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Saudi Arabia to build zero carbon city in NEOM business zone

Prince Mohammed bin Salman said the city will be capable of housing one million residents and will start construction in Q1 2021

(Adds details, quotes, background)

By Marwa Rashad

DUBAI/LONDON, Jan 10 (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia’s crown prince on Sunday unveiled plans to build a zero carbon city at NEOM, the first major construction project for the $500 billion flagship business zone aimed at diversifying the economy of the world’s largest oil exporter.

Prince Mohammed bin Salman, in a rare televised appearance, said the city, known as “The Line”, would extend over 170 km (105 miles) and be able to house one million residents in “carbon-positive urban developments powered by 100% clean energy”.

“Why should we sacrifice nature for the sake of development?” Prince Mohammed said. “We need to transform the concept of a conventional city into that of a futuristic one.”

There have been few announcements regarding NEOM since it was first announced by de facto ruler Prince Mohammed to much fanfare in 2017 as a pillar of his Vision 2030 plan to rid the Saudi Arabia of its reliance on crude revenues.

A Saudi statement said construction would start in the first quarter of 2021 and that the city was expected to contribute $48 billion to the kingdom’s gross domestic product and create 380,000 jobs. No value was announced for the project.

Prince Mohammed outlined key highlights of the city: zero cars, zero streets, zero carbon emissions and Artificial Intelligence.

NEOM, a 26,500 square km (10,230 square mile) high-tech development with several zones, including an industrial and logistics areas, is planned for completion in 2025.

Saudi Arabia’s efforts to attract foreign capital and investment were dealt a blow in 2018 after many Western investors were unnerved by the murder of prominent journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate which triggered an international furore.

Last year, a sharp drop in oil prices and the outbreak of COVID-19 dealt a blow to the Saudi economy.

(Reporting by Marwa Rashad, Ghaida Ghantous and Nayera Abdallah; Editing by Alexander Smith and Bernadette Baum)

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