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As the global uproar grows over the Jamal Khashoggi murder, Saudi Arabia's jewel-in-the-crown clean tech megacity Neom is caught in the crossfire.

Clean Power

The Khashoggi Murder: Clean Tech Stakeholders Take A Stand

As the global uproar grows over the Jamal Khashoggi murder, Saudi Arabia’s jewel-in-the-crown clean tech megacity Neom is caught in the crossfire.

The list just keeps on growing, as global companies join together in protest of the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. So, where do the clean tech leaders of today stand? After all, saving the planet from catastrophic global warming does not preclude action on other vital issues of the day. From the CleanTechnica perspective, one of those issues certainly is the right of journalists to investigate, analyze, and push back against authoritarianism.

The Jamal Khashoggi Case

Stepping into danger zones is nothing new for journalists, and repressive regimes are not shy about fostering an unsafe, and all too frequently lethal atmosphere for reporters.

It doesn’t help matters when the leader* of the free world habitually summons up a mood of violence and repression in public statements, with reporters coming in for their share of abuse.

In this context, it’s fair to ask why the Khashoggi case has attracted such a vehement backlash.

Part of the reason could be a buildup of criticism against the fledgling regime of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince and First Deputy Prime Minister Mohammed bin Salman. The country has already gained notoriety as one of the most repressive regimes for media before he took up the reins in July 2017. Since then, he has consolidated power by rounding up rivals and repressing dissidence, targeting feminists as well as locking up journalists.

However, the Khashoggi case is not simply the straw that broke the camel’s back. If details leaked by the Turkish government and others bear out, Khashoggi — who is a US resident — was the deliberate target of a state sanctioned murder on foreign soil, along with a plan to hide the body from surveillance devices by cutting it up and carrying it out of the premises piecemeal.

Global Leaders Speak Out

Saudi officials are apparently ready to admit that the murder took place inside their consulate, but they are spinning it as a “rogue” operation.

That characterization bends belief into a pretzel, though it seems to have passed muster with the current occupant of the White House.

In any case, the damage has already been done. In a classic case of really, really bad timing, the murder occurred on the cusp of the important Saudi-hosted Future Investment in Riyadh, later this month.

Dubbed “Davos in the Desert,” the conference was on track to establish Saudi Arabia as a top player in global financial circles.

Well, that was then. Now the global business community is voting with their feet.

There hasn’t been a coordinated stand by clean tech stakeholders, but yesterday CNBC compiled a list that includes familiar faces on the CleanTechnica radar: Google (Google Cloud CEO Diane Greene is no longer attending) as well as Virgin Group’s Richard Branson and The Ford Motor Company (Executive CEO Bill Ford is no longer attending)

A number of top global investors with growing clean tech portfolios also make the list, such as Blackstone, Blackrock, and JP Morgan Chase, which has committed to 100% renewables while engineering $200 billion in clean tech investment by 2025.

The Clean Tech Connection

Wired has also noted that Silicon Valley is backing away from involvement in the Saudi megacity project Neom. That includes two Neom board members with connections to Apple and Google, though both have stated that they were listed on the board in error.

The Neom hookup is especially relevant to the clean tech community because it is supposed to launch the world into the sparkling green future of tomorrow. Here’s the pitch:

NEOM is a new kind of tomorrow in the making a place on earth like nothing on earth a new blueprint for sustainable life
on a scale never seen before where inventiveness shapes a new, inspiring era for human civilization.

Ya don’t say?

But wait, there’s more:

As the sun rises over NEOM, it will glint against vast fields of solar panels paired with wind turbines and light up enormous stretches of energy grids storing power for generations.

All this being sufficient to supply all of NEOM and beyond with low-cost regenerative energy. The beams, bridges and archways of this grand destination will be immaculate, untainted by pollution. Buildings will remain pristine and the air fresh and clear. And NEOM scientists will pioneer the future of energy production, use and storage – for water, gas, oil, solar, wind, algae… and whole new kinds of energy the world has yet to hear of.

That’s a good deal more ambitious than the Masdar City clean tech showcase in Abu Dhabi, UAE, which CleanTechnica frequently covers. Neom hasn’t caught our attention yet but it certainly has now, and not in a good way.

If you’ve spotted additional clean tech stakeholders that are protesting the Khashoggi murder by dropping out of the Future Investment Conference, drop us a note in the comment thread.

Meanwhile, as of this writing the US is still planning to send Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to help fill the empty seats.

CleanTechnica is reaching out to the green investment organization Ceres for comment, so stay tuned for that.

Follow me on Twitter.

*Developing story.

Image (screenshot): via Neom.

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Written By

Tina specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.


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