India has demonstrated an understanding of this reality with its commitment to the Paris pledge to reduce its carbon footprint by 33-35% from its 2005 levels by 2030. These decisions will help to shift the global community in the direction of environmental coexistence.
A similar approach can be seen in the creation of NEOM, a region in northwest Saudi Arabia on the Red Sea being built sustainably as a blueprint for how people and planet can co-exist in harmony. The region’s development reimagines environmental conservation, with 95% of NEOM’s 25,000km2 reserved for nature.
Dr Paul Marshall, Head of the Nature Region at NEOM, explained that key to NEOM’s design was “
being world leaders in protecting the natural landscape and combining human and natural habitats. Society has come to believe that economic and social progress are things that come at the expense of the environment, but NEOM will show that they are not mutually exclusive – rather, NEOM will prove that , harmonious living, people hand-in-hand with nature, is the only way forward for society and the planet.”
Pivotal to NEOM’s development is pioneering approaches to circular economy, where waste is minimised and product life-cycles conserve resources. “
NEOM will be one of the largest development projects in the world, and we will take this opportunity to showcase how circular economy principles can be designed into cities and regions from the outset. From material choices, the type of cement used, renewable energy production systems, the role of hydrogen-based energy systems and how we capture benefits from industrial symbiosis, we are excited about the range of opportunities to advance circular economy ideas throughout NEOM,” Dr Marshall said.
NEOM’s environmental strategy will follow five key principles: understand, protect, sustain, enhance and inspire. Science and discovery expeditions have already been undertaken and plans for conservation and national parks drawn up. NEOM seeks to promote a holistic view of conservation, encouraging not just protection, but enhancement of local natural beauty. In areas that are being developed for human habitation, residents will be inspired to enjoy and venerate nature – green spaces will be easily accessible and integral to daily life. No resident will be more than a five-minute walk from a natural oasis.
By starting anew, NEOM represents a chance to bypass legacy infrastructure that has made it difficult to truly reorient urban design around sustainability in other cities. To ensure that development does not come at the expense of the environment, green construction shall be a key consideration of the project – from using cutting edge technology, to exploring green cement and sustainable supply chains to achieve carbon-neutrality by 2030.
If humanity is to continue to thrive on this planet, it is going to have to fundamentally change its relationship with the natural world. While the downsides of inaction could be catastrophic, the upsides of taking decisive action are also extraordinary: better health, a more secure world and well-preserved natural habitats to visit and appreciate.
India understands the importance of acting for these causes. As the world makes this transition, NEOM aims to inspire a global shift alongside India and other change-leaders, showing its peers the enormous benefits of sustainability-centric urban design, a circular economy and living.
As we approach problems different in size and scope from past centuries, we have the power to reimagine our relationship with nature and create a future that serves both our people and the planet. NEOM will inspire the world to make this dream a reality.