Saudi Arabia and sustainable living: NEOM, the smart city of the future
Saudi Arabia focuses on green and environmental sustainability: Saudi Vision 2030 is an ambitious strategic plan aimed at transforming the Saudi economy to reduce its dependence on oil. But not only. Two other initiatives, announced by the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed Bin Salman, are the ‘Saudi Arabia Green Initiative’ and the ‘Middle East Green Initiative’, and will chart the direction of the Kingdom and the region in protecting the land and environment.
In fact, Saudi Arabia and the Middle East region face significant climatic challenges, which also represent an immediate economic risk for them. Environmental degradation damages the health of citizens and that of the earth. Among the 2030 objectives, environmental sustainability plays a fundamental role. At the heart of the Saudi Vision 2030 project is the smart city NEOM, the city of the future, an advanced industrial, commercial and residential hub that is totally self-sufficient from an energy point of view.
We ask Martina Hauser to explain the importance of these initiatives, taking into account that the share of clean energy in the Middle East to date does not exceed 7%
“The countries of the Middle East over the past 10 years have made efforts and progress to improve their energy system and to decrease their economic dependence deriving from oil.
The example of Dubai which has transformed its economy over the years by focusing on the financial, real estate and tourism sectors.
The program also envisages making new buildings that are built and retrofitting old buildings more efficient from a construction point of view by applying new technologies to make them more efficient than in the past. Thus reducing energy consumption. They are thinking about improving the transport. Abudabi in March 2021 announced the construction of the largest plant for the production of green hydrogen.
The Sultanate of Oman, before Covid had begun to outline its new green strategy for 2040. Saudi Arabia and the countries of the Middle East have a precise strategy, directed towards a more advanced sustainable and green economy“.
How is Saudi Arabia transforming as a country and in terms of sustainability?
“Saudi Arabia is investing heavily to transform its economy, to diversify it from its dependence on oil.
It is investing in the transport sector, encouraging the use of hybrid cars, building charging systems for the use of electric cars.
All new buildings must comply with very strict sustainability parameters, from the lighting sector to the refrigeration sector (for a country that lives most of the time in temperatures above 40 degrees), the country has an 8 billion dollar station. to transform all buildings and public bodies and make them more sustainable.
The program is constantly being implemented and the first results are already visible“.
Is the Saudi Arabian model replicable in the world?
“No, the Saudi model was programmed for that type of country, very particular for the adverse conditions in which it must develop, the technologies applied are not standard but must be considered for extreme environments.
Today we want to protect nature but also to solve the great issue of climate change. What are the biggest challenges facing this country?
For Saudi Arabia, the biggest challenge is modernization, but they are doing it and are transforming themselves completely. An enormous effort from all points of view. But in the world today I do not see any other country which with this commitment is transforming not only its politics, but also its economic and environmental strategy.
The great challenge of all countries and not only of Saudi Arabia is to transform the old into the new, it means transforming the entire economic and social system, certainly not easy. It is actually an industrial revolution, a new era.
There will be countries that will be faster and more receptive to change and others less so, and this will be the problem because the gap between developed countries and countries that try to develop will be wider and wider.
The number of the world population is growing more and more, and it becomes increasingly difficult to apply sustainable rules, consumption, etc. to everyone. We are not ready and we are not fast enough“.
And on a social level?
“Saudi Arabia has a very young population, the freedom and change that we see today in Saudi Arabia was unthinkable a few years ago. the social process of change is very rapid.
Let’s talk about NEOM (new future in english): not only a smart city, but a real cognitive city. What is Martina Hauser’s position towards artificial intelligence? NEOM is a project I heard about many years ago, along with other projects that aimed to build smart and sustainable cities. But none of them have ever been made.
I had the opportunity to go to Saudi Arabia recently and visit NEOM, and I was fascinated. NEOM which is not a city but an area as large as Belgium is being built. Is fantastic! Artificial intelligence will be necessary for the future and will change our future, and a new industrial revolution such as the internet, the computer, the smart phone etc“.