Background and context

 The indicators for monitoring the A21 for the city of Barcelona will become an instrument for assisting the local Agenda 21 process, a process for defining the commitment to sustainability that the city has started in past years. The indicators will help orient and evaluate the processes that have been developed and must be seen as a tool that is being prepared throughout the process, which starts to fulfil its function at the time that the first diagnostic about the city is prepared and made public, which coincides with the stage of Agenda 21 called Action 21. This tool function is used to assist the process and makes it necessary to explain the background and context in which the preparation of the indicators has been developed.


Barcelona started the process of promoting the Agenda 21 in the year 1995, with the formal and unanimous commitment of the Plenary Council to the Aalborg Charter, a document that has provided great impetus to the Local Agenda 21s in the European setting, ratified by 1200 cities. It was first made public at the Earth Summit in 1992, a pioneer event in promoting the role of the cities on the road to sustainability. The city of Barcelona was represented at this Summit and, as a fruit of the commitments acquired, the “Action Programs for environmental policies in Barcelona” was published in 1994. This document included all the environmental programs that all City Council departments and districts promoted in the 1994-1995 period. Thus, it dealt with the first efforts in line with Agenda 21.


As a fruit of the support of the Aalborg Charter, the Municipal Council for the Environment and Sustainability (CMMAS) was created in the year 1998 as a participatory and consulting body, and as a promoting forum for the designing and implementation of the Agenda 21 in Barcelona. This Council contains representatives from the business world, the Administration, unions, civic associations, ecological movements, the world of the university and sustainability experts.


During 1998 and 1999, the members of the Council worked in 13 specialised groups. Each group drew up a diagnosis, different proposals and, in some cases, indicators, about one of the 13 agreed-upon aspects. This work culminated in the year 2000 with the document “Materials for Debate” and the decision of the Council to initiate a phase of citizen participation in which other organisations and agents, as well as citizens, would be involved.


In this new stage, the content of the document “Criteria and Proposals for citizen participation in the Barcelona Agenda 21” was used for support. This fulfilled the function of presenting the theoretical bases and the operative guidelines for moving towards a participatory experience that had to guarantee that all sides were represented, and bothquality and quantity were prioritised. The process included two different working perspectives (by territories and by subjects). On the 3rd of April of 2001, the participation stage was publicly launched in conjunction with the publication “Towards the Barcelona Agenda 21. Document for Debate”. This document contains a socio-environmental diagnosis and a summary of proposals as materials to be used for the discussion.


From this time onwards, many initiatives were designed to boost the process. Amongst these, those that merit mention are the work of the ten districts, the providing of information to over 500 entities and the creation of the Web site www.bcn.cat/agenda21 as an instrument for disseminating and exchanging information and for monitoring the process. Approximately 1000 proposals were brought together as a result of the first phase of the participation process. These proposals were summarised in a document that included the action principles, the objectives and the main actionlines. This led to the drafting of the “City Commitment to Sustainability”, which received the approval of the Council in the month of December 2001.


This collective construction process of the text of the Commitment was followed by a second phase of participation that led to 12,000 evaluations and more than 1300 amendments and suggestions.


A new version of the Commitment was prepared using these materials, which was definitively approved by the Council on the 21st of May of 2002. It has ten major objectives and a hundred lines of action. It was signed on the 9th of July of 2002, a date when the process of the Barcelona Agenda 21 entered a new stage, marked by the city’s commitment to sustainability. This new stage is called Action 21 and the document “Methodological Guide to Advance towards Barcelona's Sustainability” was produced as a guideline.


Each of the signing parties are committed to working to collectively advance towards sustainability, specifying voluntarily actions that they would each take upon themselves, in accordance with their fields of action. In this way, it is the city that is committed to a collective process. The year 2003 had thus been a year to move towards actions along these lines, actions that can be evaluated during the year 2004. The Barcelona Agenda 21 works on both the day-to-day and the long term for the city, and a horizon of ten years has been initially forecast (2002-2012).


Therefore, it has been formed as a strategic plan for sustainability that combines the social, economic and environmental dimensions, and is characterised by the basic principles for working horizontally, with participation, knowledge and correspondence.


Justification of the implementation of a set of indicators for Barcelona A21


Thus, since the beginning of their work, the 13 groups of CMMAS have thought that one of their objectives was to propose indicators in order to evaluate the actions proposed for the Agenda 21.


As has been previously mentioned, some groups added a first proposal of indicators to their diagnosis and proposals. In this way, the Council went with a vision of the future for a long-term process in which evaluable actions had to be specified, a display of real commitment of the city to change towards sustainability. Thus, the proposal for having a set of indicators for the A21 for the city of Barcelona developed naturally, as a consequence of the work of the council.

Beyond our city, the indicators are also an instrument for evaluating the implementation of the Local Agenda 21s. There are many cities that need an instrument with these characteristics that help lend credibility to the entire process. This is meant to ensure that the Agenda 21 does not merely become a statement of good intentions without any concrete actions. As previously mentioned, the Aalborg Charter and the Lisbon Action Plan formulated the importance that these sustainability indicators could have for the urban setting.


In the year 2000, European municipal leaders expressed in the Hanover Declaration (3rd Conference of Sustainable Cities) their commitment to the sustainability indicators in the following terms: “We are committed to introducing indicators for local sustainability, in accordance with which we will fix the objectives, watch over progress and inform about the results obtained”. Barcelona was one of the signing parties that committed to adopting these indicators as a work tool.


One of the main objectives that is being pursued through the implementation of an evaluation instrument for the Barcelona Agenda 21 process is to support the clear need of having quantitative information that will allow, in a simple manner, to monitor the development of the city of Barcelona over time in the field of sustainability and evaluate the improvements and advances obtained, in the global framework of the Agenda 21, concretely, of the ten objectives of the Commitment cited for sustainability. The verification of the evolution of the city through an analysis instrument that both contrasts and summarises, gives credibility and consolidates a collective commitment to sustainability.


Other experiences that are currently in progress are already well known, which compare different cities at a specific moment. These experiences have systems of indicators that can be generically used in cities with quite different characteristics. They provide a useful support, but in this case different than what a local set of indicators seeks. These local ones seek to recall the reality of our city and allow the level of fulfilment of our commitment to sustainability to be evaluated over time.

The creation of a proposal of a set of indicators is justified and takes its ultimate meaning in having the first diagnostic about the city through these indicators. This first diagnostic involves a systematisation in order to prepare subsequent diagnostics, Their publication and the usage of this information as a review tool for the advances made and in order to take decisions.


Thus, they are an overall monitoring over time of the progress made in relation to the Barcelona Agenda 21 through a system of indicators that follows a public information instrument that is useful to the city for evaluating the development of the road towards Barcelona’s sustainability and to facilitate the decision-making about the trends that have been detected.


Reference publications and Web sites for the Barcelona Agenda 21 process

* Action programs for environmental policies for Barcelona. Barcelona City Hall (1994).

* Materials for Debate. Summary of the 13 work groups for the Barcelona Agenda 21. Document series number 1. Barcelona City Hall (2000).
* Criteria and proposals for citizen participation in the Barcelona Agenda 21. Political Analysis Team at the UAB. Document series number 3. Barcelona City Hall (2000).
* Towards the Barcelona Agenda 21. Document for Debate. Barcelona City Hall (2001).
* www.bcn.cat/agenda21. Barcelona City Hall (2001).
* Citizen Commitment to Sustainability. Barcelona City Hall (2002).
* Methodological Guide to Advance towards Barcelona’s Sustainability. Barcelona City Hall (2003).

The Barcelona Agenda 21 Indicators

Protection of green spaces and biodiversity and increasing urban green spaces

  • Green area per inhabitant
  • Birds Biodiversity

Defence of a compact and diverse city, with a quality public space

  • Availability to public spaces and basic services
  • Index of urban renovation

Improve mobility and make pedestrian life a welcoming setting

  • Modes of transport of the population
  • Proportion of roads(?) with priority to pedestrians

Obtain optimal levels of environmental quality and create a healthy city

  • Level of noise pollution
  • Environmental quality of the beaches
  • Quality of the air
  • Birth life expectancy

Conserve natural resources and promote the use of renewable ones

  • Total water consumption per inhabitant
  • Public consumption of groundwater
  • Energy consumption from renewable sources

Reduce waste production and strengthen the culture of reusing and recycling

  • Generation of urban solid waste
  • Collection of organic material
  • Selective waste collection

Increase social cohesion, enforce mechanisms for equity and participation

  • Academic failure
  • Population finishing university studies
  • Accessibility to housing
  • Degree of association
  • Participation in municipal affairs

Foster economic activity oriented towards sustainable development

  • Number of organisations with environmental certification

Progress in a culture of sustainability through environmental education and communication

  • Number of schools that participate in environmental education projects

Reduce the city’s impact on the planet and promote international cooperation

  • Annual equivalent CO2 emissions
  • Numberof points of sale or consumption of fair trade products

Indicator related to all the objectives of aforementioned commitment to sustainability

  • Degree of citizen satisfaction
This text comes from the publication: Indicadors 21. Indicadors locals de sostenibilitat a Barcelona (2003). Documents 8. Ajuntament de Barcelona