Environmental Conference of the Regions of Europe

Examples from the Regions

The Barcelona area air quality plan

As many large urban areas in Europe, Barcelona and 39 municipalities around it have a serious air pollution problem concretely with nitrogen dioxide and PM10 particles.

Road traffic is the main source of pollution by nitrogen oxides and suspended particulate matter in the affected area contributing with more than 50% of the emissions for both pollutants. The main causes are the high volume of traffic, the growth in the number of vehicles and the growing proportion of diesel vehicles.

The Government of Catalonia approved in September 2014, the Air Quality Action Plan in Barcelona and 39 surrounding municipalities comprising its agglomeration. This Plan updated the previous improvement Plan (2007-2010, extended until September 2014) and it includes 46 general actions in key areas such as vehicle traffic, the port and the airport, citizen awareness or taxation, among others. Also 32 extra actions measures are proposed to the local authorities and another 5 to be implemented if an environmental pollution episode is declared.

It demands a higher level of commitment from all areas of government and stipulates co-responsibility of all stakeholders in its implementation (Government of Catalonia, local authorities, companies and private citizens).
Main features of the Air Quality Plan:

  • It proposes integrated mobility management, addressing both infrastructures
  • and mobility services, and promotes a change of model based on public transport and active mobility (walking and cycling).
  • It advocates clean fuels and electric vehicles in private daily mobility through discounts at tolls in the metropolitan area for cleaner vehicles and free access to BUS-VAO-ECO lanes, the modernization of public vehicle fleets, the application of green procurement criteria and the promotion of emblem of the Guarantee of Environmental Quality of vehicle fleets, subsidies for clean vehicles and taxi services and inspections for the most polluting vehicles
  • It urges the Catalan automotive industry to lead to the manufacture of alternative-drive, low-emission vehicles.
  • It includes new environmental taxation measures tied to the emissions of nitrogen oxides, particulate matter and other atmospheric pollutants generated by commercial aviation, industry and vehicle traffic in the special protection area, and which will be used primarily to improve public transport, and it endows the Atmospheric Environment Protection Fund.
  • It supports the use of the best available technologies (BATs) to reduce industrial emissions.
  • It strengthens continuous emissions monitoring at the main emitting sites within the SPA (thermal power stations, cement, glass and steel production facilities, etc.).
  • In the Port it aims to increase the share of rail freight transport and it promotes the use of LNG (liquefied natural gas) and other alternative fuels in vessels, lorries and working machinery.
  • It establishes the creation of urban areas with protected atmosphere as a mandatory action for municipalities with at least municipal taxation of blue and green parking zones
  • following air pollution criteria and reduction of pollution in school zones and it recommend the restriction of pollution vehicles recommended for municipalities
  • It aligns with the Catalan Public Health Plan (PINSAP), giving priority to prevention over
    intervention and also with the European Union’s Cleaner Air for Europe Programme.
  • It enables effective measures to be activated during pollution episodes, with restrictions on private vehicle traffic to discourage their use, while providing incentives to use public transport and non-polluting vehicles. In these cases, preventive measures are implemented so that certain levels of pollution are not attained, by means of declarations of pollution episodes, public information and implementation of the other associated measures.

You can find more information about the Barcelona area Air Quality Plan here.


Catalonia belongs to the AIR-QUALITY OF THE REGIONS network since its foundation.

The Air-quality Initiative of Regions (AIR) is an European platform created for exchange good practices in air quality management and dialogue with the European institutions.

AIR was founded in 2011 and represents 13 regions from 7 EU Member States (in alphabetic order): Baden-Württemberg, Catalunya, Comunidad de Madrid, Emilia-Romagna, Greater London, Hessen, Lombardia, North Rhine-Westphalia, Piemonte, Randstad, Steiermark, Veneto and Vlaanderen.

Together these regions represent 23% of EU GDP and 19% of the EU’s population (about 95 million inhabitants).

Since 2011 it has been working proactively with all the European institutions involved with the air quality policies review and it has developed and participated in numerous seminars and dissemination activities and it has elaborated various position papers, letters and documents related with the air quality issues.

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