The Barcelona City Council has backed the initiative of establishing an Emission Control Area (ECA) in the Mediterranean Sea (Med-ECA) to limit air pollution produced by ships.
Barcelona is the first city to join the NGO-led initiative and has called the Spanish government to support the cause.
Environmental organizations Alianza Mar Blava, Transport & Environment, Ecologistas en Acción of Catalonia and Plataforma por la Calidad del Aire welcomed the move saying that establishment of a regulatory framework for ECAs in the North Sea, the Baltic Sea and the English Channel has led to immediate improvements in air quality of up to 50% since 2015 and associated socio-economic benefits valued in billions of euros.
For coastal areas and port cities, maritime traffic is a particularly important source of air pollution, as ships use fuels with high sulphur content that emits pollutants dangerous for human health such as nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulfur oxides (SOx) and particulate matter (PM).
The European Commission estimates that every year 50,000 Europeans die prematurely from air pollution caused by ships.
In 2017, an alliance of several European environmental organizations adopted a declaration to designate the Mediterranean Sea as an ECA.
The document, known as the “Rome Declaration”, was signed by a group of NGOs including BirdLife Malta, Cittadini per l’Aria, France Nature Environnement, Ecologistas en Acción and the German Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union (NABU) at their mission statement in Rome in March 2017.