilities, residential buildings and even factories.

“We didn’t want this to be a purely rhetorical declaration, but rather a document of measures that will mark a before and after,” said Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau, of the leftist Barcelona en Comú party, at the event to declare the climate emergency.

“This is not a drill, the house is on fire,” she said, alluding to the words of Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg. In her speech, Colau said that cities are the main sources of emissions and argued that “defending climate justice is defending democracy.” “Time has run out and there are no shortcuts,” she added.

Barcelona has become the first big Spanish city to back up its promise to fight climate change with concrete measures

The local government worked with 200 different organizations to put together the list of measures, more than half of which depend exclusively on Barcelona City Hall, while the rest also involve regional and state authorities. Some of the latter include more bus and high-occupancy-vehicle lanes on access roads, and greater investment in commuter railway lines. The document also calls upon the port of Barcelona and Barcelona’s El Prat airport to reduce emissions and review their growth plans, areas which the local government has no control over.

The document also suggests introducing healthier meals in schools, with locally-sourced, organic food and less meat, regulating the presence of fast-food establishments near schools, and creating 100 “climate shelters” in municipal facilities where people can go during heatwaves.

During the act to declare the climate emergency, Gemma Barricarte from the Fridays for Future climate movement warned that “economic or electoral interests” must not be allowed to delay action on climate change. “Neither this declaration or others would have been possible without the demands of an organized and aware society, and an independent scientific community,” she added.

English version by Melissa Kitson.