Barcelona's Data Portrait: re-rolling the donut

We present here the main results for the 4 lenses of our re-rolled doughnut

"The Doughnut Barcelona" is an innovative, holistic approach that offers an insight into the city's socio-ecological dimensions and captures the collective feelings and concerns in the face of critical issues like the aftermath of the global pandemic, the economic crisis, and the climate emergency. 

The Doughnut also explores potential shifts in economic models, as highlighted in Kate Raworth's talk at Parc de la Barceloneta. It's about ensuring the economy centres on the well-being of the planet and guarantees prosperity for everyone. 

The Barcelona Doughnut's unique representation unrolls and re-rolls the four lenses—ecological and social on both global and local levels. Each dimension in the doughnut is represented by a chosen indicator, contributing to the general understanding of the city's status. 

 

The Local Social Lens: How can the people of Barcelona thrive?

The local social lens is visually represented in the lower-inner semicircle of the 're-rolled' doughnut. Each indicator's value is depicted as a bar that fades from pink to red as the present situation gets more distant from the social minimum required to be within the Doughnut. 

 

Looking through the lens, Barcelona presents a mixed bag. On the positive side, the city exhibits remarkable progress in dimensions such as education, political voice, and peace & justice. However, several dimensions still call for serious attention, particularly social (and gender) equality, access to energy and health. For instance, mental health has been worsening.

A glaring example is the mobility indicator – chosen to be "deaths in traffic accidents attended by the Urban Guard" – which has a low value of 0.55. The length of this bar is a stark reminder of the work left to be done to make Barcelona's streets safer, with less cars. 

In contrast, Barcelona's unemployment rate – chosen as the representative indicator for the work dimension – stood at 6.6% in the reference year 2020, thus achieving the set goal of being less than 8.3%. This marks a milestone for the city, signalling significant progress in providing employment opportunities for its inhabitants. 

 

The Local Ecological Lens: How can Barcelona be as generous as the nature that surrounds it? 

The local ecological lens we use is symbolically represented in the lower-outer semicircle of the Doughnut Model. Indicators that veer off from the target significantly are represented by elongated bars extending outward, a visual sign of the distance yet to be covered to reach a safe and just space, in accordance with the theory of planetary boundaries. 

 While the social lens paints a picture of human prosperity, it's essential to bear in mind the ecological dimensions that underpin it. As per the local ecological lens of the Doughnut Economics model, Barcelona seems to be exceeding the "safe and just space for humanity" in all indicators. This overstep is most noticeable in three key areas: energy capture and use, air quality, and food consumption and production. 

With energy use surpassing the desired limit by a staggering seven times, underlining an urgent need to promote and enhance local renewable energy production. Air quality, measured with concentrations of NO2, PM2.5, and PM10 is up to four times above the safe limit as defined by the WHO and is raising serious health concerns. Additionally, food consumption and production overshoot the set goal by about three times, pointing towards the intertwined issues of CO2 emissions and land use changes. 

While the tasks ahead may seem daunting, they also provide a clear roadmap of where the city needs to focus its efforts. The Barcelona Doughnut serves not only as an indicator of where we stand but also as a guide to where we should be heading. 

 

The Global Social Lens: How can Barcelona respect the wellbeing of all people? 

In 2021, Barcelona depended heavily on 12 other countries for 90% of its resources. These embodied resources include the building of the city’s social metabolism - biomass, minerals, metals, and fossil fuels. They also include soil used for growing crops, measuring to a staggering total of 11,207 km2, over 100 times the surface area of Barcelona. This reality paints a picture of the far-reaching tendrils of Barcelona's consumption requirements. 

When it comes to resource providers, each country plays a different role. China, for example, is the major supplier of minerals, while most metals are sourced from the "rest of America." As for biomass, fossil fuels, and soils, they mostly originate from "rest of Africa." 

Now, let's move to the 'social' part of our doughnut. Using data from our resource flow, we crafted a different kind of doughnut – a global social doughnut. This doughnut reflects Spain's dependency on other countries based on the proportion of used resources incorporated into products imported here. 

On the surface, Spain performs well socially - that is if you turn a blind eye to the implications tied to international trade. But when the global consequences of Spanish consumption and production are taken into account a social framework far from ideal emerges. 

This hidden doughnut shows that our prosperity in Barcelona is somewhat of a paradox. While we enjoy the benefits of economic activity locally, the burdens are shifted to the world's poorest and most vulnerable. In essence, Barcelona, like many other northern cities, is improving its social foundation at the expense of others. 

In 2021, a staggering 96.7% of the resources consumed in Barcelona came from countries in more precarious situations than Spain. This includes "rest of Africa", "rest of Asia and the Pacific", "rest of America", and China, countries with serious social deficiencies. It's a sobering reminder that our current international trade model perpetuates existing vulnerabilities and struggles of the Global South. The global social doughnut reveals the untold social costs of Barcelona’s consumption and production habits. 

 

  

The Global Ecological Lens: How can Barcelona respect the health of the entire planet?

The Global Ecological lens focuses on the question of how Barcelona can respect the health of our entire planet. As it stands, Barcelona's economic model results in six out of the seven calculated planetary boundaries being breached. This implies that the city's ecological impact doesn't stop at its city limits - it reaches far beyond, with repercussions on a global level. 

The challenge Barcelona faces is multifaceted: how to boost the city's social foundation while not further infringing upon our biophysical boundaries, and to cut back current oversteps. A daunting task, indeed, but one the city cannot afford to ignore. 

When examining the specific indicators, "Phosphorus applied to crops" reveals the most severe breach, with an impact seven times higher than the per capita limit. Barcelona's material footprint also looms large, nearly five times over the established limit. A study conducted by Hickel et al. (2022) puts this into a global context - nearly 2.5 trillion tons of materials were extracted and used globally from 1970 to 2017, 74% of which belonged to the most developed countries. Spain, and therefore Barcelona, is implicated heavily in this statistic, ranking eleventh worldwide for the highest total overshoot. 

Regarding CO2 emissions, the city would need to slash its consumption-based emissions by a massive 400% to respect the planetary limit and meet the Paris Agreement's goal of stabilising global temperature rise at 1.5ºC. Remember, a significant portion of these emissions link back to global production chains and are often released outside of the city - or even Spain - adding to Barcelona's responsibility to address this issue. 

Examining the remaining biophysical indicators, we see that they exceed the safe thresholds by 1.5 to 3 times. There is, however, a silver lining: the Blue Water Extraction indicator, which sits comfortably within the "safe and just space for humanity." This demonstrates that Barcelona's water footprint, including water extracted both locally and globally for the city's use, currently stands at sustainable levels. But with a mere 14% increase leading to overshoot, maintaining these levels requires vigilant and sustained effort. 

 

Barcelona’s Rerolled Doughnut

Barcelona has made history by becoming the first city to successfully calculate the four lenses "re-rolled" approach for the doughnut framework. By employing this innovative method, the city has achieved a holistic and in-depth understanding of its performance, both at the global and local levels. This cutting-edge framework stands out due to its comprehensive nature, which provides a complete picture of the city's progress across all analysed levels.


  

Moving Forward 

Barcelona's Doughnut Portrait presents a comprehensive picture of the city's current state, highlighting areas that need immediate attention and action. The findings from these four lenses serve as crucial pointers for Barcelona's policymakers, innovators, and citizens alike. The challenges are complex, and the stakes are high, but the potential for positive change is equally vast. A closer look at these insights will help Barcelona build a more sustainable, equitable, and prosperous city that respects both local and global ecological boundaries while ensuring social justice and wellbeing for its citizens. 

 

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    Ernest Hughes

    Seattle, WA USA

    How can we accelerate innovation and change for the future?

    Asuncion Aguilar

    Sophia Antipolis, France and Barcelona, Spain

    Guiding organizations and regions through their transformational journey to embrace regenerative and distributive dynamics.

    Luis Palicio

    Leeds (UK) / Oviedo (Spain)

    I want to learn more about how we can apply doughnut economics to our local community.

    1 comment
    Anna Louise Gurney 4 months ago

    Thanks Claudio, I'm excited to see what you said about Barcelona being the first city to re-roll. We are presenting the Donut model in Poble Sec on Sat 28th Oct, I've emailed you! I'll shared the event on DEAL later this evening. Maybe you can come!! 

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