An episode of environmental pollution is an event in which the air's pollution levels exceed the threshold values recommended by WHO and the EU and become even more harmful to health, notably affecting the most vulnerable groups: people with asthma and respiratory and cardiovascular problems and elderly people.

Such an episode is caused by the coincidence of environmental factors, such as anticyclonic situations characterised by a lack of wind and precipitation. In Barcelona it may occur up to 3 times a year, particularly in relation to suspended particles (PM10) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2). In order to reduce the effects of air pollution episodes as much as possible and to work towards decreasing daily pollution levels, Barcelona City Council has established an action plan as set out in Mesura de Govern "Programa de mesures contra la contaminació atmosfèrica de Barcelona".

The Generalitat of Catalonia is responsible for declaring an atmospheric pollution episode at "EARLY ALERT” and "EPISODE" levels. Barcelona City Council provides for a previous measure-triggering level, the “Close Monitoring”. The pollution alert differentiates between this two phases with degrees of impact in accordance with the maximum threshold for each pollutant. The phases and thresholds for each pollutant are:

NO2 140 µg/m³ (hour) 160 µg/m³ (hour) 200 µg/m³ (hour)
PM10 - 50 µg/m³ (hour) 80 µg/m³ or more than 3 consecutive days 50 µg/m³ (day)
Thresholds to be exceeded in more than one XVPCA station in the area

How to know when it is happening

When the Generalitat of Catalonia declares a pollution event (eary alert or episode), Barcelona City Council makes an announcement via its channels of communication (website, social media...), free email alerts, and the citizen assistance service, and alerts the media.

In the case of NO2 pollution episodes that involves public transport reinforcements and restrictions on the most polluting vehicles, the Barcelona City Council informs them at least at 3:00 pm. from the same day that the pollution episode is declared, and the measures will come into force the next day after 7:00 a.m. and until 8:00 p.m. In the case of NO2 pollution episodes information is also relayed via traffic information panels, and signposting is put in place on ring roads and approaches to the city. The measures will remain whole day until the deactivation notice.

Health and mobility advices

Recommended simple actions in order to reduce pollution and protect people’s health:

  • Get about on foot or bicycle and use streets with less traffic
  • Use public instead of private transport
  • If you have to use a private vehicle, share it or combine its use with public transport
  • Regulate your home's air conditioning and avoid excessive heating or cooling and air your home at times when less traffic on the streets
  • Start and stop your vehicle gently and have your tyres adjusted to the pressure they need : that way you will reduce the emission of polluting particles

Recommended simple actions to vulnerable people’s health in case of  suspended particles (PM10) episodes or suspended particles (PM10) early alerts, and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) episodes:

  • People with respiratory illnesses or heart disease and the elderly are recommended to reduce any intense physical exercise, particularly outdoors

Restrictions to circulation of more polluting vehicles during NO2 episodes

Traffic restrictions in Low-Emission Zone in Barcelona's ring road area on more polluting vehicles will be applied from 1 December 2017 onwards, during working days with NO2 pollution episodes, from Mondays to Fridays, from 7 am to 8 pm, working days, from the day following the episode is declared. The measures are maintained throughout the day. Until the end of the episode.

In case of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) episode it is expected to activate the regulated parking rate of vehicles on public roads, with an increase in the rate in Blue Area and Green Area (for non-residents) of 2 euros / hour , except in Zero emissions vehicles. More information

The restrictions will be permanent as of 2019, 2020 and 2025, according to this calendar:

As from December 1, 2017:

Within the Low-Emission Zone in Barcelona's ring-road area, the measure will affect passenger cars without label (gasoline-powered vehicles before 2000 - before Euro3- and diesel vehicles before 2006 -before Euro4-) and vans before Euro 1 (registered before 1994). Mondays to Fridays, from 7 am to 8 pm, working days. These restrictions will be progressively expanded until they become permanent in 2020. These restrictions will not apply to the vehicles of people with reduced mobility, emergency services (police, firefighters, ambulances) or essential services (medical and funeral services).  From winter 2017 until spring 2018, motorcycles, lorries, coaches, buses and vans with Euro 1, Euro 2 and Euro 3 emission standards will also be temporary exempt. 

As from January 1, 2019:

Vans registered before October 1, 1994, and passenger cars registered before January 1, 1997, may not be circulated in the routes of competence of the Catalan Traffic Service within the Àmbit40 LEZ.

As from January 1, 2020:

Vehicles without DGT (Directorate-General of Traffic) label will not be allowed to circulate within the Low-Emission Zone in Barcelona's ring-road area . Mondays to Fridays, from 7 am to 8 pm, working days.

As from January 1, 2025:

Vehicles without DGT label will not be allowed to circulate in any towns of the Barcelona city area.

Low-Emission Zone in Barcelona's ring-road area

Low-Emission Zone in Barcelona's ring-road area includes the municipality of Barcelona (except Zona Franca and Vallvidrera-Les Planes), L'Hospitalet de Llobregat, and part of the surrounding municipalities Esplugues de Llobregat, Cornellà de Llobregat and Sant Adrià del Besós.The goal is to progressively establish specific measures to protect the health of people living or working within this area.


Àmbit40 Low Emission Zone

Àmbit40 is an area covering 40 municipalities around Barcelona declared as Special Environmental Protection Zones.

Ambit40 municipalities: Badalona, Badia del Vallès, Barberà del Vallès, Barcelona, Castellbisbal, Castelldefels, Cerdanyola del Vallès, Cornellà de Llobregat, Esplugues de Llobregat, Gavà, Granollers, l’Hospitalet de Llobregat, la Llagosta, Martorell, Martorelles, Molins de Rei, Mollet del Vallès, Montcada and Reixac, Montmeló, Montornès del Vallès, Pallejà, el Papiol, Parets del Vallès, el Prat de Llobregat, Ripollet, Rubí, Sabadell, Sant Adrià de Besòs, Sant Andreu de la Barca, Sant Cugat del Vallès, Sant Feliu de Llobregat, Sant Fost de Campsentelles, Sant Joan Despí, Sant Just Desvern, Sant Quirze del Vallès, Sant Vicenç dels Horts, Santa Coloma de Gramenet, Santa Perpètua de Mogoda, Terrassa and Viladecans.

DGT environmental labels

The vehicle classification system established by DGT aims at positively discriminating environmentally-friendly vehicles and at effectively serving town policies regarding both traffic restriction during high pollution episodes and promotion of new technologies through financial and/or mobility- or environment-related benefits. Vehicle owners will receive these labels from DGT.  Holders of classified vehicles as B, C, ECO or Zero emissions that do not have the environmental label corresponding to the classification may acquire it in post offices. For futher information about this labels contact 060 or visit the DGT website. There is no legal requirement to have a sticker on your car but it helps Barcelona’s Guàrdia Urbana with their monitoring in the event of an episode NO2 pollution. Vehicles are divided into five categories, based on pollution potential:

No label

Vehicles failing to meet minimum environmental requirements will not receive a DGT label. These vehicles are the ones most affected by mobility restriction or banning measures. For passengers cars, are affected gasoline-powered vehicles registered before January 2000 and diesel vehicles registered before January 2006.

B (yellow label)

Gasoline-powered passenger cars and light vans registered after January 2000 and diesel passenger cars and light vans registered after January 2006. Vehicles with more than 8 seats and those used to transport goods registered after 2005 also use this label. These gasoline-powered vehicles must meet Euro 3 regulations whereas diesel vehicles must meet Euro 4 and 5 regulations.

C (green label)

Gasoline-powered passenger cars and light vans registered after January 2006 and diesel-powered cars registered after 2014. Both gasoline- and diesel-powered vehicles with more than 8 seats or those used to transport goods registered after 2014. These gasoline-powered vehicles must meet Euro 4, 5 and 6 regulations, and diesel-powered Euro 6.

ECO (green and blue label)

Label for passenger cars, light vans, vehicles with more than 8 seats and those used to transport goods classified by DGT as plug-in hybrid vehicles with a range of less than 40 km, regular hybrid electric vehicles (HEV), and natural gas (LNG or CNG) and liquefied gas (LPG) vehicles.

Zero emissions (blue label)

Mopeds, tricycles, four-wheeled motorcycles, motorcycles, passenger cars, light vans, vehicles with more than 8 seats or those used to transport goods classified by DGT as battery electric vehicles (BEV), range-extended electric vehicles (REEV), plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV) with a minimum range of 40 km, and fuel cell vehicles.