The Barcelona Green Deal is an ambitious transformative initiative designed to reactivate and diversify the city of Barcelona economically, socially, and environmentally by the year 2030. The initiative revolves around public-private collaboration to multiply the city’s growth prospects while maintaining its commitment to competitiveness, sustainability, and equity. The Deal stands on the premise of utilising Barcelona’s existing assets and challenges to fuel growth, innovation, and sustainability, encouraging local and international stakeholders to invest in the city.
Challenges that Barcelona is Facing
The city of Barcelona is confronting several significant challenges, some of which have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. These include:
- Public Health and COVID-19 Impact: The global pandemic has profoundly affected Barcelona’s economy and public health, posing new challenges that required a specific action plan and a strategy adjustment.
- Economic Slowdown: The city is grappling with economic downturn due to the slowdown in activity, threatening the survival of the city’s productive fabric.
- Job Loss: The pandemic has led to the loss of residents’ jobs, particularly impacting the most vulnerable and fragile groups.
- Digitisation Gap: Low levels of digitisation in some sectors have caused a more significant impact, as they do not have alternatives to their usual commercial activity.
- Brand Impact: The health crisis has had a negative impact on the prestige of the Barcelona brand, particularly in Spain.
- Sustainable Growth Challenge: The city faces the critical challenge of ensuring that economic expansion does not come at the expense of its fight against inequality.
- Climate Change Threat: Barcelona must respond to the global climate crisis by encouraging its residents and companies to adopt more eco-friendly consumption and economic behaviours.
- Identity and Culture Preservation: The city is under the risk of losing its unique identity due to globalisation, gentrification, and the emergence of low-value tourist models.
- Digital Leadership Maintenance: While Barcelona has been a digital capital, new players are emerging, posing a challenge to the city’s digital ecosystem.
- International Leadership Strengthening: Despite its strong reputation, Barcelona faces the challenge of strengthening its international presence, requiring improvements in global rankings and indicators.
Six Zones of the City Undergoing Remodelling
The reactivation of the city primarily focuses on six key urban areas needing greater impetus:
- City Centre: The centre of Barcelona has been the economic and social hub of city life. This plan involves a strategy to re-boost the economy of the centre to reactivate neighbourhood dynamism. This involves the creation of a dynamic, diversified economy that can attract workers from across the metropolitan area, while balancing the presence of visitors. The City Council aims to reactivate economic and social life in Ciutat Vella and Eixample, strengthening local commerce and quality tourism.
- Port Olímpic: Barcelona aims to transform Port Olímpic into a neighbourhood and gastronomic space, and a reference for the nautical sector and blue economy, housing startups and innovation centres.
- 22@Nord: This refers to the plan to give a new boost to the 22@ district, particularly the area located north of Diagonal. This project involves unblocking the development of over a million square metres of productive land, adding technology companies, and creating approximately 60,000 jobs. This effort will also include current sustainability criteria and respond to the new workspace challenges in the post-COVID era. The northern expansion of the 22@ district will seek a balance between established businesses, startups, SMEs, and local commerce.
- Besòs Axis: This is a predominantly industrial environment in need of rethinking. The area’s future lies in becoming a strategic productive corridor for the city, housing local logistics activities and related to the city’s metabolism. New activities will stimulate the industrial estates on the right bank of the Besòs River, focusing on sustainable logistics, waste management, and 4.0 industry.
- Zona Franca and La Marina: This is the city’s major productive land asset, mainly oriented towards the logistics sector. The transformation in this area will generate a new urban centrality south of Montjuïc, strategically located between the port and the airport of Barcelona. These areas form the major residential soil reserve, set to house around 11,000 homes, and create up to 10,000 new jobs related to Industry 4.0 and sustainability.
- Montjuïc and Fira: Montjuïc is a metropolitan park and a hub for sports and culture. The plan involves making the most of its cultural and sports facilities and promoting activities linked to the economy of sport. This also involves redefining Montjuïc’s relationship with the rest of the city and the Trade Fair space, dissolving the enclosed character it has had and introducing new uses. The transformation of these areas aims to generate synergies between sports and technology, while expanding the Gran Via fairgrounds.
In conclusion, the Barcelona Green Deal is an all-encompassing effort to reactivate, reinvigorate, and reimagine Barcelona’s economic, social, and environmental spheres in the face of multifaceted challenges, ranging from economic slowdown to climate change. In addressing these issues, the Deal constructs an agile, sustainable, and resilient Barcelona that is primed for the future.
Six key zones in the city are identified as the heart of the transformation, with each earmarked for strategic remodelling to foster economic growth, social dynamism, and environmental sustainability. By turning challenges into opportunities, the Barcelona Green Deal hopes to not only restore the city’s vibrancy and dynamism but also transform it into a model of urban resilience and sustainability, balancing growth with preservation of its cultural heritage and commitment to sustainability.
While the path ahead is certainly daunting, with the dedication of public and private entities, the passion and resilience of its citizens, and the city’s inherent potential for innovation and creativity, Barcelona stands poised to usher in a new era of sustainable and inclusive growth. In the end, the Barcelona Green Deal is more than an urban development plan; it’s a testament to Barcelona’s spirit of resilience, a blueprint for a sustainable future, and a call to action to citizens, businesses, and governments alike.
The success of this initiative will solidify Barcelona’s position as a global leader in urban sustainability and resilience. Ultimately, the Barcelona Green Deal underscores the necessity and viability of a model of growth that is not just economically sound, but also socially equitable and environmentally responsible. This pioneering endeavour serves as an inspiration for other cities across the globe looking to balance their economic recovery with sustainability and social justice.