Once a Roman colony, an independent city-state, the capital of Catalonia, and the seat of the Republican government during the civil war, Barcelona is one of the most vibrant cities in Europe. The capital of the autonomous community of Catalonia, Barcelona is Spain’s second largest city, with 1.6 million people within the city limits, and 4.7 million in the greater urban area, putting it in the Europe’s top ten largest cities. 62 per cent of the city’s inhabitants were born in Catalonia, 23 per cent came from other parts of Spain, and the remaining 17 per cent hail from other countries, with the later category increasing fourfold since 2001. The majority of Barcelona’s multicultural residents come from Pakistan, Italy, China and various South American counties. What’s more, Barcelona is a world renowned tourist destination, receiving over 8 million visitors annually. Barcelona is an economically powerful city, with a busy port, international airport, extensive automobile network, subway system and a high-speed rail link with France and thus the rest of Europe.


Located between the warm sea to the east and a striking mountain range to the west, Barcelona has a classic, sunny, subtropical Mediterranean climate, with mild, humid winters and dry, warm summers. Annually, it has an average temperature of 20°C during the day and 11°C at night, with 64cm of rain falling across 55 rainy days. This temperature is regulated by the warm sea, which has an annual average temperature of 18°C, with an average summer high of 25°C and winter low of 13°C.

Climate Adaptation

Area Metropolitana de Barcelona (AMB) has developed a Metropolitan Climate Adaptation Plan (PACC 2015-2020), which begins with the sentence ‘Climate change is a reality of our present’. From there, the document runs on the following operative objectives:

  • generate and transfer knowledge on adaptation;
  • increase the adaptive capacity of sectors and systems in order to increase resilience and decrease exposure, using the assumption of social, environmental and economic sustainability;
  • and to articulate a plan of action to coordinate adaptation policies for the 36 metropolitan municipality.

The Plan first identifies a number of climate risks that Barcelona faces—drought, floods, saline intrusion, forest fires and sea storms—and then proceeds to devise ways of combating these from an adaptation perspective. In the process, it promotes a transition towards decentralized energy generation, encourages self-reliance and advances the use of renewable. PACC Executive Summary and Complete Document (Catalan)

This Plan claims to be in accord with AMB’s other climate strategies, such as the mitigation related environmental policy Sustainability Plan of the Metropolitan Area of Barcelona (PSAMB), which is in turn inline with the European 20:20:20 strategy. The Europe-wide voluntary initiative aims for a 20 per cent reduction in C02emissions by 2020, along with a 20 per cent increase in the use of renewable energy and a 20 per cent increase in energy efficiency. As a part of this strategy, Barcelona is also involved in the Green Public Procurement programme, to facilitate its transition to a low-carbon economy. See also, 2015 Annual Report of ‘aC02rds Voluntaris‘ (Catalan) and the AMB’s 2015 ‘Strategy Carbon Management Report‘ (Catalan). Barcelona is also part of several other European climate projects, including the 2015 Mayors Adapt covenant on adaptation, which it joined in September 2014, and the ongoing Mayors in Action programme.

In 2009, the city held the Barcelona Climate Change Talks, an event which was attended by over 4,500 people, including delegates from 181 states, and produced a report that helped build momentum in the lead up to the COP15 in Copenhagen.

Llobregat desalination plant

Llobregat desalination plant

To give one example of a large-scale infrastructure based adaptation project that Barcelona has embarked on is the Llobregat desalination plant. During extended periods of drought, Barcelona had previously been forced to import drinking water by ship. In response to this unsustainable problem, the city decided to commission the state-of-the-art desalination plant. Opened in 2009, this plant now supplies water to about 1.3 million inhabitants, of 20% of the population. It uses reverse osmosis powered in part by over 5,200 solar panels which provide about 1MW of electricity annually, thus reducing 660t of C02 annually. These technical achievements saw it win the ‘Desalination Plant of the Year’ award in 2010.

Ada Colau

The Mayor

Ada Colau is the current Mayor of Barcelona, taking the position in June 2015. She is the first woman to hold this office and was just 41 years old when she assumed office. Born in the city, Colau studied philosophy before getting into activism, being a founding member of Plataforma de Afectados por la Hipoteca (PAH), a grassroots activity group with aim of providing practical help and support to people negatively affected by abusive mortgage clauses and threatened with eviction. In 2014, Colau resigned from PHA and became a spokesperson for Barcelona en Comú, a citizen platform with a policy agenda characterised by defending social justice and community right via a participatory democratic framework. Having won a simple majority in the 2015 municipal elections, Colau became mayor with a favourable vote from the absolute majority of councillors, with Barcelona en Comú now governing in minority.


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