ACTIVE IMPLICATION OF PEOPLE IS THE KEY
TO A SUSTAINABLE CITY
by Joan Subirats
Director of the Institute for Government and Public Policy, Autonomous
University of Barcelona
In connection with the broad definitions of the aspirations of local
communities, one of the central issues in looking to the future is that
of sustainability, in the environmental and social senses of the term.
Many see this debate at present as somewhat rhetorical or removed from
the most pressing problems that each municipality must deal with. Nevertheless,
I sincerely believe that sustainability is a core issue for any municipality
that wishes to plan its future. Many local institutions, and very significantly
Barcelona's Town Council, have given the subject serious consideration
and have, to a greater or lesser extent, adapted their agenda to address
these new perspectives. However, the aim of this article is to defend
a prior assumption: a city cannot be sustainable unless its citizens assume
responsibility in this respect and change their perceptions and habits.
This is true in respect of sustainability, particularly if we define a
sustainable city as one that chooses coherent options not only on strictly
environmental issues, such as land use, consumption of natural resources
and mobility, but also regarding such fundamental and interconnected aspects
as the model for economic growth, plans for social cohesion and inclusion,
citizen rights and the spread of information and communication technologies.
The local community is a conglomerate of interacting individuals and groups,
a conglomerate of individuals and groups that depend on each other to
a greater or lesser extent. They also maintain relations that are strongly
continuous to a greater or lesser extent. There is a growing conviction
that quality of life and satisfactory civic co-existence depend less on
the presence of a strong and sovereign authority than on a universally
shared sense of responsibility for what happens in the community. Responsibility
on the part of each of us, according to our capacity and resources and
without allowing this to diminish the specific responsibility of each
player. Interdependence, continuity and absence of a sovereign authority
with the ability to decide for all at all times are characteristics that
are usually listed to define a network. A network of players that, at
the local level, are ultimately responsible in one way or another, by
commission or omission, for the local dynamics that are created.
From the environmental and social standpoint, it seems increasingly obvious
that urban density is an important factor for the future of local communities
and their sustainability. It is difficult to maintain a sense of belonging
and community in a diffuse urban environment. The dimensions of Barcelona
and its neighbourhoods, its local communities, have the effect of making
us feel and be more complex persons. In cities, we learn to live with
unfamiliar people, with different people. In dense communities, the distances
permit relations and interchanges without unreasonable costs in respect
of mobility and resources. The density of local communities prevents often
irreversible impacts and pressure on external natural resources. Dense,
compact communities impose mixture and prevent or impede social segmentation.
Urban functions and uses are more accessible and social interactions and
relations are more intensive. Overall, density facilitates environmental
and social sustainability and this is a crucial factor if we wish to ensure
continuity and success in the future. Density has certain drawbacks, such
as a more intensive use of public spaces and the corresponding greater
wear and tear, giving rise to a potential erosion of co-existence. This
makes it very important to maintain a constant tension in density/civic-mindedness/collective
co-responsibility for the public space.
Who is to take charge of all this? Relations between local communities
and their representative institutions must be based upon principles of
collective co-responsibility and citizen participation. There is a growing
trend to speak less of government and more of capacity to govern. The
governance of cities and local communities can no longer be conceived
as the competence of town councils, of local representative authorities.
It must be seen as a collective issue in which the conventional rules
of hierarchy are no longer valid and where mechanisms for co-ordination
and co-responsibility with the social agents and players present in the
community must be established. This is the only way that we can deal collectively
with the complexity of future challenges. This is particularly true of
a city such as Barcelona, whose dimensions could represent a potential
drawback, but many of whose neighbourhoods and inhabitants, on the other
hand, maintain a sense of identity that could allow such collective sentiments
to contribute to a stronger response to these challenges.
In this context, we should like to focus here on the issue of how to influence
citizens to attain changes in the dynamics of consumption, to foster routines
and habits that do not constitute obstacles to the achievement of these
goals and, in general, a more active approach to the search for urban
models that respond more appropriately to the challenges of sustainability.
It is important to bear in mind that everyone would agree that, regardless
of the new technical alternatives available, if people do not co-operate
we will not be able to progress towards societies that can attain the
ambitious and, to a certain extent ambiguous, goal of sustainable development.
In this connection, the dynamics involved in the positions taken in the
Local Agenda 21s1 clearly underline this fact and point out the difficulty
of advancing at a rate faster than the advance of the people themselves,
and the importance of mechanisms for participation and consensus.
What the Citizens of Barcelona Think
Not long ago,2 a survey was carried out of 1,200 inhabitants of Barcelona
aged over 18. The results of the survey show that the basis for progress
in Barcelona is acceptable.
These results shed light on a number of issues:
· Perceptions and opinions in respect of Barcelona's environmental
situation and in respect of the actions that the Town Council is taking
or could take in this connection.
· The degree of information on environmental problems and sustainability
· The habits and behaviour of Barcelona's citizens in connection
with aspects relating to sustainability and environmental problems.
· The commitment and attitudes of Barcelona's citizens in respect
of present and future actions relating to sustainability and the environment.
In interpreting the results of the survey, it is important to bear in
mind two general considerations: firstly, informants were advised that
they would be asked questions on "habits and values in respect of
the environment and sustainability", a fact that could influence
the informant to respond "in favour" of what they believed was
expected of them; secondly, and on a related subject, the issues of sustainability
and the environment are considered at present to be "politically
correct" and therefore a bias towards pro-environmental attitudes
and statements may be expected.
If we look at the general considerations that we can extract from the
survey, we first find a reaction to the status of Barcelona as a Mediterranean
city, one that is dense and compact. Barcelona's inhabitants, who have
a very good perception of the standard of living in Barcelona, see this
fact as positive. Structural elements, such as climate and the size of
the city, are important factors here, but also noteworthy are aspects
relating to the character and social habits of the people, such as co-existence
between neighbours, and to social and economic development, in reference
to the wide range of services and facilities. All of this adds up to good
quality urban life. On the other hand, they have a more negative perception
of factors such as air and water pollution, noise and sanitation. In general,
they feel that the Town Council could do more to deal with these problems,
although they rate positively the efforts that have been made in the area
of parks and gardens, public transport and cleaning of the city's beaches.
We cannot classify the perception of the city's problems as highly negative.
There is by no means a sensation of a critical situation in respect of
certain factors. Aside from the issues already mentioned, there are a
number of danger signals in connection, for example, with dog excrement
on the streets or motorcycle noise; however, the problems linked to use
the of automobiles are seen as less serious than we might have expected.
The number of people who walk to their destinations in the city, taking
advantage of its size and density, remains very high and there is, in
general, little concern in respect of the public transport system, which
receives a reasonably good rating.
In general, we can consider the population of Barcelona poorly-informed,
particularly with regard to everything relating to the environment, and
even more poorly-informed on the concept of sustainability and its consequences
for the model of lifestyle and development. The prevailing situation is
one of a highly compartmentalised vision of the environment, centred on
conventional aspects linked to natural resources (air and water) or issues
such as sanitation and green belts. Concepts linked more closely to consumption
or the reduction of inequalities are not perceived as especially important
from the standpoint of sustainability. We could say that the subjects
on which they are best informed are those connected to waste, while the
more comprehensive subjects and those relating to a change of model, such
as the issues dealt with under the heading of Agenda 21, are familiar
only to a tiny minority. They are also poorly informed as to the effects
of large cities on their surroundings and on the sources of the natural
resources that we consume (water, gas). There is no awareness of the so-called
"ecological footprint" and there is therefore no sense of being
in debt to anyone. On the other hand, they are consistently in favour
of solar energy and consider that the amount of advertising that they
receive in their mailboxes is excessive.
Barcelona's citizens think more ecologically than they act. Their habits
and behaviour do not seem to be particularly consistent with their opinions.
The areas in which their behaviour is more in keeping with the requirements
of sustainability are those where concerns for scarcity and cost have
a long history in Spain and Catalonia, i.e. water consumption, savings
on electricity and heating consumption. Habits that take these attitudes
somewhat further, such as purchasing energy-miser light bulbs or ecological
products, are much less widespread. Although many people are not against
taking in actions or initiatives to foster sustainability, very few state
that they are willing to undertake specific commitments and fewer still
would assume a financial cost or personal dedication in this respect.
The city appears to receive good marks on one of the issues that was defined
at the Hanover Conference (February 2000) as one of the five core indicators
in the assessment of urban sustainability, i.e. the percentage of children
who walk to school. This is a subject that should be focussed on and promoted.
In addition, there is a certain area where the Town Council could take
more ambitious initiatives than it has to date in connection with sustainability.
This is the case, for example, with the "Europe Car-free Day"
initiative; the informants in the survey agree with it but are sceptical
as to its practical benefits if it is not taken further. Even so, we must
concentrate on how to encourage the most highly-motivated citizens (10-15%),
gradually attracting the majority who appear willing to join this group
(30-40%), while not neglecting the still significant portion who are,
at present, poorly-informed, sceptical or reluctant (15-25%).
Are All Citizens Equal?
Simplifying greatly, an initial analysis of the results of the survey
would lead us to conclude that the profile of the person most favourably
disposed to all issues concerning sustainability and the environment in
Barcelona is that of a woman between 35 and 54 years of age who, although
admitting to being poorly informed on the underlying concepts, shows natural
and learned attitudes that lead her to economise resources and accept
the need to recycle and make use of everything at our disposal. This typical
individual is highly critical of how the city works at present, owing,
among other reasons, to the fact that she suffers the consequences of
traffic congestion and noise without, for the most part, contributing
to their generation, since she gets around mainly on foot or by public
transport. Her favourable disposition to the underlying issues of sustainability
demand greater information and collaboration, since she will play a key
role in a change of habits and in many of the principal aspects of consumption
and separation of waste.
On the other side of the balance, there is the profile of the persons
who contribute the least to progress towards a sustainable Barcelona,
consisting of young people, mainly males, aged between 18 and 34, who,
while they are relatively well informed on environmental problems and
have a largely accurate understanding of the meaning of sustainability,
do not generally act in consequence and are more concerned with other
problems. They are more concerned with their professional and financial
prospects than the noise produced by motorcycles, air pollution, dog excrement
or cars parked on the pavement. Their habits bear little connection to
what they claim to believe or what they know. They represent a segment
of society that will require an effort to bring its behaviour into line
with its opinions.
On the basis of the information at our disposal, we could say that, as
a rule, Barcelona citizens who are older, but under retirement age, better
educated and employed at the level of middle management or as liberal
professionals, or, in certain respects, as housewives, are better informed
and more aware and have better habits and are more willing to undertake
commitments. The younger they are, the less closely they are in tune with
other citizens, and if they are retired, the more positively they see
the changes that have taken place in the city.
All in all, as we analyse the information provided by this survey in a
more specific manner in respect of social segments and geographic location,
it will help us to design policies and significant actions to augment
information, modify perceptions and behaviour and succeed in motivating
people positively in connection with one of the key issues for the quality
of life in Barcelona in the future.
The tables show the main strengths and weaknesses in relation to the variables
of age and sex. (Refer to page no. 18.)
How Can We Make Progress?
We are fortunate to live in a dense city, and that is good news nowadays
and is seen as such by Barcelona's citizens. But that very characteristic
means that we must be much more careful about how we get around in the
city, and how we use it and abuse it. The results of the survey also tell
us that our past experience of scarcity and lean times places us on a
firm footing to rebuild consensus on the subject of the new-old ideas
of reduce, re-use and recycle. We have a strong and majority base of potential
allies who, out of an interest in savings and resource economies or simply
out of common sense, are willing to co-operate with even just a little
encouragement and guidance. We also have a smaller group of enthusiasts
who are convinced of what must be done, and another small group of persons,
citizens, who are not yet aware of the costs of their behaviour and who
do not appear very willing to change it.
The survey has provided us with tools that will help us to make progress
and it shows that our objective must be an alliance with the city's inhabitants,
establishing strategies aimed at informing and demonstrating that things
can be done better with just a little extra effort, targeting those who
are at present in this connection our natural allies, specifically women,
and adults in general. Without neglecting campaigns directed particularly
at young people, who show a certain degree of inconsistency between what
they know and what they do. Reinforcing and "rewarding" symbolically
those who already act positively, through information and recognition,
and isolating the uncooperative, encouraging proper behaviour and "penalising"
intellectually those who claim to know but do not act accordingly. In
short we must do whatever we can to stress the need for consistency between
opinion and behaviour. I believe that in many cases we must do this experimentally,
as has been done in certain places, so that we can learn and teach. In
this way we can gradually increase our certainty as to the ways to follow
and build consensus on the objectives to be attained.
In addition, above and beyond the survey, and in spite our reiteration
of the crucial need for an implicated and co-responsible population in
respect of sustainability issues if we are to make any progress, we cannot
overlook the institutional responsibility of our local government. Mapping
out the way to urban sustainability for Barcelona cannot consist merely
of a combination of good intentions and generic statements, sprinkled
with a few more or less exemplary measures. If we follow, with insistence
and creativity, the path that has been gradually laid out with the drafting
of Barcelona's Agenda 21, we can be sure that this will produce a knock-on
effect that will have an impact on all urban policies. At the risk of
harming ourselves, we cannot defend a sustainable model for urban mobility
and at the same time take actions on other fronts in just the opposite
direction, or even in contradiction of that model. We cannot defend urban
sustainability and not take action to combat social segmentation in the
city. And so on, at length. It will not be easy, since we must admit that,
as human beings, we are all somewhat contradictory and we want a lot of
different things all at once. But we must be aware of the demands involved
in the sustainability discourse if we wish to make it anything more than
well-intended rhetoric. At present, the goal is to involve citizens, but
we must bear in mind that this is a difficult task to undertake, and one
that is even more difficult to abandon.
1. For an analysis and assessment of Local Agenda 21s in Spain, see Nuria
Subirats (eds.), Local y sostenible, Icaria, Barcelona, 2000.
2. At the end of 2000.
BARCELONA'S AGENDA 21: A PARTICIPATORY PROCESS FOR CHANGE
by Txema Castiella / Teresa Franquesa
Technical Co-ordinators of Barcelona's Agenda 21
The expression "Agenda 21" was coined at the Earth Summit (Rio
de Janeiro, 1992) to refer to the plan of action that states would have
to implement in order to transform the current model for development,
based on the exploitation of natural resources as if they were unlimited
and unequal access to the benefits of those resources, to a new model
for development capable of covering the needs of present generations without
compromising the capacity of future generations. This is what is known
as sustainable development, i.e. development that is durable, efficient
and rational in the use of resources and equitable in the distribution
The final document produced by the United Nations ten years ago contained
a chapter (Chapter 28) dedicated to the role of cities in this ambitious
resolution for change. It recognises both the responsibility of cities
and their capacity for transformation. As has been observed on occasions,
seldom have a few brief lines of a formal declaration provoked such an
enthusiastic reaction. At present, over 5,000 cities around the world
are drawing up their own Local Agenda 21s through mechanisms involving
participation by the local community, with the objective of establishing
shared objectives and milestones to contribute locally to the sustainable
development of our planet's society. Local Agenda 21s are a good example
of the old ecologist maxim "think globally and act locally".
Barcelona is one of the cities taking part in this movement and it is
now completing its Agenda 21. This article aims to outline the characteristics
of this complex and exciting process. Barcelona's status as a large city
in the context of Europe undoubtedly makes this an experience worth studying
In 1995, Barcelona's Town Council resolved, with the unanimous vote in
favour of all political groups represented, to become a signatory of the
Aalbörg Charter. This Charter was the local response to the challenge
issued by the United Nations and it was a harbinger of the widespread
local movement that would arise in Europe for promotion of Local Agenda
21s. In contrast with the nature of some international declarations, it
was an innovative manifesto set out in an attractive style with clearly
expressed aims. It was based on the recognition of the responsibility
of cities, particularly in the western world, for the current situation
(owing to demographic concentration, consumption of goods, services and
land, transportation, energy consumption, etc.) and the observation of
the capacity of cities to contribute to sustainable development from a
privileged position for fostering participation, agreement and mobilisation
of forces and resources. One of the specific commitments undertaken by
the signatories of the Aalbörg Charter (which has now been ratified
by 1,200 European cities) was to "attempt to reach a consensus in
our communities in respect of local Agenda 21 by the end of 1996".
This was the first definite step in the process of drafting Barcelona's
Agenda 21. The experience of our city, and that of most cities, with the
exception of some in the Scandinavian countries, has demonstrated the
value of the Aalbörg Charter as a trigger for the process and has
also shown the timetable originally called for to be unfeasible. The process,
being an ambitious one, has involved substantial conflict in respect of
content, approaches and timing, and the case of Barcelona is no exception.
The Municipal Council for the Environment and Sustainability
Three years later, a delay that in itself speaks of the complexity and
difficulty of the process, the Barcelona Agenda 21 Promotional Forum was
created. Agenda 21 is neither a closed process nor an exercise in exact
sciences: each city must select its own approach to drafting its Agenda
21, depending on its characteristics and circumstances. This was also
the case with the Forum, which, in Barcelona, took shape as a Municipal
Council, governed by the Rules and Regulations for Citizen Participation.
The Municipal Council for the Environment and Sustainability is a participatory
and consultative body, but its objectives include the specific function
of promoting development of Barcelona's Agenda 21. This is a highly significant
characteristic of the process that differentiates it from other cities:
the body that formulates proposals, builds consensus and takes responsibility
for results is the Council and not the Town Hall.
The make-up of the Council is especially important: there is a deliberate
balance between representatives of the government (Town Hall, Regional
Council, Provincial Council, EMMA), the business world, trade unions,
and citizen and ecologist organisations, and of universities and a group
of private experts.
In 1998 and 1999 thirteen thematic working groups were formed with different
members of the Council to carry out, on a basis of consensus, a diagnosis
of each area, formulating proposals for future action and, in some cases,
suggesting indicators for monitoring. The task of these interdisciplinary
working groups is the core of the documents on Agenda 21: over 2,000 hours
of volunteer work and over 500 proposals of different types and magnitude.
In 2000, the Council adopted these documents as "Materials for Debate"
and resolved to undertake a phase of citizen participation and debate,
through which the Council's work will be opened to other organisations
and players and citizens as a whole. This is an extremely important decision
for the process, owing to its ambitious nature. When the process is completed,
the Council will be the body with the capacity to decide on the approval
of the final content.
The Participation Process
The extension of the debate to include citizens seemed indispensable if
the process was to be successful. Making an Agenda 21 with the greatest
possible degree of participation not only legitimates it, but above all
it allows a larger number of people to assimilate its importance and assume
its objectives. At the same time, however, obvious difficulties arise,
such as the size of the city, the lack of citizen awareness of the process
and the complexity of the issues and the relatively limited time available.
The ability to combine ambition and pragmatism could be said to be the
motto that has guided the design of the citizen participation process
from the start and that has oriented the volume and provision of resources
in terms of planning, technical and material means and monitoring of the
The main challenge, obviously, was how to attain a sufficient degree of
citizen involvement, taking into account that the move from the core of
highly informed and concerned individuals to all citizens could not be
made in a single step. It therefore seemed appropriate to focus efforts
on fostering the participation of citizen organisations and groups and
to leave the door open to intervention by individuals. This decision implied
adoption of a participatory approach that ensured that all views were
represented, while prioritising quality over quantity.
The document "Criteria and Proposals for Citizen Participation in
Barcelona's Agenda 21", drafted by the Political Analysis Team of
Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, provided both the theoretical
basis for the process and the operational guidelines in respect of the
phases and instruments to make it possible. The framework document's proposal
for development of the participation process can be summed up in the following
· three phases: information, deliberation and decision
· two approaches to work: regional and thematic
· two types of involvement: organisations and citizens
These structural criteria have been highly useful, although the actual
situation made adaptation necessary in some cases. For example the first
two phases of the process were combined in practice into a single, very
prolonged phase (April-December 2001) of information/deliberation. The
reasons for this were the initial difficulties in setting the project
in motion and the protraction of information tasks, along with the substantial
differences in the speed of work in the city's ten districts and at many
of the participating organisations.
This phase opened officially on 3 April 2001, with a formal ceremony at
the main lecture hall of Universitat de Barcelona, at which the mayor
and the president of the Council gave a public presentation of the process
of citizen participation and the material placed at everyone's disposal
for discussion: Towards Barcelona's Agenda 21: A Document for Debate.
This was a fundamental document that dealt with and combined all the different
components of diagnosis and proposal, set out for the purpose of debate.
From that moment on, a number of initiatives were undertaken on different
fronts at the same time to start up and gradually advance in the proposal
for participation throughout the city. Work went ahead on distribution
of the document for debate and on dissemination of the process to over
500 organisation, which were invited to take part; the web page www.bcn.es/agenda
21 was created; meetings were held with significant groups; thematic
debates were programmed in the form of "Dialogues" between experts
on the issues under discussion; a virtual forum was opened at the city's
website; thousands of surveys were made on priorities; three prospecting
sessions were organised; the specific Agenda 21 for Schools programme
was launched; etc.
Agenda 21 for Schools
This programme calls on schools to draw up their own Agenda 21, reviewing
concepts and practices and committing themselves to undertaking actions
for improvement. In this connection, a methodological guide and technical
and pedagogical assistance are offered throughout the school year, along
with a line of financial aid for public schools. A total of 70 schools
at all educational levels took part during the 2001-02 school year and
97 have been accepted for participation next year. Each school chooses
the issues that it will deal with, and while environmentalisation of resource
and waste management predominates, there are also a large number of projects
focussing on improvement of the immediate surroundings, along with the
creation of gardens, use of solar energy, and the issues of mobility and
noise. Results permit a very positive evaluation, both in terms of the
actual implication of schools and the stimulus and support for the task
of environmental education carried out by them. The programme receives
support from the AGBAR Foundation.
However, the main protagonists during this period have clearly been the
city's ten districts, which, once they had grasped the importance of the
process, took responsibility for carrying it out on their own territory,
each in its own particular manner, in keeping with its circumstances and
style. The moment of greatest visibility was the formal presentation ceremony,
which was organised with a certain degree of solemnity and was very well
attended in all districts. This was followed by intense activity in the
form of publication of informative materials and individual web pages,
programmes on neighbourhood radio and television stations, contacts with
organisations in the ambit and, above all, the programming of some 200
debate sessions, attended by around 3,000 people.
As a result of the first phase of citizen participation, the Technical
Secretariat for Agenda 21 collected approximately 1,000 proposals, varying
widely in scope and degree of abstraction. Moving on to the practical
phase required the combination of all the contributions into a draft document
that could be returned to the participants, so that everyone who had taken
part in the process would have the opportunity to evaluate it and, where
appropriate, amend it. It had to be a concise and comprehensible document,
setting out the fundamentals, objectives and main lines of action. It
was planned as a framework document that would provide a negotiated overview
of the sustainable Barcelona that we wish to attain and to which we are
all committed, each one in their own area and with their own plan of action.
The draft of the Citizen Commitment to Sustainability was prepared during
the final quarter of 2001, simultaneously with design of the methodology
for participation in its revision. The Council approved the draft in December
and the practical phase was carried out according to plan (January-May
2002). For this purpose, a dossier was published containing the text and
the procedure for taking part, and the Technical Secretariat and the districts
then distributed this dossier to all the organisations and individuals
implicated in the process. It was also sent to citizen organisations that
had not expressed any interest so far and it was posted on the website
to facilitate participation as much as possible.
With the aim of permitting the collective drafting of the text of the
Commitment an extremely simple method for participation was used, based
on a set of colours and symbols, to allow everyone to express easily and
visually their assessment of and comments on each of the different proposals.
Everyone who wished to could appraise and/or propose modifications to
the objectives and lines of action. These reactions could be entered directly
on the website or sent to the technical secretariat by fax, post, or e-mail.
In any case, all the contributions received through the different media
were posted on the website to allow viewing of the complete result.
A total of 480 users made contributions, of which 180 represented organisations
and the rest were individuals. All together, 12,000 appraisals and 1,300
amendments or suggestions were presented.
Subsequently, during the months of March and April, a series of meetings
(Agenda 21 forums) were held, to provide the opportunity to defend the
proposed amendments and to attempt to agree by reasoned consensus on controversial
proposals. Ten thematic forums were held, a specific one for each of the
objectives, along with a city forum to revise the full set of ten articles.
Around two hundred people, who had previously submitted their assessments,
attended these meetings. The districts also worked on the draft and some
of them held one or more local forums of their own. These meetings made
use of the same system of positioning by colours, already familiar to
the participants, through the so-called "option windows".
The editorial team drew up the amendments agreed at the forums, creating
a new, clearly improved version of the document that then received the
finishing touches in accordance with suggestions from the members of the
Municipal Environmental and Sustainability Council. Finally, on 21 May,
the Town Council approved the definitive version of the Citizen Commitment
to Sustainability, with its ten main objectives and one hundred lines
of action (ten for each objective).
The 10 Objectives
· Protect open spaces and biodiversity, and expand green belts.
· Defend a compact, diverse city, with quality public space.
· Improve mobility and make streets an attractive place.
· Attain optimum levels of environmental quality and become a healthy
· Conserve natural resources and promote the use of renewable
· Reduce waste generation and foster a culture of re-use and recycling.
· Augment social cohesion, strengthening mechanisms for fairness
· Promote economic activity oriented towards sustainable development.
· Advance the culture of sustainability through environmental communi-
cation and education.
· Reduce the city's impact on the planet and promote international
To this tangible outcome of the project, we must add the unquestionable
expansion of concepts and issues related to sustainability, as well as
progress in citizen commitment, a factor that is difficult to assess precisely.
· Subjects for debate. The proposals of the Council's working groups
have provided the basis for promoting and structuring citizen debate.
There were over 500 such medium- and/or long-term proposals, with diagnostic
elements, constituting a solid foundation for participation. A summary
of this work was published in the Documents series and the content was
incorporated into the document Towards Barcelona's Agenda 21, an accurate
social-environmental diagnosis and summary of the proposals that was published
and widely distributed and formed the core of the Agenda 21 website.
· Habits and Values Survey. Under an agreement between the Town
Council and UAB's Institute for Government and Public Policy, the Environment
and Sustainability Habits and Values Survey was carried out as a social-environmental
diagnostic element. The aim was to include environmental perception, a
subjective but important component, in the different technical and sectorial
diagnoses, adding qualitative information to this process and complementing
other sources of information. This was the first Barcelona survey to focus
exclusively on sustainability and it dealt in depth with all aspects of
this area. The field work was carried out at the end of 2000 with a sample
of 1200 individuals aged eighteen and over, through home interviews.
· Participation plan. The Municipal Council drew up a participation
plan based on the criteria and proposals put forward by the Political
Analysis Team of Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. The objective
of the plan was to design an organised process for debate with clear standards,
appropriate methodology and a timetable for different phases. See further
information on this subject in the text.
· Communication plan. If an Agenda 21 is to involve citizens, as
it must by definition, one of its necessary components is a definite communication
strategy. In view of the limited resources for this type of campaign,
it was decided to provide the process with a basic visibility centred
on the logo. The logo represents the image of commitment by the city to
the planet and its fundamental requirement was that it should be identified
with the city and not with the Town Council. It was chosen from among
three designs by the members of the Council at a plenary session. This
brand has served to unify a diverse range of actions (publications, posters,
leaflets, etc.). In respect of media dissemination, the local television
station (BTV) has played the most important part, both in terms of coverage
of the full process in news programmes and broadcast of short reports
· Technical Secretariat. In April 2001, the firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers
was commissioned through a public call for tenders to act as Technical
Secretariat to the process. This Technical Secretariat has acted as an
auxiliary support and technical assistance body for both the participation
process and the preparation of materials.
· Agent 21s. One of the key roles in the participation process
has been played by the network of individuals, both volunteers and professionals,
who, through their work in associations, universities, districts and other
municipal departments, or in the Technical Secretariat itself, have led
and galvanised the process. This highly resourceful and diverse group
of around one hundred people, who refer to themselves informally as Agent
21s, has met regularly for training and co-ordination sessions.
· Information and assistance services. In a process where information
and dialogue are so important, personal attention is indispensable. The
Sustainable Barcelona Resources Centre, open to the public six days a
week providing service through phone lines and e-mail, has been the main
point of information and attention. In the districts, the Citizen Service
Offices have played the equivalent role, often supplemented by civic centre
www.bcn.es/agenda21 website has been another, virtual, way, used by
an average of 2,250 people monthly. Service has also been provided through
the 010 telephone line.
· Environmental Education Resources. Throughout the whole process,
the Town Council has augmented the environmental training and information
resources available to citizens. A good example in this connection is
the set of seven environmental education guides (Mobility, Waste, Water,
etc.) that have been prepared and widely distributed, the Sustainability
Files collection, and the other publications in the area of environmental
awareness, in addition to a broad and varied quarterly programme of activities.
Action 21: Working Prospects
The process of preparing Barcelona's Agenda 21 has been characterised
by a few basic principles: strategy, broad base, participation, knowledge
and joint responsibility.
Firstly, Agenda 21 is configured as a medium- and long-term strategic
plan with a ten-year time frame (2002-2012), based on sustainability as
the common paradigm. In fact, Barcelona's Agenda 21 is clearly committed
to a comprehensive, broad-based approach to sustainability, combining
social, economic and environmental dimensions, and thus reaches beyond
the strictly conventional domain of environmental policy. Furthermore,
as we have seen, Barcelona's Agenda 21 has been the result of the broadest
possible process of participation and information. It is not the outcome
of the work of experts or of a specialised laboratory, but of the contributions
and perceptions of a great many people and groups with different interests
that were negotiated and eventually agreed by consensus in the Commitment.
We speak of knowledge because the process of preparing the Agenda 21,
and particularly the participation phases, have in themselves provided
an excellent opportunity to raise citizens' collective level of environmental
information, knowledge and education. In addition, however, given that
effective participation is impossible without good access to information,
the organisers have made considerable efforts in this connection.
And lastly, joint responsibility, because Barcelona's Agenda 21 is the
set of commitments and objectives shared by the members of the Council
and is put forward as the Agenda 21 for the city. It is not the Town Council's
Agenda 21, and it is therefore based on the desire to gain the commitment
of all players, in keeping with their potential and responsibilities,
to attaining the objectives that have been set.
Precisely, the new working phase that commenced with the approval of the
Citizen Commitment to Sustainability could be called Action 21. Each player,
institution or organisation that has signed the Commitment agrees to work
in accordance with the principles of the Agenda 21 and will specify the
voluntary actions that they can take in their respective fields to contribute
to attaining the shared objectives that have been set.
During this phase there will be new operational instruments to help to
stimulate, orient and evaluate the processes under way. A set of indicators
will serve to monitor progress and a methodological guide for preparing
action plans will be available by year end, along with other instruments
aimed at disseminating good practices and experience. The year 2004 offers
a good immediate time-frame for showing what progress has been made.
A key stage of the city's Agenda 21, then, has been completed, and another
even more exciting stage has commenced, in which everyone is invited to
join in the collective effort at making a more sustainable city. As concluded
in the presentation text of the Commitment, we have just begun. We have
no time to waste and we have all the time in the world.
ENERGY: CLEAN AND LITTLE OF IT
by Enric Tello
Full Professor of History of the Economy at University of Barcelona. Member
of "Ecologistes en Acció"
All cities are more than just concentrations of people at a certain point
in a region. In order to satisfy their needs, these people consume energy
and this makes cities into very unique places where many different things
are always happening at the same time. At night, satellites see them from
space, like strings of lights dotting the darkness. According to Barcelona's
Energy Improvement Plan (PMEB 2002), in 1999, within its small municipal
boundaries, Barcelona consumed 50.78 PJ of final energy in the form of
electricity (40.5%), petrol (31.5%), natural gas (25.2%) and LPG (2.9%).
Of the average of 33.65 GJ consumed per capita, 33% corresponded to transportation,
37% to commercial and industrial buildings, and 30% to households.
During the day, the energy dissipated by the city is dwarfed by the energy
of the sun. Barcelona receives 470.5 PJ of solar radiation, and in spite
of air pollution, 400 PJ reach roofs and window, i.e. eight times the
commercial energy consumed here. By far the largest part of external energy
supplies is from nuclear generation (49%) or fossil fuels (23% natural
gas, 18% petrol, 4% LPG and 1% coal). Only 5% is of solar origin (4% hydroelectric
and 1% from other renewable energy sources). The huge amount of solar
energy reaching Barcelona goes, for the most part, unused. Plants are
the main consumers, absorbing 30% of the solar radiation reaching green
belts. The remaining 70% serves merely to dry laundry and save on lighting
and heating (280 PJ of solar radiation, five times the commercial energy
Ecology has taught us to consider energy from two angles: dissipation
and accumulation of information. In ecosystems, a part of the solar energy
dissipated in activating life cycles is recovered in the form of information
that organisms transmit from generation to generation. This accumulated
information allows the system to grow in complexity and efficiency. To
power the human body's 30 billion cells, 120 W is sufficient. One third
of that power consumption occurs in the brain.
The prevailing economic strategy is just the opposite, and consists of
increasing the power of the flows of cheap and dirty energy brought in
from increasingly distant sources, in spite of the corresponding low efficiency
and high levels of pollution. If we equate growth with the increase of
flows and development with the improvement of efficiency, we see that
human wellbeing has been based much more on unsustainable growth than
on effective development.
Good Intentions: Reducing the Greenhouse Effect
This is the reasoning behind the overall environmental commitments undertaken
by the city of Barcelona and included on its Agenda 21. Not long after
the Rio summit meeting and coinciding with the first public hearing on
the urban environment held in the spring of 1993 in response to a popular
initiative promoted by the citizen platform "Barcelona Energy Saving",
made up of ecologist groups, neighbourhood associations and trade unions,
the Town Council announced its ratification of the Amsterdam Charter "Citizens
for Protection of the Climate". In 1994 the mayor of Heidelberg called
a conference of local authorities to debate ways of dealing with global
warming through local action. At that conference, the following voluntary
commitment was undertaken: "Attain at least a 20% reduction of the
emissions of greenhouse gases in 2005 in comparison with 1987." Barcelona's
Town Council made this commitment and three years later joined the Klima
Bündis, an association of cities committed to a voluntary 27% reduction
of greenhouse gas emissions by 2010 in comparison with 1997.
Facts of Life: the PMEB for 2002
The PMEB commissioned to Barcelona Regional and submitted to the Town
Council in 2002 has the virtue of contrasting current trends with declarations
of good intentions. The Plan presents an initial inventory of options,
scenarios and specific feasible proposals, along with a preliminary cost
sheet of the investments required. This coincides with the start-up of
the Barcelona Energy Agency, whose aim is to become an instrument for
promoting the measures set out in the Action Plan for Energy Saving and
Reduction of Atmospheric Emissions (PAE), included in the PMEB.
We are not on track: during the 1990s end-consumption of energy in Barcelona
grew by 23%, while the population declined from one million seven hundred
thousand to one million five hundred thousand. Per capita consumption
of energy increased by 37.5%, stimulated by deregulation of the electricity
industry and rate reductions. This increase includes consumption of natural
gas, which grew by 39.8%, spurred by heating, electricity, which grew
by 26.4%, spurred by air conditioning, and petroleum derivatives, which
grew by 17%, spurred by the "ring road effect".
Thanks to improved insulation and windows, new buildings have lower consumption
for heating (14 kWh/m2/yr, instead of the usual average of 34, or the
50 commonly found in the old centre). Nevertheless, the savings achieved
on heating are progressively overtaken by installation of air conditioning
systems (20 kWh/m2/yr). The PMEB warns that the growing demand for air
conditioning "brings with it a potential increase in consumption
of electricity that should be avoided", particularly in the services
sector. While the total amount of housing is expected to grown by no more
than 5% by 2010, the total surface area of offices could increase by 39%.
The regulations governing construction for tertiary use must be revised
and consideration must be given to extending the ordinance on solar power
with the introduction of obligation to install photovoltaic systems in
This surge in energy consumption is merely a continuation in the established
direction of inefficient and unsustainable growth. The reduction of the
price electricity has resulted, to a great extent, in the tendency to
obtain the same services with consumption of more kWh. This is also the
case in the area of mobility, where collective public services consume
only 8.9% of the total energy dedicated to transport while accounting
for 48% of trips. Private cars, motorcycles, lorries and vans consume
the remaining 91.1% to provide 52% of overall mobility. The Barcelona
underground, chronically neglected by public investment, is the champion
in terms of efficiency: it consumes 3.9% of the energy dedicated to transport
and accounts for 21.7% of trips.
The diagnosis reached by the PMEB is highly pessimistic in connection
with compliance by Barcelona's Town Council with its commitments for 2005
and 2010. With a high degree of tertiarisation of the economy and heavy
dependency on nuclear energy, "there is very little potential for
reduction of overall emissions and the impact on the local atmosphere
through substitution of conventional energy sources". Consequently,
"the only general strategy remaining is the promotion of renewable
energy sources and measures to reduce consumption through energy efficiency."
The authors of the report set out a series of potential scenarios based
on certain forecasts of economic growth, prices and demand for energy,
and compliance with the PAE, the Infrastructure Master Plan (PDI) for
the transport industry, and the Metropolitan Programme for Municipal Waste
The scenario taken as the most likely by the PMEB is the one called the
"overall action" scenario, in reference to the application on
schedule of the investments called for in the PMGRM (closure and degassing
of the Garraf disposal site, exploitation of organic material at ecoparks),
improvement of public transport planned in the PDI, and the savings and
solar development objectives set out in the PAE (14.4 MW of photovoltaic
energy, 96,300 m2 of thermal solar panels, 341,800 GJ/yr of electricity
generated from biogas). According to Barcelona Regional, all this would
serve only to offset the increased demand for energy consumption resulting
from the economic growth forecast for the same period. This is, therefore,
a scenario of stabilisation: total emissions would increase by 1.5% over
the decade and would reach the level of a yearly equivalent per inhabitant
of 3.15 tonnes of CO2.
The "objective" scenario, so called because it is recommended
by the PMEB, adds to the planned actions an expansion of the PDI to favour
public transport and construction of a fourth ecopark. This would allow
an 11% reduction of emissions in ten years, to a yearly equivalent per
inhabitant of 2.76 tonnes of CO2. "In any event, this is an unlikely
scenario," according to the PMEB. The "ceiling" scenario
aims to distinguish all actions that would be technically possible but,
according to Barcelona Regional, are financially unfeasible at present.
The forecasts included in the PAE represent only 23% of the technological
possibilities identified for the "ceiling" scenario. Carrying
them out before 2010 would involve a negative return on the required investments
(rather than the internal rate of return of 4.4% calculated in constant
pesetas that could be obtained on the 23% of financially viable investments,
estimated at an average of _265 per equivalent tonne of CO2 reduced, except
for biogas, where the cost is only _18 per tonne).
The bottom line of the PMEB is that Barcelona cannot achieve the voluntary
objectives that it undertook in the Heidelberg Declaration and upon joining
the Klima Bündis. According to the authors, "a perhaps more
realistic objective would be to maintain the low level of emissions per
capita or attempt to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases to below the
yearly equivalent of 3 tonnes of CO2 per inhabitant." The authors
use the term "low level" here to refer to the fact that emissions
are lower than those recorded in many northern cities, which are multifunctional
and less compact and have a greater degree of dependency on automobiles,
along with a less benevolent climate. In Munich, Manchester, Copenhagen,
Leeds, Berlin and Heidelberg itself, emissions are over the equivalent
of 5 tonnes of CO2 per inhabitant. In Hanover, Dresden, Helsinki, Toronto
and Minneapolis, the figure is over 10 tonnes. However, these comparisons
do not take into account the different proportions of direct and indirect
emissions depending on the economic structure of the city and the extent
of its municipal boundaries. Nor can they disguise the fact that, in spite
of the lower levels, Barcelona's emissions are presently unsustainable.
The PMEB is a very useful document for opening the citizen debate on the
future environmental action plan after approval of the Agenda 21, but
under no circumstances can it serve as a substitute for that plan. It
must serve the purpose of confronting commitments with realities and helping
us to define what policies should be applied. It should not place limits
a priori on what is to be done. Its most important message is this: we
are heading in an unsustainable direction, and if we wish to turn towards
sustainable development, we need to take decided action to reverse prevailing
trends. This will not be easy, nor will it be free. Nevertheless, we must
not mistake the difficulty of the problem for an unwillingness to find
The ability to achieve, sooner or later, the objectives that have been
set will depend on the political and economic efforts that we bring to
bear. The PMEB itself acknowledges that the differences in profitability
between the various technically viable alternatives depend on the politically
determined playing field, for example, the possible introduction of environmental
accounting that distinguishes between different behaviours and charges
those who actually pollute more. It will also depend on the widespread
use of instruments such as energy labels for housing and extension of
the solar ordinance, where we must seriously consider the need to incorporate
photovoltaic generation (linking it particularly to the growing demand
for kWh as a result of air conditioning).
In the autumn of 1992 the promoters of the "Barcelona Energy Saving"
platform attended a series of interviews with municipal technical services
for the purpose of putting the finishing touches to the proposals that
we wished to table at the first public hearing on the urban environment.
One of those proposals was the enactment of a solar ordinance for new
buildings. When we mentioned the idea to the head town of planning at
the time, we were told that it would be impossible: "We cannot oblige
builders to do something that they do not have to do in other municipalities."
It looked like we had run up against a serious obstacle. Fortunately,
one of the people present at the meeting was Anna Bosch, who had been
the first woman mayor of a major city in Catalonia. She replied "If
new buildings have to have parking garages, what is to stop you from requiring
solar energy too?
The proposed solar ordinance was defended at the public hearing in 1993,
Josep Puig drafted it during his term in office as the city's first ecologist
councillor, and it finally began to be enforced at the initiative of Imma
Mayol. It is sparking interest in many other cities and towns and has
been praised by organisations such as the European Environmental Agency.
According to the PMEB, it is allowing a 17% reduction of total energy
consumption in new buildings. This small reminder could help us to recover
a sense of progress in the task facing us. With the combined civic energy
of a large number of people, we can change the world; we do not have to
be satisfied with the one we have now.
REDUCE WASTE GENERATION AND FOSTER RECYCLING:
AN OBJECTIVE OF AGENDA 21
by Jordi Renom i Sotorra
Managing Director of the Metropolitan Waste Agency
Over the past three years, the Municipal Environmental and Sustainability
Council has worked to define the major challenges facing Barcelona and
to propose objectives aimed at making the city more sustainable. This
process will culminate in June of this year with the signature of Barcelona's
Agenda 21, the Citizen Commitment to Sustainability, by institutions and
Agenda 21 is a working plan shared by cities around the world for progress
towards a model for development capable of covering present needs without
compromising the ability to satisfy the needs of future generations.
In generic terms, the document entitled Agenda 21 is a plan for attaining
sustainable development that, along with the treaty on global warming
and biodiversity, marked the historical milestone reached at the Rio summit
These accords, and particularly Agenda 21, have turned out to embody a
series of rather vague objectives lacking clear plans for execution and
legally binding texts. Now, the international community is preparing for
the World Summit Meeting on Sustainable Development, also known as Rio
+ 10, to be held in Johannesburg in September, and society can no longer
turn a blind eye to the immense distance separating the objectives of
Rio and the day-to-day reality of the rich and poor countries alike.
Cities have a key role to play, since they are home to 50% of the world's
population and centre most of the consumption of resources and generation
of waste. Since they play a major part in creating the problems, they
also have the opportunity to contribute to solving them.
As the world's population becomes increasing urban, the UN is promoting,
within the framework of the principles of good urban governance, the principle
of sustainability through the plan of action in respect of the environment
and development embodied in Local Agenda 21s.
In the case of Barcelona, the fact that organisations and institutions
who wish to will sign the commitments undertaken in Barcelona's Agenda
21 will give rise to the preparation of action plans covering aspects
that, through the actions taken by the Town Council, organisations, enterprises,
families and individuals, can contribute to attaining the goals that we
have jointly determined.
Why is one of the objectives set by Barcelona's set out on the basis of
the reduction of waste and fostering of a culture of re-use and recycling?
What lines of action are proposed to achieve these objectives?
The current situation is clear: each citizen of Barcelona and its metropolitan
area generates 1.34 kg of waste daily, up by 40% over the amount generated
twenty years ago. Although selective collection of waste has increased
greatly in recent years, at present it accounts for only 14.4% of the
total. This means that most of the goods consumed still become waste.
The destination of most of this waste is the Garraf disposal site and
the Besòs energy recovery plant. The disposal site is now scheduled
for closure and work is currently under way for its restoration and degassing,
simultaneously with work to reduce the environmental impact of the Besòs
Management of the city's waste is subject to the directives of the Metropolitan
Programme for Municipal Waste Management, which calls for the reduction
and exploitation of waste and for the proper disposal of refuse and the
restoration of degenerated locations.
In the interest both of saving raw materials and energy and of protecting
the environment and human health and quality of life, the desirable trend
would be to reduce the generation of waste, but we have not found the
most effective measures.
Thus the first of the lines of action assessed at the Agenda 21 Issues
Forum on this objective, held in April of this year, was to minimise waste
on the basis of the principle that the best waste is waste that is not
produced. We must also be well aware that, above and beyond the difficulties
involved in waste management, the problem does not consist of the waste
itself. Waste is merely the symptom. The problem consists of our consumer
habits and our social and civic behaviour. Consequently, the solution
to the problem goes beyond the post-consumption generation of waste.
To prevent the generation of waste, we must examine the relations between
consumers and producers and define their respective roles so that we can
achieve environmental goals.
Buying less and better means more efficient acquisition of articles that
satisfy our needs, since it tends to prolong the life span of those articles
and reduce the frequency with which we retire to the lumber room those
goods have lost their usefulness too quickly.
As consumers, we can choose products that, being re-usable, have many
lives. We can impose upon ourselves a generally vigilant attitude towards
the goods that we are offered, the goods that can be used and repaired,
the goods that can serve and then serve again, the goods that do not go
to fill our trash bin, except where there is really no other option.
For producers, increased consumption also means more waste produced in
the activities of extraction, production and distribution, because waste
is produced at every stage of economic activity through the flows of the
materials cycle. Changes in the ways of producing and using goods and
products must go beyond increased efficiency of manufacturing and the
strengthening of recycling by family units.
In contrast to the conventional economy of disposable products, which
ceaselessly mass produces goods meant to be thrown away or become obsolete,
the economy of durability, repairability and improvability provides one
of the keys to prevention in manufacturing.
The initiatives of some manufacturers of appliances, automobiles and photocopiers,
who "design for disassembly", making products easy to take apart
and labelling components to specify their composition, are the tangible
expression of the idea of re-use and recycling, key factors in a sustainable
We also need initiatives in the area of legislation, to promote full recycling,
such as laws obliging enterprises to recycle and re-use the packaging
thrown away by consumers, the recovery of electronic equipment and the
more recent European Union law requiring the return of automobiles.
The structure of an economy committed to durability needs a different
kind of circulation system. In place of the current system of make-use-throw
away, with circulation in one direction only of raw materials, products
and waste, we would move to a system of make-unmake-remake, capable of
collecting and returning products in need of repair or improvement and
subsequently redistributing them to consumers. Such a system would be
less centred on long-distance supply and delivery and more on exchanges
between economies in towns and cities or regions.
This is the case with ecoindustrial estates, built on the principle of
"zero waste" and grouping enterprises that can use the waste
produced by the others.
During the 1990s, efforts were made to steer consumers towards a more
sustainable path through the sale of services rather than consumer goods,
since services are more liable to provide what the consumer is really
looking, selling the rational use of the consumer goods rather than their
mere possession. This is a system not aimed at increasing production,
but rather at ensuring the use of goods by consumers and consumer satisfaction.
Another line of action to be assessed consists of promoting a greater
degree of segmentation in selective collection, with regulatory measures
for commercial waste (hotels, bars and restaurants, trade, small workshops)
and supply markets.
Catalonia's new Municipal Waste Management Programme for 2001-2006 now
makes economic players responsible for collection and treatment of their
waste. Differentiation of household and commercial waste collection circuits
allows the gradual implementation of collection systems using, for example,
side loading, dual compartment bins, underground systems, door-to-door
bag systems and compressed air systems.
The city of Barcelona has signed the Civic Compact for a clean and sustainable
city, and it provides a point of reference for participation and an instrument
for the implementation and evaluation of the new sanitation and waste
The intent is to extend the Civic Compact for prevention of waste to the
metropolitan area, with the same conceptual basis and justification. This
process of consensus will involve the 33 municipalities and the existing
commercial networks to take part in specific actions aimed at waste prevention
and reduction at the metropolitan level.
We must require governments to work at promoting the environmentalisation
of their purchases through the creation of mechanisms that motivate, allow
and facilitate the purchase of environmentally correct products (green
purchasing) and foster the interchange of information and good practices.
In addition, it is proposed to promote actions for adapting accessories
for collection of household waste and for redefinition of the functional
design of residential buildings, with the objective of responding better
to the new demands of citizens in connection with separate collection
in homes and on the street.
The Agenda 21 Issues Forum is also studying the need to bring collection
points as close as possible to citizens. Mini collection depots could
represent a midway point between the standard collection depots and drop-off
points. Mobile collection depots, seen as an extension of collection depots
to provide service to people with lower potential for mobility, cover
the region along determined routes and visit stops with schedules and
timetables established through communication programmes.
Another proposal made in the course of this Forum is the closure and restoration
of the Garraf disposal site. This process has already been planned, as
mentioned above, and involves the prioritisation of technological options
for exploiting the value of materials and improved management of refuse,
as an alternative to disposal. In addition to recovery of glass, paper
and packaging, organic material must be recovered, taking advantage of
improved available technologies for biological treatment, including methanisation
and tunnel composting.
The European Union has proposed a Directive on disposal sites, aimed at
gradually reducing the amount of organic waste sent to disposal sites.
The city of Barcelona, within the framework of the Metropolitan Programme,
is committed to treatment and exploitation of organic material, through
construction of the its first Ecopark.
The Barcelona Ecopark, which opened in February 2002, is the first treatment
complex in the metropolitan area combining various facilities for exploitation
of different types of waste on a single site. It has a capacity to treat
325,000 tonnes yearly, one quarter of the amount of waste generated. This
is the emblematic infrastructure element of the Metropolitan Waste Programme
and its creation involved the implementation of a new system of waste
management based on sustainability criteria.
The Ecopark solution is not merely an example of technological solutions
for waste treatment, but also responds to a broader environmental challenge,
since the treatment of organic material at the Ecopark contributes to
reduction of the greenhouse effect, as it considerably reduces emissions
of carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere. Start-up of the Ecopark
has, very significantly, permitted the progressive closure and restoration
of the Vall d'en Joan disposal site in the Garraf massif, which accounted
for 29% of Barcelona's overall contribution to the greenhouse effect.
In addition, the organic material treated at the Ecopark's methanisation
facilities produces biogas that is used to generate electricity, supplying
energy for the whole installation and producing surplus energy that is
fed into the electricity mains. In turn, it replaces the use of fossil
fuels, one of the sources of emissions of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
Strategies for Education and Participation
Lastly, it was agreed that there is a need to promote strategies of active
teaching and foster channels for participation by the public at large,
enterprises and decision centres. We must ensure that we understand just
what causes people to change their attitudes.
If a change of values by any society requires a change of generation,
and not just greater awareness on the part of the present generation of
the mobilised civil society, the transition will be easier if we ensure
that we understand precisely where we stand at present.
In closing, I should like to quote from Kofi A. Annan, in the foreword
to the report on the state of the world for 2002: "We have sufficient
human and material resources to achieve sustainable development. With
leadership, creativity and good will, we can build a peaceful and prosperous
future for all."
CITIES, BIODIVERSITY AND GREEN BELTS
by Jaume Terrades
CREAF, Autonomous University of Barcelona
Urban green belts are important for a large number of reasons, many of
which have long been apparent: they are used for leisure and recreation,
they have aesthetic values (many people like to observe the seasonal changes
of plants, or simply enjoy looking at them and smelling the fragrance
of flowers), they help to reduce noise levels, etc. Much has been said
in recent years on the subject of biodiversity, one of the leading issues
in connection with global change, and biodiversity is also discussed in
connection with cities and in the context of the drafting of Agenda 21s.
One might think that biodiversity in cities is related mainly to green
belts. Evidently, this brings up the question of whether urban green belts
really play any significant role in conservation of biodiversity. First
of all, in planetary terms, since the urbanised surface of the world accounts
for only around 2% of the surface area of the continents, many people
might find any concern for urban biodiversity to be exaggerated. In fact,
if the living beings found in cities comprised only humans and their inevitably
associated species (pets and house plants, rats, parasites, household
insects, etc.), the planet's biodiversity would not be significantly diminished.
We must, therefore, ask whether there are sufficient objective reasons
to justify including biodiversity on local Agenda 21s, for example.
The reply could be unequivocal: there are certainly reasons, and plenty
of them, of different natures and on different scales. Some of these reasons
are of a scientific or technical nature, although these may not be the
most important ones, at least not in the case of our cities, here and
now. Other reasons have more to do with values. Nevertheless, if the reply
is unequivocally that such reasons do exist, we must still show that they
not only exist but that they also have significant weight, which is what
really matters. This is what I intend to do here.
It is immediately obvious that urban environments are not the best suited
to contain a substantial number of species. Furthermore, owing to the
characteristic conditions of urban surroundings, with their high degree
of artificiality, such as the predominance of impermeable surfaces (asphalt,
cement, etc.), intensive presence of humans, air pollution, frequent disturbances,
etc., common to most cities, we could not expect the species living in
cities to include many rare or endemic species or ones that are particularly
valuable from the standpoint of conservation. However, there are species
that are commonly found in urban environments or that are only found there.
For example, although it cannot generally be considered a species in danger
of extinction, the caper (Capparis spinosa) is a rather rare plant in
Catalonia and we would be hard pressed to find it in more natural surroundings,
it grows well in cracks in stone buildings and its spectacular flowers
can be seen on the walls of the monastery of Pedralbes and the church
of Santa Anna. The common silverfish (Lepisma saccharina), that avid devourer
of books and paper in general, is only found in co-existence with humans.
In any event, in the catalogues of a country's flora and fauna, cities
would be represented by a rather meagre and, in general, not very select
repertory: usually predominant are the common, ubiquitous species that
are able to survive in highly denaturalised environments. Boada i Capdevila's
recent book (Barcelona: biodiversitat urbana, Ajuntament de Barcelona,
253 p. Barcelona, 2000) contains a comprehensive and very accessible summary
of the main habitats and species found in the city of Barcelona.
Introduced Species: Positive and Negative Aspects
While the more or less autochthonous urban biodiversity is slight in comparison
with other environments, it is enriched with species introduced by humans
for specific purposes. There are, for example, ornamental plants for gardens,
balconies and interiors, caged birds, other pets, collections of flora
and fauna for exhibition (zoo and aquarium animals, botanical garden plants,
etc.). From the standpoint of ecology, this added biodiversity has various
implications, discussed below.
Firstly, the use of exotic ornamental plants is of unquestionably aesthetic
interest and is a greatly appreciated cultural-landscaping resource for
highly artificial environments. Some of these plants are well suited to
climates such as ours, while others require greater amounts of water and
energy for their survival. This has led to the defence of autochthonous
plants in gardening. In fact, it is preferable to reduce unnecessary consumption
of water and therefore not recommendable for Mediterranean cities to maintain
large surfaces covered by lawns, since they require intensive watering.
On the other hand, as already mentioned, many exotic plants do not require
excessive costs and, furthermore, there is no need to give up having examples
of exotic flora, even if only in greenhouses, out of cultural interest,
nor do we need to adopt a sort of xenophobic attitude towards exotic species.
Nevertheless, this subject has a darker side. Precisely the frequent use
of ornamental plant species and the demand for exotic pets can have detrimental
effects on biodiversity and the environment, above and beyond the increased
cost of maintenance in terms of water, energy and money. These effects
are basically of two types. On the one hand, some species are imported
illegally, since they are protected species that should not be removed
from their natural environment. In such cases, the biodiversity added
to a city has a negative impact on global biodiversity, since the long-
or short-term survival of wild populations is placed at risk. Since many
species do not reproduce in captivity, and where they do, the captive
populations are too small to maintain themselves over time, the movement
of specimens from their natural habitat to urban environments is, in practice,
equivalent to hunting and constitutes a serious assault on conservation.
Unfortunately, although there are laws against such practices, they are
poorly enforced, and the business is a lucrative one. On quite a different
scale, the use of foliage of certain native wild species, such as the
strawberry tree, to decorate floral arrangements is also detrimental to
conservation and has an impact on the environment, in this case, ours:
long, straight branches are cut, and these are easiest to find in woods
that have recently been burnt. This is also usually a clandestine activity
(lacking permission from property owners) and is very harmful to regeneration
of woodlands after a fire.
A second aspect of this darker side to the use of organisms imported into
cities is the risk of loss of control over the imported species, and this
is so regardless of whether the species is imported deliberately or not.
In some cases, exotic species can spread, reproduce and acclimatise, invading
the country's natural environment. Biological invasions are among the
factors in global change that are the cause of growing concern and cities
are often the disembarkation point of such invasions. The red-eared slider
turtle (Trachemys scripta) has become a pest in Catalonia, since this
carnivorous species is often abandoned in ponds and streams when the specimens
grow too large or their owners lose interest in them, and they then reproduce
easily. It has now become a serious problem due to its impact on other
species and its importation has been prohibited. A number of species of
parrots have proliferated in Barcelona and some have begun to expand beyond
the city, causing annoyance for people and harming some species. These
are not isolated or even exceptional cases. On the contrary, the overall
effects of biological invasions around the world are taking on disastrous
proportions and the cost of eradicating these invaders in many areas is
skyrocketing. In the United States, a study by Pimentel et al. (Pimentel,
D.; Lach, L.; Zúñiga, R.; Morrison, D.; 2000. "Environmental
and Economic Costs of Non-indigenous Species in the United States",
Bioscience 50: 53-65) estimates at $137 billion the cost generated by
a number of invading species. Of course, the most detrimental invading
species include some that cause human illness or attack crops or livestock,
and not all these species enter through the urban environment, but the
magnitude of the problem requires cities to be aware of it and to take
As for the commonest domestic fauna, such as pigeons, dogs and cats, and
animals considered pests, such as rats, most municipalities have regulations
in place and take specific action. Even so, the boundary areas of cities
and towns and urban developments have an influence on the biodiversity
of the surrounding environment due to the presence of some of these animals.
Nowadays, cats and dogs are the most populous carnivores in many woodlands.
Cats, in particular, approach houses when they cannot obtain food in the
woods, and there they find shelter and sustenance; in this way cats escape
from the natural mechanisms of population control, since they are protected
in lean times and can maintain populations at much higher levels then
would otherwise be the case, and their impact as predators is therefore
Urban Development and Fragmentation of the Natural Environment
On the basis of the above, it is clear that cities need to incorporate
into their Agenda 21s certain lines of strategy dealing with the use,
management and monitoring of species. We have mentioned that the urbanised
surface area of the continents is relatively small, but growth, in many
cases, is extremely rapid. The transition from compact cities to diffuse
cities and even urban sprawl is an almost universal phenomenon. The countryside
fills up with small patches of urban development that then grow and meld
or are connected by roads or other transport systems (power lines, pipelines,
etc.). In this way, many areas become fragmented, cut off in this urban
grid. Such fragmentation has been shown to have detrimental effects on
biodiversity. One study carried out in the United States concluded that
woodlands with a surface area of under 100 ha have only half the diversity
of birds found in extensive forests.
Furthermore, cities have other types of indirect impact. The need to build
dams and canals, the need to produce food for the inhabitants of the city,
the generation of energy and the extraction of construction materials,
disposal sites for urban waste, air and water pollution, etc. all have
substantial consequences for biodiversity. This what is known as the ecological
footprint, and although it is a controversial indicator, it implies that
for every hectare of urban land, a number of hectares (the proportion
is highly variable) must be dedicated to providing resources for the city
or receiving its waste. The affected areas lose biodiversity. These effects
can be far-reaching, since we consume goods produced thousands of kilometres
away and some of our wastes spread over the whole planet. Diffuse urban
areas have one characteristic that might seem advantageous: they allow
the maintenance of a high proportion of non-impermeable land and urban
green belts. Nevertheless, the price for this is a much more extensive
occupation of denaturalised and fragmented land. These are areas that
are much more "permeable" to the species that are best suited
to survive in such conditions, but the extent of more natural environments
is greatly reduced.
It is true that an entire country can be practically occupied by rural
and urban uses without causing an ecological disaster for humans. In fact,
biodiversity can be considerably reduced in many systems without causing
the system to fail entirely. The Netherlands and many Asian countries,
with very high population densities, are clear examples of this. Nevertheless,
this model cannot reasonably be extrapolated to the rest of the world,
since those countries depend heavily on other regions for certain resources
and the disposal of certain wastes. Concern for a reduction of cities'
impact on biodiversity is not a question of fear, but rather one of culture
and solidarity. Reduction of the ecological footprint on the rest of the
region is one of the objectives of Agenda 21. In order to achieve this,
we must reduce consumption of energy, water and other materials. We must
also resist the trend to urban sprawl and sectoralisation of activities
(which greatly increases horizontal transport), and return to favouring
a compact urban fabric. This involves enormous difficulties. All too often,
planning lacks efficiency because control of urban growth lies, in fact,
more with private interests than with governments. In addition to energy
savings (which also imply a reduction of waste generation, a fact that
will have a tremendous influence on technological development in the next
few decades), by including space as a primary resource, cities will probably
evolve towards to a different use of green belts, to avoid the barrier
effects and increase the permeability of the urban fabric to plants and
animals and to favour biodiversity and the insulation of buildings by
means of green roofs, rehabilitation of waste land, etc.
We mentioned at the outset that some of the reasons for concern with biodiversity
have to do with values. Since there is a clear trend for the majority
of world's population to live in cities, and since this process gives
rise to a growing disconnection between people and the environment, which
no longer represents the context of the individual's activity, but rather
something much more distant, perceived mainly in terms of its potential
for essentially recreational uses, city-dwellers do not have a clear understanding
of how ecological systems work. The overall design of the strategies on
Agenda 21s must take this problem into account and contribute to solving
it, both in connection with how green belts are designed and used and
with other lines of action. An educational programme, at all levels and
aimed at all sectors of the general public, must preside the drafting
of Agenda 21s and the subsequent specific policies and actions, to help
modify the biased scale of values prevailing among city-dwellers.
The subject of biodiversity on local Agenda 21s must go far beyond the
issue of green belts, although without leaving it out altogether. Cities
are the site of most of the consumption carried by humans and are therefore
responsible for most of the impact on the environment and on global biodiversity.
Strategies in respect of this issue must necessarily be set out on various
scales: they must range from attention to purely local issues, including
protection of specific habitats and species and the structuring of networks
and connections, to the major options for regional structuring and urban
growth, or, on an even larger scale, reduction of the consumption of goods
and importation of species with a serious regional impact anywhere in
the world, or on water or the atmosphere.
Although this variety of scales is evident in how the issue is handled
in Barcelona's Agenda 21, the major difficulties arise as a result of
the fact that attainment of the objectives requires policies that must
also be transverse, as is normally the case in connection with environmental
issues. In a sense, this is what Agenda 21s themselves propose: the definition
of objectives that must be taken into account when defining collective
policies or corporate or individual actions. Agenda 21s have "pedagogical"
objectives in all areas, but they are also, in themselves, educational
instruments for society at large. This must be particularly evident in
connection with an issue such as biodiversity, which remains largely unknown
to all of the possible players. I believe that biodiversity requires absolutely
emphasis both of the value of urban green belts and the other factors
that I have discussed, and that the issue of biodiversity must not be
reduced merely to the area of green belts, which are of considerable importance
on the local scale, but less so on other scales.
City and Region
by Juli Esteban
Head of the Urban Planning Studies Office
Barcelona Town Council
Everyone would certainly agree that cities, and in general all spaces
that have undergone urban development, have a high degree of responsibility
in the environmental future of the planet, particularly as consumers of
Use of the urban space by the people who live or work there, the activities
of enterprises and institutions located there, and the management of the
city by the local government unquestionably include a very wide range
of actions that are the joint cause of most of its environmental effects.
Many of the those actions and effects in turn are conditioned by the physical
surroundings in which they occur, in other words by the form of the city
and how its spaces and buildings have been constructed.
We will examine here a number of considerations as to how these two components
of the city - form and construction - influence its environmental behaviour,
both directly and, particularly, by conditioning the efficiency of the
large number of activities carried out there.
There are specific disciplines that deal with these issues: town planning
and regional organisation focus mainly on the form and location of urban
settlements; architecture and construction engineering deal with the creation
of the city's buildings and public elements.
Of course, we can say that the cities where we live are what they are,
with the form and constructions that are the result of their history.
Even so, although urban centres have a notable resistance to change, cities
are not static entities, but instead grow and are also remodelled.
The growth and remodelling of cities are processes of change affecting
their configuration and in this connection it is very important to take
into account the environmental consequences.
In the case of Barcelona, we could say that there is no further potential
for growth through expansion, and this is true if we refer strictly to
the municipality, but it is not true if we instead consider that the city
of which the municipality forms a part is a much larger entity, where
growth of considerable importance will inevitably still occur, in response
to the demand for land for housing and the activities that the areas already
developed cannot satisfy. Thus, above and beyond the municipalities, the
citizens of Barcelona and those of the other municipalities must necessarily
be concerned with how this future growth will occur.
It is therefore no surprise that the first two points of the Citizen Commitment
to Sustainability, Barcelona's Agenda 21, refer specifically to the issue
of growth in clearly regional terms. The factors that must be taken into
account in the processes of growth of urban centres are the following:
In a region as densely urbanised as the Barcelona metropolitan area, it
is extremely important to ensure the greatest possible conservation of
the areas not suitable for development. There are a number of different
and forceful reasons for this principle. The undeveloped areas facilitate
replenishment of the water table and the plant cover needed to maintain
natural ecosystems, which, in turn, help to neutralise air pollution.
In addition, the undeveloped areas are required for leisure activities
and for the perception of landscapes, including the characteristic rural
landscapes, and for the identification that these spaces allow of the
urban centres as physically distinct. Measures must therefore be taken
to prevent the casual consumption of land, the unnecessary consumption
of land for uses that are not indispensable or that could be laid out
in such a way as to greatly reduce the amount of land consumed.
Secondly, the location of growth must be taken into account. It can be
supposedly unrestricted and scattered in largely inappropriate locations,
like so many of the developments built in 1960s and 1970s, or as the laws
passed by the Spanish government in 1998 and 2000 appeared to promote
once again. Growth can also occur on the edges of existing urban centres,
allowing the establishment of good functional relations and the formal
completion and improvement of their image.
Thirdly, we must take into account the nature of this growth: it can give
rise to areas of low population density or functionally specialised activities,
or, on the contrary, high density areas with mixed functions, including
both residential and other uses.
It is obvious enough that with a higher density less land is needed for
a given number of housing units or jobs. Likewise, the combination of
uses found in many areas of existing cities has shown itself to be the
most efficient way of preventing the spatial segregation of their different
It is also worth noting that relatively dense growth on the edges of existing
urban centres, in addition to reducing the amount of land consumed, minimises
the perimeter of contact between the urban area and its rural surroundings,
which is always an area of potential conflict.
We must bear in mind that land is a scarce resource, particularly in an
area such as the Barcelona metropolitan area, and although in a sense
it can be considered a renewable resource, in that urban areas are reused
over time and occasionally in different ways, it is also true that "the
consumption of renewable resources at a rate faster than their rate of
replenishment" is the second criterion for classifying a process
as unsustainable. In this connection, repeated mention has been made of
a fact brought to light in one of the studies for the failed Barcelona
Metropolitan Regional Plan: between 1976 and 1996 the amount of land occupied
in the metropolitan area had doubled. In other words, in those twenty
years as much land was occupied as had been in the past until then. In
the last ten years, there has been the general perception that occupation
is continuing at an intense rate. The causes of this situation are undoubtedly
complex and no clear-cut responsibilities can be attributed; in any event,
it is clear that this cannot continue. A decidedly restrictive attitude
must be taken to the occupation of new land by urban development and infrastructure
elements. This need is reflected, radically, in the first line of action
defined for Barcelona's Agenda 21, which reads:
"Freeze the extension of land suitable for development until a metropolitan
regional plan has been drafted and approved on the basis of principles
of sustainability, including among its objectives the protection of natural
systems and their interconnection."
This line of action is complemented by a second one, reading:
"List, appraise and protect all undeveloped areas (farmland, woods,
coasts, rivers ... and others) as areas of importance for biodiversity..."
Of course, if growth is restrained, involving relatively high density,
and located on the edges of existing urban centres, this will facilitate
attainment of the objective of protecting undeveloped areas in the region;
likewise, due protection of undeveloped areas can condition the options
for growth, ensuring that it only occurs as strictly necessary in the
appropriate locations and with sufficient density to meet these conditions.
In addition to all of the above, we must mention another important environmental
effect of the configuration of new growth in cities, i.e. modes of mobility.
We know that the movement of people and goods accounts for a large portion
of the energy consumed, most of it from "non-renewable resources",
the primary criterion for unsustainability, and that it also accounts
for a large portion of the pollutants, particularly CO2, that, produced
in such large volumes that they cannot be neutralised, cause "cumulative
degradation of the environment", the third criterion for unsustainability,
and in this connection we can use the term "environment" in
its broadest sense.
Of course, we live in a metropolitan area and one aspect of its nature
is that people move from one side of it to the other, for reasons of work,
education or leisure. The metropolitan space offers certain advantages
that it would be absurd to not to exploit, but this should not necessarily
involve a constant increase in the distance travelled to work nor the
growing use of private vehicles. It is true that no configuration of urban
layout can keep people from going where they want and by the means that
they want to use, and it is positive that this option should be available,
since freedom of choice is a right that must be protected at all costs.
At the same time, the configuration of the developed region should favour
decisions as to destination and means of transportation of people that
are the least detrimental to the environment. Two basic criteria must
be taken into account in pursuit of this objective:
· Preference for dense, mixed-use urban development. As mentioned
above, this criterion would contribute to the conservation of undeveloped
areas in the region and social cohesion, but it is also crucial for favouring
the most sustainable mobility possible. If approximately one third of
all travel in Barcelona is on foot, a totally sustainable and very healthy
option, it is because the city is made up of very dense, mixed-use areas,
making for a relatively high probability of cases of proximity of places
of residence, work and services.
It is true that when planning calls for combination of residential and
business activity in the same area, it cannot be guaranteed by any means
that the jobs in the area will be held by people who live in the housing
located nearby, although there is an overriding logic of behaviour that
will tend to bring the two together where possible. What is certain is
that in highly specialised areas, either for residential or business use,
almost everyone will have to travel to their places of work or almost
all the jobs will be held by workers who travel there from somewhere else.
Since obligatory mobility is the technical concept used to refer to travel
from residence to workplace, these areas can be classified as areas of
We find a large number of examples of such zones in the metropolitan area.
Nevertheless, clarification is in order here: industrial estates, which
are typical examples of what we are discussing here, have a rational justification
as spaces for constructions and activities that would be difficult to
combine with housing. Nowadays, however, the mechanisation, automation
and segmentation of industrial processes have given rise to a sharp drop
in the number of jobs in production plants, while at the same time the
number of segmented parts of the process has risen: design, marketing,
accounting, etc., which make up the largest portion of the jobs involved
and are perfectly suitable for integration with housing in mixed-use urban
· The second criterion is the concentration of growth in areas
that are served or can be served by efficient public transportation. An
interesting article by Josep M. Carrera1 points out that the demographic
boom that occurred during the period 1950-1980 in all the municipalities
in the metropolitan area was focussed in the zones served by the railway.
Growth occurred mainly in the larger centres with train stations. This
pattern is in sharp contrast with the trend since 1990, when population
loss in the larger municipalities, a natural and foreseen phenomenon,
has coincided with a high degree of dispersion of growth in small and
medium-sized municipalities, most of which are not served by railways.
The logic behind this pattern is environmentally unacceptable as a model
for development of the region as a whole.
The Metropolitan Regional Plan
The Metropolitan Territorial Plan, an obligation pending since 1987, was
to have provided a model for regional development responding satisfactorily
to the three components of regional sustainability: equity, economy and
ecology. After ten years of work, a draft of this Plan was completed in
1998 that has not been processed, or debated, or even submitted officially.
In this light, we can easily understand the radical position advocated
by the first line of action of the Agenda 21 mentioned above. The factors
depending on the regional model are much too important to allow decisions
to be taken in respect of growth based on standpoints that take only local
interests into account, regardless of the validity of those interests.
On the other hand, the Metropolitan Regional Plan has been announced from
the start as more or less imminent, and this is still the case. We certainly
hope that it does not take much longer. But as a plan it must provide
specific solutions to the problems set out, without deferring to subsequent
district plans or master plans. The fundamental problems are the following:
how much land will have to be developed to respond to estimated demand,
where will this land be located in respect of existing developed areas
and existing or realistically potential public transportation networks,
and what basic conditions will have to be fulfilled by this growth in
terms of density and usage. Complementarily, the Plan must provide a positive
definition of the undeveloped areas that must, more or less definitively,
be conserved to ensure the environmental and landscape quality of the
region, and to allow the feasibility of survival strategies in unforeseeable
This requirement has been backed now for some time by solid arguments
and is now further supported by law. Although, in my opinion, not all
of the provisions of Catalonia's recently approved Urban Development Law
(March 2002) are unassailable, it does agree clearly enough with the consideration
put forward here.
Specifically, Article 3 has the title "Concept of Sustainable Urban
Development" and contains provisions such as the following:
"Sustainable urban development (...) requires combination of needs
for growth with the preservation of natural resources and landscape values,
(...) in order to ensure the quality of life of present and future generations."
"(...) given that land is a limited resource, it also requires the
configuration of models of occupation that avoid regional dispersion,
favour social cohesion, take into account the rehabilitation and renovation
of urban land, (...) and consolidate a comprehensively efficient regional
"The exercise of urban planning competencies must guarantee, in accordance
with regional organisation, the objective of sustainable urban development."
Some might find this excessively general; nevertheless, I find it encouraging
that the sustainability of urban development processes is ordained by
law and particularly that the law names the consumption of land and the
dispersion of growth as causes of unsustainability, and that regional
organisation is mentioned as a means of ensuring sustainable urban development.
Now all that remains is for the law to be enforced, and that it does not
give rise to the same result as the 1987 law, which required the drafting
of a regional plan that has yet to be presented. In this connection, it
is important to bear in mind that urban development is subject to citizen
intervention by means of proposals, allegations and even appeals where
enforceable regulations are not complied with. Article 3 provides for
the right to contest resolutions that are contrary to the principles set
out in the law; however, citizens and institutions must remain alert if
we are to create a true culture of sustainable urban development.
In addition, Barcelona and all of the municipalities in the metropolitan
area that are aware of the serious consequences of the development model
for regional sustainability will have to demand, with much greater insistence
than to date, the formulation of the Metropolitan Regional Plan that has
been announced so repeatedly and in which they will logically need to
take part to ensure that that document is sufficiently accepted and useful
as a framework for the coherence of urban development processes.
As we mentioned earlier, urban areas evolve through growth and renewal.
So far we have looked at growth, the extension of developed area, and
we have analysed the conditions that must be met if such urban development
is to be considered sustainable. Barcelona, as the focal point of a metropolitan
area, has some say in the matter, as we have pointed out, but Barcelona,
within its municipality, has no potential for further growth. The Metropolitan
General Plan of 1976 mentioned the few remaining possibilities for growth,
some of them (e.g. Torre Vilana) reluctantly, as a result of the court
rulings on the appeals that were brought. Fortunately, voices are no longer
raised in defence of the urban occupation of Collserola or what remains
of the city's hills.
Nevertheless, Barcelona can renew its urban fabric and it has been doing
so intensively since the beginning of the 1980s. Firstly, and considered
overall, this attitude tends to favour the sustainability of the metropolitan
system. With more efficient use of the already developed areas, the need
for occupation of more land and for increased capacity for movement is
avoided, in theory. Intensification of the use of an area that is well
served by public transportation that could be improved even further contributes
to the decreased use of private vehicles. It is easy to see how such arguments
are also valid for any city of a certain size and with a certain degree
of public transportation, as is the case with a number of cities in the
In this connection, we should stress that Article 3 of the new Urban Development
Law makes specific mention of the rehabilitation and renewal of urban
land as lines of action to be taken into consideration for sustainable
urban development, a mention that is definitely in keeping with advocacy
of making the best possible use of developed land before occupying new
The first of the lines of action of Article 2 of Barcelona's Agenda 21
is totally coherent with this criterion and advocates the defence of the
existing compact and diverse city:
"Improve the quality of consolidated urban areas and proceed through
urban renewal to rehabilitate those that are obsolete or run down, respecting
the characteristics of the old neighbourhood centres, to attain full use
of the urban area and reduce the demand for new land."
The second line of action for this objective refers to a basic criterion,
which should now be taken into account in the definition of urban growth
and should be required with greater insistence in the renewal of urban
"Maintain and promote the complexity of the city. Adapt urban development
regulations, taxation and activity ordinances to favour a compact structure,
mixture of activities and diversity of uses and relations between social
sectors, with jobs and housing in all neighbourhoods."
It is clear enough that urban renewal in Barcelona has followed this approach
with no substantial deviation until now. Nevertheless, it is worthwhile
to make a number of observations to point up aspects that should be kept
Rates and Context of Urban Renewal
Firstly, we need to remember that it is not reasonable to demand that
the whole city should be in optimum condition at all times, i.e. with
the whole of its physical body ready to play the role corresponding to
the most economically and environmentally efficient use of its space.
This is an ideal to aspire to, but it should not lead us to carry out
all possible renewal programmes at once. On the one hand, urban renewal
must follow guidelines that are appropriate to what can actually be accomplished
in a specific time; on the other hand, the rate of renewal must allow
a positive recomposition of the social content of the areas targeted for
renewal. We can also state that it is not undesirable for a city always
to have a certain proportion of areas pending renewal that can take in
social realities that are inevitably marginalised by the orthodoxy of
urban development. These areas will not always be the same ones; such
a situation would indeed be a serious one. The renewal of certain areas
occurs simultaneously with the decline and obsolescence of others, which
then become the object of future renewal. We might say that the city must
reinvent and renew itself continuously, and that it must also always have
parts that have not yet attained the new standards of urban rationale,
while not necessarily abandoning the hope that they will one day attain
Secondly, in connection with the mixture of business activity and housing
required for urban areas, we must take into account the dynamics of change
affecting demographics and jobs in Barcelona, and other municipalities
in similar circumstances, that have been noted in recent years and can
be foreseen for the near future. Barcelona, which has a number of housing
units limited by planning restrictions and that, with the lack of any
further possibility for growth, is unlikely to exceed 700,000, is losing
population through the decrease in the average occupation of housing units
due to the ageing of the population and the rise of new types of families,
meaning that the theoretical four inhabitants per housing unit used for
calculations in the 1960s will drop to around two, where it is likely
to stabilise. Therefore, Barcelona will probably continue to lose population,
unless immigration, bringing with it much higher rates of occupation,
compensates for the loss, a situation that we do not see as being altogether
In addition, the transformation of industrial zoning standards to allow
for occupation by a broader range of business activities with a much higher
rate of jobs per built-up area than in older industrial facilities could
lead to an increase in the number of localised jobs in the city accompanied
by a decrease in the number of workers living in Barcelona. We might consider
it normal for the central municipality of a metropolitan area to show
a certain imbalance in favour of localised jobs, but we must also bear
in mind that this gives rise to rates of obligatory mobility that have
to be taken into account.
For these reasons, and also with the aim of facilitating to a certain
extent the distribution of tertiary activities in the region, I believe
that we ought to consider the possibility of fostering a greater presence
of housing, with a high proportion of affordable housing, in the areas
affected by urban renewal programmes in the future. I should also add
that the main problem with substantial projects of affordable housing,
with controlled prices, is not the fact they create ghettos or enclaves,
as is often claimed, but that they will never be sufficient to satisfy
the foreseen short-term requirements.
Sustainability also has a component of a social nature; we must ensure
that there will be sufficient equity to promote the required cohesion.
In this connection, the availability of affordable housing for those who
need it is fundamental. Likewise, it would be a mistake to think that
this is possible within the municipalities of Barcelona, L'Hospitalet
or Santa Coloma, etc. all of them cities with no further room for expansion.
On the other hand, it is worthwhile to ensure that, within the municipality,
the proportion between housing and business activity is the best for the
city and the most appropriate for the region's environment.
Lastly, it should be noted that although we are in favour of a dense city,
this does not mean that all increases in the density of existing urban
areas are positive. We must not lose sight of the fact that in the municipalities
of the central metropolitan agglomeration there are many areas where urban
renewal should, if at all possible, give rise to a substantial decrease
in the existing volume of construction.
1. Papers. Barcelona Metropolitan Area, no. 36.
TOWARDS SUSTAINABILITY IN THE WATER SUPPLY
by Ferran Porta i Visa
Director of Environmental Institutional and Co-ordination of AGBAR
At the beginning of the 21st century, sustainability has come to the
fore as a major challenge for society. It is unquestionable that measures
to attain sustainability must be taken and implemented in all areas, and
water is one of the factors most clearly implicated in this challenge.
The European Union is very aware of this need and has stressed it with
the approval of the Council Directive establishing the community framework
for action in respect of water policies (2000/60), known as the Water
Framework Directive (WFD).
Nevertheless, in order to achieve sustainability in the water supply,
action must first be taken at the level of the general public. Barcelona
has adopted this position and accordingly has dedicated one section of
its Agenda 21 to the integral water cycle, a concept including the supply
of drinking water and sanitation (sewer mains, sewage treatment and eventual
re-use or disposal through return to the environment).
The sources of the city of Barcelona's water supply are both surface water
and groundwater. Surface water is taken from the Ter River (made suitable
for consumption at the Cardedeu treatment plant) and the Llobregat River
(made suitable for consumption at the Sant Joan Despí and Abrera
treatment plants). Groundwater is extracted from the water tables of the
Llobregat delta and the Barcelona plain.
Approximately 95% of the water consumed in the city is from the Ter and
Llobregat rivers, while the remaining 5% is from the wells of Cornellà
and Sant Feliu. Meanwhile, the progressive abandonment of the wells used
by industrial enterprises in areas of the Barcelona plain and the delta
of the Besòs River has caused the level of the water table to rise
back to its original level. This has made it necessary, in order to protect
the underground and the foundations of some buildings, to extract approximately
17 hm3 of water yearly, of which 2 hm3 are destined for consumption, while
the remainder is disposed of through the sewer system. It is estimated
that the city's water table contains exploitable reserves of approximately
20 hm3 yearly.
Of the water reaching consumers (between 7% and 8% is lost through leaks
in the mains), 64% is destined for household use, 29% for commercial and
industrial use and 7% for public use. In addition, water consumption has
decreased by around 25 hm3 in recent years, thanks to savings by household
and industrial users; in 1987, total water consumption was over 138 hm3,
while in 2001 it amounted to 116 hm3, to which must be added the 2 hm3
from private wells and 1 hm3 of bottled water (it is worth noting that
this 1 hm3 costs consumers over _210 million, while the other 116 hm3
cost them only _154 million, including taxes). Average billed domestic
water consumption per inhabitant amounts to 49.2 m3 per year, i.e. 134.6
l per inhabitant daily.
In connection with water saving measures, it is worth noting that the
majority of Barcelona's inhabitants take measures to reduce consumption.
For example, according to surveys 94% of Barcelona citizens shower instead
of bathing, 87% shut off the faucet while brushing their teeth, 85% shut
off the faucet while washing up and 83% only use dishwashers with a full
Sewage, estimated at a volume of 520,000 m3 daily, is drained through
1,595 km of sewer mains and is treated at the Besòs sewage treatment
plant or dumped directly into the sea through the Zona Franca. It is estimated
that 70% of city's sewage, i.e. 102 hm3, is treated, when it is not raining,
while 42 hm3 are dumped untreated through the new undersea outlet.
The municipal sewer mains receive a flow of 190 hm3 yearly. Control of
the sewer mains is centralised by means of remote control systems, and
these mains also drain rainwater runoff. In the event of heavy rains,
variations in the volume of flow are controlled by means of three holding
tanks, located on Carrer Viladomat, in Zona Universitària and on
Carrer Bori i Fontestà, with a total capacity of 273,000 m3. Four
more holding tanks are now under construction (with a total capacity of
170,000 m3), to be completed in 2002 and 2003.
These holding tanks are being built to deal with the consequences of the
rainfall patterns typical of the Mediterranean, since Barcelona receives
most of its yearly precipitation, an average of 600 mm, at the end of
summer and during the autumn. This heavy rainfall causes flooding and
malfunctions of the existing sewage treatment plants. The city is highly
impermeable (approximately 75%) and this means that most of the rain that
falls drains into the sewer mains and these cannot handle such a large
volume of water properly. The city receives some 40 hm3 in this way yearly.
The drinking water supply is sufficient in volume thanks to the optimisation
of distribution in the city. However, we must ensure a sufficient supply
in the event of drought and this can only be attained by increasing the
volume, since per capita consumption can hardly be reduced further. Such
an increase would also cover consumption requirements resulting from potential
demographic and/or industrial growth.
The city's water supply meets chemical and bacteriological standards,
although its organoleptic qualities (taste and smell) could be improved.
The sewer mains are of the combined type, i.e. they carry both sewage
and rainwater runoff. When convective type rains occur, as is very common
in the Mediterranean basin, the sewage treatment plants cannot treat the
full volume that they receive and the combined mains system discharges
through its outflow, causing environmental pollution.
The necessary response, then, is the reduction, already under way, of
these combined systems and completion of the infrastructure of underground
holding tanks and valve/gates, to divert and withhold excessive flows
and then deliver them gradually to the sewage treatment plants when the
storm is over.
Nevertheless, the most urgent task at present is to provide a solution
to the current non-compliance with the Directive on urban sewage treatment
(91/271), since around 30% of the city's sewage is dumped untreated.
This need is also now being addressed, since the sewage treatment plant
under construction in the municipality of El Prat de Llobregat will come
on line soon and will provide full treatment in 2004. In addition the
Besòs sewage treatment plant needs to be expanded and requires
installation of a secondary treatment process, also planned for completion
The main challenges facing us in connection with application of the Agenda
21 in respect of the water cycle are the following:
·Planning and implementation of a sustainable model for water management.
·Awareness of social agents to foster water saving measures and
good practices for water use.
Given the current situation and hydrological balance, the task force assigned
to the water cycle for Barcelona's Agenda 21 considered the most important
factors for achievement of environmental sustainability for this resource.
The task force worked with data from 1997, but those data have been updated
for this article.
We also took into account that, although the work focussed on the municipal
geographical area, it can only be considered meaningful in the overall
water context of Barcelona and its metropolitan area.
The objectives set out below were considered the most important:
a) Reduction of per capita consumption to maintain total use, making
use more efficient.
b) Complete and satisfactory sewage treatment.
c) Gradual elimination of combined system outflows during storms.
d) Use of groundwater and water from sewage treatment plants.
e) Achievement of an ecologically acceptable level of quality for the
waters of the
Besòs and Llobregat rivers and prevention of pollution of the sea
f) Citizen awareness of the rational use of water, its value and environ-
In addition, and although this aspect was not analysed by the task force
and does not figure on the Agenda 21, we must bear in mind that one of
the factors contributing to sustainable development is the financial aspect.
In this connection, the Water Framework Directive states that by 2010
member states must have implemented rates policies incorporating appropriate
incentives for consumers to use water resources efficiently and providing
for appropriate contribution by the various economic sectors (domestic,
industrial and agricultural) to covering the costs of the service, including
the environmental cost and the cost of the resources.
The European Commission supports a rates policy that applies the principle
of cost recovery, has a structure providing incentives, fosters measurement
of consumption and incorporates the principle that "the polluter
Thus the overall price paid by the consumer could be calculated as follows:
F = a fixed rate based on overhead costs, general taxes, etc.
a = a fee per cubic metre of water consumed
Q = the volume of water consumed in cubic metres
b = a fee per cubic metre of water polluted
Y = the volume of water polluted in cubic metres
Application of this formula would introduce an incentive for consumers
to use water more efficiently and pollute less, since reduction of the
amount Q and/or the pollution produced Y would give rise to a reduction
of the overall price paid P by the consumer.
The value assigned to F could vary, depending on the potential for consumption
by the household or enterprise.
In addition, it would be possible to introduce the so-called progressive
household rates, consisting of two or more blocks of consumption with
increasing prices. This would contribute further to a reduction of consumption
Each block would establish a maximum number of cubic metres for Q and
Y. Rates would increase from lower blocks to higher blocks.
In certain cases, an increase in the number of blocks results in a situation
where large families with low incomes must pay substantial amounts because
they consume water at the high price of the third block, for example.
This imbalance has been compensated in Barcelona and its metropolitan
area for families of five or more by establishment of per capita consumption
of 100 litres daily. Therefore, for a family of five this would amount
to 500 litres daily, equal to 45 m3 per calendar quarter. Thus, if the
first block is 18 m3 and the second is 36 m3 and this family consumes
90 m3, it will pay for 18 m3 in the first block, 27 m3 (45-18) in the
second block and 45 m3 in the third block, in comparison with the 18 m3,
36 m3 and 54 m3 for a high-income family.
An effective policy for water rates has a demonstrable impact on demand
for different uses, particularly agricultural uses, but also industrial
uses and domestic uses outside the home (such as public washrooms, for
example). This direct impact of rates on water consumption and pollution
can help to prevent excessive extraction of groundwater (and improvement
of the rehabilitation of water tables) and recovery of the ecological
volume of rivers.
Lines of Action to be Followed
The initial premise consists of expanding knowledge of the integral water
cycle throughout the metropolitan area and forecasting the evolution of
water flows, to allow us to draft a sustainable hydrological balance for
2010, or at least one that is more in keeping with the situation foreseen.
This demands co-ordinated planning by all agents involved in water management
and formulation of a programme for research, development and innovation
(R+D+i) to foster the application of new technologies.
The following is a summary of the specific lines of action to be undertaken
to achieve the objectives set out in section 4:
· Apply new technologies to treatment of surface water for drinking
· Augment the efficiency of supply systems for industry and irrigation.
· Achieve reduction of excessive demand by households, enterprises,
public services and irrigation where such demand exists.
· Complete construction of the Llobregat sewage treatment plant.
· Complete expansion and improvement of the Besòs sewage
treat- ment plant.
· Improve the sewage mains and construction of rainwater runoff
hol- ding tanks.
· Improve control and exploitation of groundwater.
· Implement tertiary treatment systems for sewage, for certain
· Use water from sewage treatment plants to maintain the ecological
volume of the Llobregat and Besòs rivers.
· Set up a simulation of the functioning of the sewage mains to
allow control of diversion of flows to sewage treatment plants during
· Disseminate information on the integral water cycle.
· Publicise the breakdown of costs making up the charges for the
ser- vice, including the environmental and service costs.
· Promote campaigns aimed at fostering savings in water consumption
in all sectors (household, industrial and agricultural)