The AMB will take advantage of the Next Generation EU funds to boost the transformation of the metropolitan territory, and will present projects totalling 2,717 MEUR

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Access to resources from the EU's Next Generation funds will allow the AMB to give more impetus to its service digitisation and ecological and energy transition projects in the territory, with a total investment of 2,717 MEUR.

In the Metropolitan Action Plan 2019-2023 and the different investment plans stemming from it, AMB has already planned strategic projects aligned with these objectives.

The AMB's Next Generation metropolitan programmes include a total of 11 projects, with 34 actions aligned with the Next Generation EU objectives.

The impact of the actions in this territory, which measures 636 km2 and generates 52 % of the GDP of Catalonia, will benefit and improve the quality of life not only of the 3.2 million people who live here but also of everyone who works here or uses its services, healthcare and cultural and tourist activities.

AMB: Transforming one of the most important metropolitan areas in Europe

As an administration with essential core authorities, the AMB has the capacity to profoundly transform the metropolitan area, which is extremely important for Catalonia and Spain and has an impact on the quality of life of millions of people. More than two-thirds of the world's population lives or will live in metropolises and large cities. Therefore, metropolises are where the major changes and transformations are going to take place, and Barcelona is one of the most important ones in Europe.

Accordingly, the AMB presents the Next Generation metropolitan programmes, a series of projects that will have a total impact of 2,717 MEUR. A large part of this funding, 2,2287 MEUR, is to be part of the Next Generation EU funds, which the European Union will grant to its member states as a strategy to overcome the crisis caused by COVID-19. These funds will be combined with public and private investment to reach the total figure in one of the most ambitious initiatives ever undertaken by the AMB.

This strategy foresees two programmes: the Investment and Support Programme for the Digital Transition, with an investment of 134.39 MEUR, and the Metropolitan Energy and Ecological Transition Programme, with an allocation of 2,582 MEUR. This second programme includes investments in the metropolitan public transport system, both in the system managed indirectly (AMB Metropolitan Bus) and in the TMB network, the metropolitan institution's main transport operator. The AMB is participating in projects with the 36 metropolitan town halls and other public and private actors.

The AMB is an institution with extensive experience managing investment plans and European funds for metropolitan projects. They include the management of the Territorial Cohesion Actions Programme (PACTE), earmarked 100 MEUR, the Urban and Social Improvement Actions Programme (PAMUS), with an allocation of 181 MEUR, and the different projects and construction work linked to improvement of the landscape or fluvial spaces (PSG). Through the ERDF agreement between the AMB and the Government of Catalonia, the AMB manages an overall amount of 72 MEUR of investment; it also participates in European programmes that are allocated resources totalling approximately 10 MEUR, and it manages a 50 MEUR loan from the European Investment Bank to refurbish housing using energy efficiency criteria.

The package of measures to be presented to the EU Next Generation Fund includes 11 projects with 34 actions aimed first at promoting the digitalisation of services, e-administration and support for the new economy, and secondly at making the Barcelona metropolitan area a leading territory in sustainability and the fight against climate change. Many of these actions are already foreseen in the Metropolitan Action Plan 2019-2023 and the steering plans stemming from it, so the AMB is able to commit itself to carrying them out and finishing them within the timeframe required by the EU: before 2026. The funds give an impetus to major and minor projects which the AMB has the capacity to implement..

The complete list of projects and actions, with the budget allocated to each one, may be consulted in the document attached to this press release.

Antonio Balmón, executive vice-president of the AMB, states that: "With the investment in these projects, we have the opportunity to make a leap in scale and recover much of what this pandemic has taken from us (jobs, efforts to make a more sustainable metropolis) and, in short, to continue improving our citizens' quality of life".

"The AMB's professional capacity over the years has shown that we are a real driving force in the local world, the ideal administration to implement these policies: we are knowledgeable about the territory, in contact with its inhabitants, have a clear idea of what the metropolitan area represents and what it can become, and the technical capacity to devise, plan and carry out the actions".

Therefore, the AMB has the potential and the expertise to carry out projects comprehensively: from the initial idea to the final realisation, including the drafting, tendering and execution phases.

The metropolis of Barcelona is a territory measuring 636 km2 which has an enormous impact. It is an extremely dense conurbation: in addition to the 3.2 million people who live there (42 % of the population of Catalonia), every day there are 11.5 million journeys. Moreover, the metropolitan area generates 52 % of the total GDP of Catalonia and is one of the main spheres of economic influence in Southern Europe. Therefore, implementing the EU Next Generation metropolitan programmes and their renovating actions concentrated in such a densely populated area will effect a real transformation of the territory, giving a definitive boost to our emergence from the current health and economic crisis.

An online metropolis

The Investment and Support Programme for the Digital Transition, which will have an economic impact of 134.39 MEUR, is based on developing 5G infrastructures in order to serve some of the most strategically important areas in the territory, such as the Barcelona ring roads, where 276,500 vehicles circulate every day, and the metropolitan beaches, which welcome 1.5 million visitors per year. The inclusion of 5G services in business estates will facilitate economic reactivation, especially for small and medium-sized enterprises, which have been hit hard by the effects of the crisis.

With this set of projects and actions, the AMB will have a decisive influence on the reactivation and digital transformation of the institution itself by improving e-administration, as well as on the 36 metropolitan town halls, and it will also promote their conversion into administrations which use sustainable energy.

The DIGITALAMB project aims to make the relationship between the AMB, citizens, professionals and companies 100 % digital, with no time restrictions and with systems that allow procedures to be traced to offer trust and security.

At the same time, these technological improvements allow us to have smarter cities with the implementation of cybersecurity, blockchain, big data analysis and artificial intelligence, which will help us make strategic decisions.

The ecological transition, present in every metropolitan project

The other cornerstone of the Next Generation EU funds, on which the projects presented must be based, is the transition towards more ecologically sustainable models focused on promoting the use of renewable energies. The projects presented by the AMB in this area are grouped within the Investment Programme for Energy and Ecological Transition, with an economic impact of 1,128.05 MEUR, which seeks to strengthen the AMB's role as a leading administration in the fight against climate change in all the areas in which it holds strategic competencies: urban planning, housing, mobility, waste management and the comprehensive water cycle.

Green infrastructure

Protecting the metropolitan green infrastructure is one of the AMB's strategic commitments; it is already being carried out with strategic plans such as the Programme of Actions in Natural and Urban Landscapes (PSG) and the Metropolitan Urban Development Plan (PDU). The investment in this area will improve the connection and quality of natural, semi-natural and urban spaces. The actions presented by the AMB are based on these principles:
  • The application of nature-based solutions (NBS).
  • Projects to improve connectivity from both the ecological and social standpoint.
  • Comprehensive landscape management via public-private partnerships.
  • Projects to revalorise natural resources and foster the green economy.
  • The development of digital tools.
Stabilising the seafront is particularly important, as its 25 km of beaches is the metropolitan area's most important asset, and it is severely threatened by climate change. The actions focus on preventing the beach sand from eroding, which is aggravated by the increasingly frequent and violent storms..

Another noteworthy project is the creation of the Metropolitan Wood and Forest Technology Park. This centre, which will be located on the edge of the city in the Serra de Collserola Natural Park, will be a space of innovation, training, research and sustainable production to revalorise forest products while also generating a profit and increasing the resilience of the metropolitan forests.

Decent, affordable and sustainable housing

As the right to decent, affordable housing is one of the AMB's priorities, its ambitious Metropolitan Housing Rehabilitation Plan will enable the energy efficiency of 12,971 homes to be improved and will have a direct impact on citizens' quality of life and economy.

The Plan extends to 35 municipalities (the entire metropolitan area with the exception of Barcelona) and calls for different degrees of intervention in homes via a public-private collaboration model between the administration and the homeowner associations of the buildings to be rehabilitated.

The Plan will contribute to lowering the energy demand by insulating buildings. It is estimated that the application of the programme will have lowered CO2 emissions by 13,295 tonnes by 2024. Furthermore, the programme will have effects on employment, as more than 2,600 jobs will be created in 4 years, based on 20 jobs per million euros invested in rehabilitation.

More sustainable mobility

The urban planning transformation that the AMB and the PDU are planning in the city of Barcelona will also be crucial in paving the way for sustainable mobility, which will bring benefits on several fronts: the struggle against air and noise pollution, improved connectivity, less congested cities on a more human scale thanks to the push for new modes of transport, etc.

The AMB already has strategies underway to improve metropolitan mobility, which will be stepped up with the financing from European funds.

The push to use bicycles is a priority, and COVID-19 has highlighted the fact that active mobility will be an important part of the new mobility. Another strategic objective of the AMB is to increase bicycle mobility from 1.5 % (153,000 journeys/workday) to more than 4 %. To achieve this, the Bicivia network of bike lanes and the network of safe parking for bicycles and other personal mobility vehicles will be reinforced, and the public bicycle service will be promoted and expanded.

The investments in sustainable mobility will also stress renovating and electrifying the public transport network, focused on the AMB Metropolitan Bus service. The AMB's goal is for 40 % of the bus fleet to be zero emissions and 50 % to have hybrid engines by 2030. To this end, with the support of the European funds, there are plans to purchase 194 clean vehicles: 119 vehicles that are 100 % electric and 75 plug-in hybrid vehicles. In order to fulfil this commitment, electric infrastructure actions will also be undertaken, such as the installation of pantographs to charge buses on public thoroughfares and night-time charging points in the two publicly-owned garages.

The AMB's Next Generation programmes also include a series of actions in the Metropolitan Transports of Barcelona (TMB) network, the public transport operator directly managed by the AMB which serves the municipalities of Barcelona, L'Hospitalet de Llobregat, Cornellà de Llobregat, Badalona, Sant Adrià de Besòs and Santa Coloma de Gramenet, with an ambitious programme that will have an economic impact of 1,454.33 MEUR.

In the underground network, the actions will include improving the train supply and the frequency by adding new trains and adapting and transforming the existing ones. Investments will also be used to make the network more energy-efficient, such as by installing platform doors which will save between 10 and 30 % of energy consumption in the ventilation systems.

With regard to the TMB's metropolitan bus, investments will be made in electric and hybrid vehicles, along with hybrids with CNG and hydrogen. The renovation of the fleet will come with a reconversion of the garages, workshops and charging points to adapt them to the green technologies as well.

Finally, the TMB's entire public transport network will be digitalised: vehicles will be equipped with sensors that allow for remote maintenance, passenger surveillance and automatic counts, new information systems for travellers and the possibility of paying with a credit card inside the vehicle.

The sustainable mobility actions will be completed with measures to create new low-emissions zones (ZBE) locally in the metropolitan municipalities, expand the park & ride network at the train stations and install new quick charging stations scattered around the metropolis.

Circular economy: From waste to resource

The projects presented by the AMB to the Next Generation EU funds also envisage a change in the waste management model, from collection to final disposal. Work is currently underway to implement new systems such as smart bins and door-to-door collection in municipalities in order to overcome the current stagnation in selective collection (37.5 %) to reach 55 % by 2025.

With regard to waste treatment, the aim is to gradually leave behind the current model based on eco-parks and energy recovery. In this sense, the funds will finance plants such as the future biofertiliser and fertiliser centre (CEBA), a pioneering facility in Europe which will take advantage of the nutrients in this waste to meet the fertiliser needs of the crops in the Baix Llobregat Agricultural Park.

Water, a vital resource

As regards the integral water cycle, the main project will consist in different actions focused on promoting the use of reclaimed water, such as by applying post-purification treatment to make it suitable for agricultural and ecological uses. There are plans to carry out interventions in the four large facilities in El Prat de Llobregat, Gavà, Sant Feliu de Llobregat and Sabadell. The actions will consist in improving the pipes and the water treatment tank, as well as implementing a network of water quality sensors that can be digitally managed.

More renewable energies

The increased use of renewable energies is an essential part of the fight against climate change: the AMB's goal is for all public facilities to be supplied with clean energy and to be carbon neutral by 2030.

To achieve this, the energy demand of these facilities will have to be lowered, while renewable generation, which currently stands at 0.6 MWp, will have to increase to 100 MWp by installing photovoltaic panels on the roofs of municipal buildings and solar panels on public buildings.

Working in full collaboration with the 36 metropolitan councils, other administrations, businesses, universities, research centres and economic and social actors in the metropolitan area, the AMB will carry out these projects to place the metropolis of Barcelona in a more favourable position when it comes to reducing the effects of the health, economic and social crisis.

What are the EU Next Generation funds?

Faced with the unprecedented crisis caused by the pandemic, the EU has launched the Recovery and Resilience Funds to revive the economies (and quality of life) of the 27 member states. This fund, which totals 750,000 MEUR, is called Next Generation EU. For the first time in history, the EU has had to go into debt to secure this amount of resources.

The EU is distributing these funds on the basis of national plans submitted by the Member States, and the end recipients are the public administration, other public actors and businesses. It specifies that all the projects that receive financing from the EU Next Generation funds must be clearly related to two fronts of improvement:
  • Digital transition.
  • Ecological and energy transition.
It also states that all the actions financed by these funds must be completed by 2026 at the latest.

How will the EU Next Generation funds reach the metropolitan area?

In order to receive the funds, the Spanish government has drawn up a plan, known as the Plan España Puede (Spain Can Plan), with 10 "policy levers" related to the two main fronts set by the EU. The total allocation of funds is 140,000 MEUR, 50 % of which (70,000 MEUR) will be distributed in the form of non-refundable transfers in the period 2021-2023 through public calls for proposals and other mechanisms that are still being defined. The remaining 50 % will be distributed in the form of loans.

Other AMB programmes to tackle the crisis

Securing the Next Generation EU funds will act as a complement to other programmes recently launched by the AMB which also aim to mitigate the impact of the current economic crisis and will also prompt an economic reactivation of the metropolis and an improvement in citizens' quality of life. These measures include changing the objectives of the PAMUS to adapt this programme to the needs that have emerged in the wake of COVID-19; approval of the new Environmental Sustainability Plan (PSA 2020-2023), whose investment of 110 MEUR will allow the 35 town halls in the Barcelona metropolitan area (except the city proper) to develop projects focusing on sustainable mobility and the energy transition; the new Metropolitan Programme to Support Social Cohesion and the Local Economy and the Co-production of Services (ApropAMB), allocated 16.6 MEUR; and finally the lines of assistance to pay the metropolitan tax (TM) and the metropolitan waste treatment tax (TMTR).

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