Institutional declaration on the climate emergency in the city

Barcelona declared the climate emergency on 15 January 2020 and is speeding up a series of changes which require a commitment from all city stakeholders. The scientific evidence is irrefutable and the effects of the global climate crisis that we’re already suffering are prompting us to take urgent and robust action. We’re still in time. It’s now or never.

16/01/2020 19:25 h

Ajuntament de Barcelona

VIDEO. Ada Colau: “Barcelona is declaring the climate emergency today. The City Council is doing it, but so are all the organisations who’ve been involved in the sessions and everybody who wants to join in. Everybody’s welcome, everybody’s needed”.

Institutional declaration on the climate emergency

We’re here today as the result of a process that goes back quite a way, involving lots of people who came before us. In particular, a process that started last July when at Barcelona City Council we said that like many other cities we are aware that we’re going through a paradigm shift, that we have to take action on the climate emergency, but that we didn’t want to produce a rhetorical decree, we didn’t just want a signature on a bit of paper. We wanted a real process, with specific measures, a landmark pledge in the fight against the climate emergency.

The Climate Emergency Board has been running since July and I’d like to say a huge thank you to everybody who has taken part, the organisations, scientific experts and the municipal services which offered an approach from right across the spectrum, with many different areas and councillors’ offices greatly involved. Thank you for the huge amount of great work done over these months, where around 200 organisations and 300 people took part to get us here today with a declaration, no empty declaration, but a step into action. A step into action which starts with assuming responsibilities, of course, that we’re faced with an enormous threat, one of the biggest global challenges which we need to tackle immediately, and we know that as cities we have a responsibility not to shy away from that. Big cities, metropolitan cities, cities from around the planet are one of the main, if not the main, emitters of greenhouse gases, and so we’re the ones who must act firmly.

The message was clear from Greta Thunberg, one of the young people spearheading the call for action around the globe. Greta Thunberg said it when she warned “our house is in flames: this is not a drill”. Here, today, Barcelona as a city wants to add its weight to the words of Greta Thunberg and state that indeed, it’s not a drill, it’s an emergency. And as the video explained very well, clearly and directly, we’re destined to go down in history, but just how depends on us. It’s about what we do and what we don’t do, because the next few years will basically decide if, when we still had time, and we still do, we acted firmly to guarantee life on the planet and the future of our children. Barcelona is here today to declare the climate emergency and, as a result, say that we’ve made a choice and we’ve chosen to take action

We’re in a difficult global context right now, highly complex, where unfortunately all too often we find leaders of countries, in some case the most influential powers on the planet, large multinationals, who are still in denial over the climate, who still say the climate emergency is an ideological matter and that it doesn’t exist. From here, from Barcelona, we want to say clearly that denial is the wrong path, that putting short-term economic benefits ahead of guarantees for life and the future of the planet is a huge error, economically speaking too.

The economic system as we know it clearly hasn’t worked that well and it’s what’s on the table right now: an economic system that at a global level is generating more inequality and consequently more social injustice. It’s also generating injustice when it comes to the climate, the environment, and directly generating ecological disasters. That means it’s harming human beings too, particularly in areas and countries which are underprivileged or discriminated against in world geopolitics.

We’re here to stand up for democracy, to defend climate justice, make the case for a revamp of the economic system to respond properly to today’s big challenges. In other words, more than ever, as we said some years ago in the squares, that what we’re defending is none other than real democracy, a system which serves the general interest and life on the planet.

Cities clearly hold the most responsibility for the emissions that generate the climate emergency, and so we must be the first to take firm action, which is why we’re here today. But we also know not everything depends on us, and so we’re here to say we don’t want to shy away from our responsibilities, that we’re ready to take the strongest action if we’re given adequate resources and powers, and that we’re completely willing to collaborate will all administrations, the public and the private sector so that we can effectively achieve an objective which is shared by us all. The reduction of emissions.

We have a big responsibility as a global and international city, to send a message to the world: time is running out, we need to act urgently and there are no short cuts.

Barcelona is declaring the climate emergency today. The City Council is doing it, but so are all the organisations who’ve been involved in the sessions and everybody who wants to join in. Everybody’s welcome, everybody’s needed.

This climate emergency, today’s declaration hasn’t come from nowhere. It’s the result of a long process, with initiatives throughout the last term of office and important steps already taken. We’ve taken measures such as setting up the biggest low emission zone in southern Europe, new pricing for public transport to boost regular use, the protection plan unveiled a few days ago for areas surrounding our schools, protecting our schools and gaining safe and healthy public space for our children, as well as other urban planning initiatives such as superblocks, more bike lanes and other measures in the economic sphere with new green tax regulations.

And even though we’ve done a lot, we’re not here to rest on our laurels but to say that we have to do much more. Nothing will be enough until we achieve our goal, which is to cut greenhouse-gas emissions by 50% by 2030, compared to levels in 1990. That’s the objective and we need to do whatever it takes to achieve that goal effectively.

With this step we’re taking today, which won’t be the last as many more will come, we’re presenting a declaration which as we said, is not just a simple signature but an ambitious goal to be reached through a hundred measures.

These are measures which in general terms mean a cultural change, by that we mean a change of paradigm, a change of our vision of a city and our world, our economic model, what the priorities are and consequently what action we must take. And we’ve got to make lots of important changes that affect the main areas of our collective life, such as changes in mobility, where we still have to cut emissions much more and we need to completely decarbonise mobility.

In the city model, building a much greener, calmer, safer and healthier city.

In the economic model, we’ve got to quickly move towards a truly green economy, a Green New Deal: cleaner industry and backing innovation, also making the most of the opportunities offered by new technologies.

Changes in production and consumption too: green energy, a new local and organic food model, less waste and better waste management and more.

Let me just stress this idea that will keep coming up, and of course in this declaration, revolving around the word responsibility. I think as those heading the institution it’s very important that we speak clearly about this topic, and we need to do that because in the debate about the climate emergency there’s been a lot of talk about changing habits, customs and priorities that mainly affect people’s everyday lives. Of course, we’ve all got to be responsible, nobody can be left out, but more than anything those in charge can’t sit on the sidelines.

We’re asking a lot of people and we’re aware of that, so as administrations we’ve got to practice what we preach and match the level of responsibility we’re asking of the public.

As administrations we shouldn’t be squabbling between us in general, we’ve got to collaborate and cooperate to produce much bolder policies than those developed to date, but most of all we also have to tackle major emitters and talk about responsibility and the reduction of emissions from major infrastructures and big private companies. Nobody, absolutely nobody, can be disassociated from this responsibility.

We’ve taken a path, a path with no turning back, and we’ve got to go faster still. Barcelona is a city which has reinvented itself many times and which has done so ambitiously, enthusiastically and boldly when needed.

We’re facing one of the biggest challenges, a global threat. Something like this has hardly ever happened, but at the same time this global threat needs local responses which must be multiplied and replicated all around the planet, and specifically in all the world’s cities.

When it comes to this ambitious response to one of the main global threats we’re facing, what we need to do is see the opportunity we’ve got for the city of Barcelona. We’re not talking about restrictions alone, as I was saying before we’re talking about a change of our vision of priorities, about deciding if we really prioritise life and the future of generations to come. We’ve got the chance to opt for a healthier city, for our children, but also for our elderly people. In short, we’ve got the chance to gain a city with better quality of life, more meeting places, neighbourliness, more greenery.

We’ve got the chance to gain a city which rebels against rapid and accelerated consumption. A city which places importance on time and time shared, where we gain more time collectively and individually for life and for the people we love. A city with a green economy which generates quality jobs in numbers, not precarious ones.

There’s a climate emergency and we must act boldly, to do it together, like at crunch moments, because there’s no other option and because we do want a much better city. It’s time for action, to waste no more time. We’ve got a huge responsibility towards future generations, and one day, as the video explains very well, we’ll have to explain what we did and what we didn’t do. Today I’m convinced we’ve chosen the right path. We’re speeding up our response to the climate emergency, making Barcelona a bold and responsible example. This isn’t a drill, it’s a solid pledge to defend life in our city.

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