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|4||Puerto del Rosario, Canarias|
|5||Puertollano, Castilla-La Mancha|
|7||Bilbo, Basque Country|
|8||Valladolid, Castille and Leon|
|9||San Sebastián de La Gomera, Canarias|
|10||Santiago de Compostela, Galicia|
(local time)SEE WORLD AQI RANKING
|1||Grácia - Sant Gervasi|
|2||Parc de la Vall d'Hebron|
|3||Plaza de Lluís Companys|
|5||Montcada - Can Sant Joan|
|7||Rambla del Poblenou|
|10||Gavà - Parc del Mil·lenni|
(local time)SEE WORLD AQI RANKING
1:15, Dec 1
live AQI index
|Air pollution level||Air quality index||Main pollutant|
|Good|| 37 US AQI||PM2.5|
PM2.5 concentration in Barcelona is currently 1.8 times the WHO annual air quality guideline value
| Enjoy outdoor activities|
| Open your windows to bring clean, fresh air indoors|
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|Tuesday, Nov 28|
Good 42 AQI US
|Wednesday, Nov 29|
Moderate 52 AQI US
|Thursday, Nov 30|
Moderate 51 AQI US
Good 37 AQI US
|Saturday, Dec 2|
Good 10 AQI US
|Sunday, Dec 3|
Good 19 AQI US
|Monday, Dec 4|
Good 12 AQI US
|Tuesday, Dec 5|
Good 8 AQI US
|Wednesday, Dec 6|
Good 6 AQI US
|Thursday, Dec 7|
Good 8 AQI US
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As a regional centre, the daily transit of goods and people cause problems with air quality in Barcelona. In 2015, Barcelona was assigned a D- grade by Friends of the Earth when evaluated against European Commission guidelines for air quality.1 This score was determined by the levels of air pollutants in Barcelona and measures the city had in place to reduce emissions. The pollutants considered most harmful to human health in Barcelona are fine particulate matter (PM2.5 and PM10) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2), pollutants attributed to urban and regional traffic.
High concentrations of NO2 and particulate matter have been an ongoing problem for the Catalan capital. In 2019, the European Commission referred Spain to the European Court of Justice for repeated non-compliance with EU air quality standards—one of the cities responsible for illegal air pollution levels was Barcelona.2 The World Health Organisation (WHO) annual limit values for PM10, PM2.5 and NO2 are set at 20 μg/m3, 10 μg/m3 and 40 μg/m3, respectively. Though the European Union’s (EU) air quality standards are less stringent than WHO recommendations for particulate mattter—at 40 μg/m3 for PM10, 25 μg/m3 for PM2.5, and 40 μg/m3 for NO2 —air pollution monitoring stations in Barcelona have also recorded NO2 levels above EU-mandated thresholds as recently as 2019.3,4
Many cities struggle with air pollution caused by urban transport, and Barcelona is no exception. However, as the largest metropolis on the Mediterranean Sea, Barcelona air pollution also stems from the transit of ships and port activity. In fact, emissions from the nearby port can cause up to 50% of total nitrous oxide levels in Barcelona.5 Port activity has also been linked to other common air pollutants, a 2016 study determined harbour emissions contribute up to 12% of PM10 and 15% of PM2.5 in urban Barcelona.6 For this reason, Barcelona City Council subscribed to an initiative that aims to create an Emission Control Area in the Mediterranean Sea (Med-ECA).7
In recent years, air pollution in Barcelona has improved in some areas. While in 2010, 80% of air quality monitoring stations in Barcelona exceeded the average annual NO2 limits set by the EU, in 2013 the proportion was down to 29% of stations.8 Across Barcelona’s port and the city, average annual NO2 levels in 2019 stayed below the 40 μg/m3 threshold recommended by the WHO—levels were 32 μg/m3 in the city and 37 μg/m3 at the port.4 However, average annual PM2.5 levels in 2019 exceeded the 10 μg/m3 limit set by the WHO. In Barcelona’s port, average annual PM2.5 concentrations reached 17 μg/m3, while in the city, stations recorded PM2.5 levels above the hourly WHO recommendation of 25 μg/m3 for a total of 26 days during 2019.4
Real-time air quality levels are accessible on IQAir’s Barcelona Air Quality Map at the top of the page, alongside a live Barcelona air quality index for the city.
In 2019, average annual PM2.5 concentrations in Spain never exceeded the WHO exposure recommendation. However, daily recordings of unsafe levels of particulate matter and NO2 still affect more than two thirds of the Spanish population, primarily those in cities, port cities and industrial areas.4 As an example, the most polluted municipality in Spain in 2019 was Puertollano in the Castilla-La Mancha region—the centre for petrochemical and fertiliser production recorded an average PM2.5 concentration of 17.5 μg/m3, equal to a “moderate” US air quality index (AQI) of 62, according to IQAir's 2019 World Air Quality Report.
Barcelona, the second-most populated city in Spain, also records higher average PM2.5 levels than Madrid. Madrid’s air quality in terms of PM2.5 levels was better than Barcelona in 2019, averaging 9.2 μg/m3.
A new Action Plan to improve air quality in Barcelona was approved in 2014, with measures to lower NO2, PM10 and ozone levels. The city set targets to reduce emissions related to traffic by 30% over 15 years and by 10% within the next five years.9 These targets are far from the ambition needed to comply with EU legislation, according to Ecologistas en Acción, a non-for profit that works on environmental matters in Spain. The group launched a campaign during initial Covid-19 lockdowns calling for a dramatic reduction in private vehicle use and a halt to the expansion of the city port and airport.10
Following the earlier example of Madrid, Barcelona implemented a Low Emission Zone in January 2020—an area of 95 square kilometres where vehicles without an environmental classification are prohibited. Throughout Spain, the Climate Change and Energy Transition Law requires all municipalities with more than 50,000 inhabitants to establish low emission zones by 2023.11 Low emission zones in Europe have had mixed success in lowering levels of air pollutants. In cities around Germany, these zones significantly reduced particulate matter (PM).12 However, in London, the zones had limited to no effects on nitrous oxide levels over a ten-year period—though the zones resulted in a general switch to smaller, newer vehicles.13
+ Article resources
 Soot Free for the Climate, “Ranking Overview”. Soot Free Cities website, 2015.
 European Commission, “Air quality: Commission refers Bulgaria and Spain to the Court for failing to protect citizens from poor air quality”. European Commission website, 25 July 2019.
 European Commission, “Directive 2008/50/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 May 2008 on ambient air quality and cleaner air for Europe”. European Commission website, 2008.
 Ecologistas en Acción, “La calidad del aire en el Estado español durante 2019”. Ecologistas en Acción website, 2020.
 Roman Llagostera, “Pla de millora de la qualitat de l’aire de Barcelona 2015-2018.” Ajuntament de Barcelona, April, 2015.
 Noemí Perez et al., “Impact of harbour emissions on ambient PM10 and PM2.5 in Barcelona (Spain): Evidences of secondary aerosol formation within the urban area”. Science of The Total Environment 571: 237-250, July, 2016.
 Eoin Bannon, “Barcelona asks Spanish government to support emission control area in Mediterranean”. Transport & Environment website, December 5, 2018.
 Roman Llagostera, “Pla de millora de la qualitat de l’aire de Barcelona 2015-2018,” Ajuntament de Barcelona, April 2015.
 Government of Catalonia, “Air Quality Action Plan, horizon 2020”. Catalonia Government’s Territory and Sustainability Department website, n.d.
 Ecologistas en Acción, “Valoració de la Declaració d’Emergència Climàtica de l’Ajuntament de Barcelona”. Ecologistas en Acción website, February 17, 2020.
 Ana Barreira, “In the right direction but lacking ambition: The Spanish Climate Change and Energy Transition Bill”. Euractiv website. June 9, 2020.
 Christiane Malina and Frauke Scheffler, “The impact of Low Emission Zones on particulate matter concentration and public health”. Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice 77:372-385, July, 2015.
 Richard B. Ellison, Stepher P. Greaves and David A. Hensher, “Five years of London’s low emission zone: Effects on vehicle fleet compoisition and air quality,” Transportation Research Part A: Transport and Environment 23: 25-33, August, 2013.
5 Data sources