Barcelona has pledged to reach a 40% reduction in CO2e emissions by 2030. Nearly 30% of the emissions can be attributed to the mobility sector, so the City will need to make major changes to the ways in which people get around in the very near future. The Barcelona Superblocks programme seeks to meet the challenge of improving quality of life while simultaneously reducing environmental impact through the development of mixed-use public spaces. The Superblocks project, while straight-forward, essentially reorganises the entire city. In prioritizing pedestrians over personal vehicles, this initiative faces the challenge of creating fundamental changes to the ways in which the residents of Barcelona interact with their city.
Though Barcelona’s CO2 emissions per capita are lower than most major cities, the City has pledged a 40% reduction by 2030 under its Commitment to the Climate presented at COP-21. Given that almost 30% of the City’s CO2 emissions are generated by mobility, the Superblock programme has the potential to be highly-influential.
In order to meet Barcelona’s 21% private traffic reduction target, which is part of the Urban Mobility Plan under Barcelona’s Commitment to the Climate, the Superblocks programme has developed innovating plans for the City’s mobility networks which can be adapted to a range of districts. This project is a step in the direction of the Barcelona Commitment to the Climate goal of expanding green spaces by 1 m2 per city resident. By reorganizing the priorities for the City’s streets, the Superblocks programme could reach to extend car-free citizen spaces up to 23 hectares (23,000 m2). In one of the superblocks which has already been implemented, traffic intensity has been reduced by 80-90% without increasing the traffic intensity of streets along the superblock’s perimeter by more than 5%, that would represent the ideal values for other superblock areas.
The Barcelona Superblocks programme is unique and inventive in its approach. By making functional rather than physical changes, the programme will create significant change at a minimal cost. By 2019, the programme hopes to have developed superblocks in four neighborhoods, expanding to the entire city after 2020. The impact of this initiative, however, will reach beyond Barcelona. The accessibility and adaptability of the plan give Superblocks universal relevance for cities worldwide. The Barcelona Superblocks programme demonstrates the feasibility of climate action, and diversifies the field of ecological urbanism by developing simple logistical changes which lessen the City’s burden on the environment and increase quality of life for residents.