Environmental services

Integrated policies to reinforce the environmental sustainability of the territory


With the establishment of the new metropolitan administration in 2011, the AMB Directorate for Environmental Services was entrusted with taking over the new environmental competencies set out in Law 31/2010, as well as additional competencies that were managed from other departments.

These new competencies included the administrative management of wastewaters generated from economic activities, connections with the metropolitan sanitation network, the concession to use regenerated water for third parties, and others. It is also important to highlight the establishment of the Metropolitan Environmental Assessment Panel, a technical body that writes integrated reports on issues such as water, noise, gases and smells, pursuant to the environmental licence regime set out in Law 20/2009.

During the 2011-2015 period, work has been done to become a reference point in the organization of metropolitan activities following environmental sustainability criteria: Citizens must be able to meet their needs and express their full potential while maintaining the urban biodiversity, the natural ecosystems and a healthy environment by preserving the same conditions for future generations. Sustainability is a crosscutting element that affects all levels of organization, from citizens to the municipalities as a whole.

The Sustainability department works in the fields of energy, climate change, environmental education and the greening of contracts, among others, through actions that have been designed and included in the AMB Sustainability plan, the basic management tool to guarantee the environmental objectives in the metropolitan territory.

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This mandate has seen the drafting of the Metropolitan action plan for the protection of the environment, health and biodiversity, and for the establishment of measures to fight climate change, also known as the Barcelona Metropolitan Area Sustainability Plan (PSAMB), adopted by the Metropolitan Council on 28th January 2014.

map of photovoltaic potential
Metropolitan map of photovoltaic potential

The PSAMB is a crosscutting plan of action setting forth the environmental sustainability criteria for the AMB sectoral policies. The document is drafted around six thematic axes:
  • Territory
  • Ecology and biodiversity
  • Energy and climate change
  • Sustainable mobility
  • Means of production and consumption
  • Healthy environment and education for sustainability
And identifies three areas of application:
  • The metropolitan administration
  • The municipalities
  • The metropolitan territory as a whole
The work to draft the PSAMB started in mid-2012 with the participation of different task forces of AMB technicians, multiple working sessions and the active participation of the Standing Committee for Climate Change.

The first stage of drafting this Plan entailed a diagnosis of the environmental status of the metropolitan territory. In parallel, all municipal regulations relating to sustainability were reviewed to identify the tasks and areas for which the AMB could provide technical assistance, and the offices and facilities of the metropolitan administration were examined, with the collaboration of employees and external companies.

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AMB Sustainability Plan
  • Measures in the PSAMB
    The PSAMB has identified 100 measures to be implemented during the 2014-2020 period. The knowledge generated through the drafting of this plan has led to new lines of work that broaden the scope and ambition of the PSAMB and will contribute to the efficiency of the actions provided. Until now, many of these measures have been completed successfully, some in the way of analyses and studies on the metropolitan sustainability.

    Two of these measures deserve mentioning. The first has been the establishment of a Metropolitan Panel to improve the quality of air, by identifying the main public and private entities that have an impact on the quality of the metropolitan air and, next, agree on the actions to be developed in order to meet the objectives to improve the quality of air. The second relevant measure has been the PSAMB Dialogues held during 2014 in order to generate opinion and a reflexion on the metropolitan sustainability conditions, using the information provided by the PSAMB. These dialogues have been articulated through a series of conferences held around the territory, with the participation of the administrations, academia, and social and economic actors.

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    Studies on metropolitan sustainability
    PSAMB Dialogues
In 2011, the AMB adopted its first climate change mitigation strategy, which will be reviewed during 2015. To improve the information on climate change at a metropolitan level, an important milestone has been the establishment of the Metropolitan Observatory on Climate Change (METROBS).

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Climate change
  • AMB 2011-2015 carbon strategy
    The AMB 2011-2015 strategy to manage carbon is framed within the second axis of the PSAMB, which includes measures on energy and climate change. The objective here is to reduce the carbon footprint generated by the metropolitan administration, including the concessionary companies, the facilities and the offices of the AMB. Hence, in order to monitor the implementation of this strategy, in 2011 the Standing Committee for Climate Change was created within the AMB; this is a technical entity made up of representatives from all the metropolitan administration services.

    The carbon footprint of the AMB in 2013 was 1,126,209 TCO2e, including direct and indirect emissions from over 50 facilities and services linked to the AMB. The global reduction target for 2015 is 10%, in line with the European 20-20-20 Strategy. In 2013, at the equator of the programme, the assessment is positive, with a global reduction of 7% compared to the base year of 2011. The trend indicated that good progress is underway to achieve the 10% reduction goal for 2015.

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    Carbon management strategy
  • METROBS (Metropolitan Observatory on Climate Change)
    So as to consolidate the lines of work started by the AMB on the issue of climate change, the Metropolitan Observatory on Climate Change (METROBS/CC) was established in order to have an exercise of transparent governance that is able to communicate in a clear and understandable way all the relevant data and information on mitigation and adaptation to climate change to its citizens.

    The Observatory's mission is to gather data and develop indicators that can be used, on the one hand, for all public actions for mitigation and adaptation and, on the other hand, to improve the information and empowerment of citizens regarding climate change. The METROBS aims at becoming a for other cities and metropolitan areas. This indicators produced refer to the metropolitan area of Barcelona and should enable an assessment of its situation regarding climate change in a global framework, with special emphasis placed on the regional and Mediterranean frameworks which it is part of.

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    METROBS (Metropolitan Observatory on Climate Change)
  • Plan to adapt to climate change
    The fight against climate change has to be on two fronts: mitigation and adaptation. Until now, this had been dealt with at a municipal level using an approach based on mitigation through the Plans of action for sustainable energy (PAES). Currently, the AMB has shifted its efforts to the mitigation side, by drafting its own Plan that analyses the climate projections and identifies and evaluates the potential risks associated to the competencies of the AMB. Based on this diagnosis, the Plan sets out a programme of actions, some of which are new, and includes actions that are already under development or planned for the AMB services and infrastructures. The Plan to adapt to climate change is linked to a monitoring plan and a plan to generate awareness and communication, to ensure it is adequately deployed during the 2014-2020 horizon. Also, based on this supra-municipal plan, the AMB is expected to lead, coordinate and provide technical support to the new municipal plans for adaptation that will have to be developed in the near future.
  • Projects, collaborations and memberships
    To achieve its goals in the field of energy and climate change, the AMB has developed a collaboration strategy with other bodies and entities. First and foremost, it joined the Covenant of Mayors, a European initiative that was launched as a key instrument for the involvement of local governments in the struggle against climate change and that consists of a voluntary commitment of municipalities to reducing their emissions by more than 20% by 2020. The AMB, in coordination with the Provincial Council of Barcelona, offers support and technical assistance to the member metropolitan municipalities.

    During the 2011-2015 period the AMB has signed a collaboration agreement with the Catalan Office for Climate Change (OCCC) to develop policies, on a regional and metropolitan level, to fight against climate change. The AMB has also collaborated in European projects and several initiatives on energy and climate change, among others:
    • The Vilanova i la Geltrú Declaration for the adaption to the effects of climate change in the territory and coastline.
    • The European CLUE project, on districts, cities and regions to become carbon neutral, with the commitment to become leaders in the process of developing, transforming and rehabilitating the urban fabrics.
    • The European SERPENTE project for the analysis of good energy efficiency practice in municipal facilities that will lead to the drafting of an implementation plan applicable to all public buildings.
    • The European DIDSOLIT project to develop and implement decentralised innovative solar technologies in public buildings in the Mediterranean countries. In this line, the AMB plans to implement the Dish stirling technology at Ecoparc 2.
    • The ENERGee Watch project, an observatory and network to exchange experiences and data among local and regional entities on the issues of energy and greenhouse gas emissions (GHG).
Education is one of the fundamental tools to enable each and every citizen to acquire the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values that are necessary to build a more sustainable future. For more than 20 years, the AMB has promoted environmental education through the programme "Compartim un futur" (Let's share a future).

Visit to a waste management metropolitan facility
Visit to a waste management metropolitan facility

The new Metropolitan sustainability education programme (PMES) 2014-2020 has strived to move beyond the view that the environment is exclusively linked to the concept of nature, and contributed a broader vision that involves different actors and environments such as the administration, work, households, leisure or the media. The territorial bases of the themes has been reinforced to enhance the feeling of belonging to the metropolitan territory, including crosscutting axes relating to the metropolitan administration areas, such as the protection of the environment, climate change, efficiency or renewable energies, among others.

The PMES is therefore articulated as an educational tool targeting not only children in schooling years, but also adults, and is based on citizen participation, strategic planning and social co-responsibility. This new approach reflects the vocation of the AMB to become an educational territory and, in this sense it has entered into an agreement with the Department of Mathematics and Experimental Sciences Teaching of the UAB to promote a process for teaching innovation and improvement. During 2014 the first outcomes of this agreement have started to be implemented and as of 2015 the educational model will be completely renewed.

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Sustainability Education
  • Collaborations and networking
    During the 2011-2015 period, the PMES has consolidated the collaborations previously started with several institutions and has established new collaborations. Work has been done together with the Catalan Government, the City Council of Barcelona and the Provincial Council of Barcelona to communicate the outcomes of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, Rio+20. Collaborations have also been set in place with the Fundació Agbar, the Town Council of El Prat de Llobregat, the Consortium for the Protection of the Natural Spaces of the Llobregat Delta, the ATLL and Barcelona Activa.

    As for the new collaborations, the AMB has come up with a mapping of the PMES and set up the activity "Water and energy at home: let's make our soundtrack" with the UAB; it has also started a project with the Fundació Marianao for its "greening" process; with the Fundació Catalana de l'Esplai the AMB participated in the campaign "More sustainable leisure" and to help create greater educational leisure activities; and the programme to promote energy efficiency in households has been set up through workshops, teams to monitor energy use in households as well as an interactive handbook, among others. 
During the 2011-2014 period the Working plan for the greening of contracts in the AMB has been developed. The drafting process evaluated four sets of bidding specifications to see how they could be greened; more concretely, during 2014 the technical bidding specifications were adapted for the collective public urban transport service (Nitbus), for the purchase and maintenance of multipurpose equipment, for the contracting of the PMES activities and visits service, and for the management of the composting plant in Sant Cugat del Vallès.

The AMB intends to roll out the implementation of these green purchasing criteria, and to do so, tasks have started to contract the Working plan to include environmental criteria into the technical bidding specifications (TBS) of all AMB contracts for the 2014-2016 timeframe, although the diagnosis and temporal programming of AMB contracts is available up to 2020. This Plan is a strategic document aiming to consolidate the inclusion of environmental criteria in the procurement and contracting processes for products and processes within the administration. The AMB has also worked to promote these criteria in municipalities and metropolitan companies through the drafting of a Handbook on environmental criteria to be implemented in the procurement of products and services (cat) and through the online portal www.compraresponsable.cat.

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Responsible purchasing website
  • Participation in European projects
    The AMB has joined several European projects for responsible public procurement. To be precise, it participates in the GPP 2020 project, a European initiative to promote low carbon emissions public procurement that is co-funded by the Smart Energy for Europe platform; the goal is to track a green contract and the reduction of CO2 emissions achieved by this. The AMB has also participated in the GPP Helpdesk, a European initiative on examples of good public procurement practice that picked up the maintenance contract for the metropolitan parks.

    The AMB also supports the SPP Regions green procurement project, coordinated by the ICLEI within the framework of the programme "innovative energy solutions", whose horizon is 2020. This initiative will allow the AMB to participate voluntarily in aggregate green public procurement and have technical and legal assessment for internal procedures, among other advantages.
The AMB exercises responsibilities as an environmental authority, which entails monitoring and controlling environmental impacts and the disposal of wastewater from the activities carried out in the metropolitan territory. This monitoring process allows a direct impact on the metropolitan environmental health and reduces the potential harmfulness of the points of emissions. This action has been included as the fifth axe in the AMB commitment with sustainability.

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Environmental authority
  • Authorisations for the disposal of wastewater
    Authorising the disposal of wastewater is one of the main tools the administration has to ensure the proper ecological state of waters, following the established quality standards, environmental objectives and the applicable regulations. The statistical data are published annually on the AMB webpage.

    The AMB authorises disposals into the sanitation network following a set of criteria to ensure that water treatment facilities (EDAR) work properly and that the waters disposed of have an adequate ecological condition. During the 2011-2014 period, 774 records were processed. In 2012 a simplified procedure was set in place for activities with a lower environmental impact that only dispose of sanitary waters.

    As for authorisations for the disposal of wastewater using tank vehicles, since the inclusion of this procedure into the Metropolitan regulations on the disposal of wastewater (RMAAR) adopted on 8th June 2011, the AMB has accredited 55 transport operators, in charge of transporting the wastewater from different users to the EDAR of El Prat or Besòs.

    The next review of the Regulation is planning to include authorisations to dispose of waters coming from the depletion of the groundwater level of companies executing occasional works that require these companies to temporarily deplete the existing groundwater and extract them by pumping them into the sewerage network.

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    Statistical data
  • Actions carried out in the metropolitan sanitation network
    The metropolitan sanitation network is comprised of the upstream network of the sanitation system, meaning the set of metropolitan collectors and additional facilities such as pump stations and treatment plants. All actions carried out in this network must be reviewed and authorised by the AMB. For the 2011-2014 period 38 records were processed seeking permission to link up to the network and 69 records were processed affecting the metropolitan sanitation network.

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    Sanitation system
  • Metropolitan Environmental Assessment Panel
    Pursuant to the competencies outlined in Law 31/2010, on 12th December 2012 the Metropolitan Environmental Assessment Panel (PMAA) was established, attached to the Directorate for Environmental Services. The function of the PMAA is to assess the requests for environmental licenses and write an integrated report on the impacts of the economic activities carried out in metropolitan municipalities with less than 50,000 inhabitants, such as smells, vibrations, heat, water supply requirements or disposals into the public sewer system, among others. Monitoring and controlling these environmental vectors permit a direct incidence on the metropolitan healthy environment, reducing the potential impact of points of emissions, which is the fifth axis on the AMB commitments for sustainability.

    Since its creation the PMAA has acted in the following municipalities: Badia del Vallès, Begues, Castellbisbal, Cervelló, Corbera de Llobregat, El Papiol, La Palma de Cervelló, Molins de Rei, Pallejà, Sant Andreu de la Barca, Sant Climent de Llobregat, Ripollet, Sant Joan Despí, Sant Just Desvern, Sant Vicenç dels Horts, Torrelles de Llobregat and Santa Coloma de Cervelló.

    During 2013 and 2014 the AMB Governing Board has approved 69 integrated reports.

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    Environmental Authority
  • Metropolitan environmental competency reports for the approval of regional or urban planning instruments

    The AMB Environmental Services issue the mandatory environmental report during the processing of figures for urban planning carried out in the 36 municipalities of the metropolitan area of Barcelona. These reports include the calculation of associated CO2 emissions to have some orientations on how many emissions the urban planning figures contribute during their execution and issue whatever recommendations are considered; these recommendations also apply to the mobility associated to the fostering of environmentally greener vehicles such as bicycles or collective public transport. Also, the potential for renewable energies in the areas where the projects are executed has been included, as well as the theoretical smells coming from nearby industrial activities. It is also worth highlighting the participation of the Environmental Services in the drafting of the Metropolitan urban master plan (PDU), as in previous urban planning ventures such as the Barcelona metropolitan territorial plan (PTMB) and in other general and specific plans drafted and approved in past years. At the same time, these reports have been used in different management tools and urban development projects for specific works.

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    Environmental Authority
  • Concessions for regenerated water
    The planned reuse of regenerated water from the different water treatment plants is essential to meets certain needs in the metropolitan area and to effectively contribute to the conservation of the environment. To make this water available, treatment plants have tertiary treatments to regenerate water resources to the level and quality required for them to be reusable.

    During this mandate, when there hasn't been any exceptional drought episode, tertiary systems have worked at minimum levels, especially for environmental uses such as the maintenance of the Llobregat delta wetlands and maintaining the ecological flow in the river Llobregat. Moreover, to promote the use of regenerated water and obtain better environmental benefits, the feasibility of supplying regenerated water to different metropolitan industrial estates is under review, such as the Zona Franca or the Pratenc industrial complexes.

    The Directorate for Environmental Services continues to work to receive the necessary authorisations from the Catalan Water Agency (ACA) so that all metropolitan water treatment plants can supply regenerated water for certain uses. On 19th October 2010, the ACA decided to issue the complementary authorisation for the EDAR at El Prat de Llobregat. With this authorisation, the AMB can then process the required permits for the parties at stake (town councils, farmers, etc).

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    Environmental Authority
  • Environmental custody of the metropolitan waste treatment and sanitation plants
    control panel
    Wastewater treatment plant control panel
    The AMB monitors the metropolitan waste treatment and sanitation plants. Through the environmental prevention and control regulations, the Directorate for Environmental Services has a strict control to ensure that water and waste treatment plants have all the required administrative documentation.

    Progress has been made during this mandate in terms of controlling environmental aspects of plants in line with the environmental authorisations and licenses granted, working each and every day to improve the data collection and systematisation, as well as with periodic visits to the plants to check each of the vectors: air, water, noise levels, waste and, when any limitation is in place, to check that this is complied with.

    In addition, there is also an exhaustive control of the grievances and claims stemming from the activities of metropolitan plants. This control is done with two basic instruments: a computer programme that is specific to register and monitor grievances and claims, and a protocol that is operated jointly with the metropolitan plants and town councils. This protocol is used to solve the grievances and claims and to establish the relevant actions to provide direct answers to town councils and citizens. During 2015, this programme is due to be expanded so that claims and grievances can be managed also from the metropolitan plants.
  • Regulation of own services
    In its condition as an environmental authority, the AMB regulates its own environmental services and, since 2013, it applies taxes relating to the provision and performance of environmental activities.

    In this sense, on 5th May 2011, the Metropolitan Council adopted the Metropolitan rules for the disposal of wastewater, with the aim of regulating and administering the use, maintenance and conservation on the public sanitation service, which includes the municipal sewerage networks and the metropolitan sanitation network owned by the AMB. The review of these rules foresees the authorisation to dispose of waters coming from the depletion of the groundwater level for construction purposes, as well as the authorisation of works carried out by third parties that affect the metropolitan public sanitation system.

    In addition, in 2013 the fiscal ordinance governing the tax for the provision of services and the performance of the AMB environmental activities was approved.

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    Metropolitan regulation on wastewater disposal
    Regulation of taxes related to the provision and performance of environmental activities