A Follow-Up Conversation with SIWW’s Ryan Yuen

By Ryan Yuen 24 May, 2022

It was an exciting SIWW 2022 with face to face discussions & new topics. We sat down with Ryan Yuen, the man who makes SIWW happen to get his thoughts & a sneak peak on what's what's in store for the next event

The energy & buzz during the week was amazing; SIWW+ (new digital content hub) was launched to share this buzz, to disseminate these insightful conversations & solutions
As climate change impacts magnify, expect more on how utilities & cities can mitigate & adapt; CWR’s event on adaptation finance was a significant step & we intend to grow this
Through SIWW2022, we have begun a conversation amongst the utilities, industry & international organisations on what we need to do to decarbonise and achieve net zero
Ryan Yuen
Author: Ryan Yuen
Mr Ryan Yuen currently holds the position of Deputy Director, Industry and Technology Collaboration Department in PUB, Singapore’s National Water Agency. He is also concurrently the Managing Director of the Singapore International Water Week (SIWW). Ryan is trained as a Civil Engineer from the National University of Singapore with a Bachelor degree (Civil Engineering, with First class honours) on a Singapore Government scholarship. Throughout his career, Ryan has taken on leadership roles in policy, strategy, business development, communications, public engagement and outreach, and regional operations. Having worked in the public service, private and non-profit sectors, he has built up an extensive network of contacts with local and international government officials, industry and business leaders and international organisations. He is experienced in leading global teams across different countries with a proven track record in delivering results.
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Singapore International Water Week 2022 (17 – 21 April) was busy for CWR. We were a thematic partner for the event to help foster future water resilience, had a two-hour seminar – “Futureproofing Cities to Avoid Atlantis – Evolving Finance for Adaptation Solutions” that brought together the finance sector, IPCC Co-Chair of Working Group II & representatives of Singapore & New York city, CWR also conducted 13 video interviews with water leaders – CEOs/ Presidents of water utilities, development banks and global solution providers and was interviewed by Channel NewsAsia

We were also able to sit down with Ryan Yuen, Managing Director of SIWW, a.k.a. the man who makes it all happens. See what he has to say on hosting Asia’s first large-scale water in-person show since the pandemic, SIWW’s evolving agenda given the changing waterscape & risks and get a sneak peak at what to expect at the next event. You can also see our interview with Ryan last year, when the Spotlight event was done virtually.

CWR: Congrats on hosting another successful Singapore International Water Week (SIWW) and the first time back in-person since the pandemic began! Having hosted virtual and in-person events back-to-back, what do you think the future of events will be? Will hybrid events become the norm?

Ryan Yuen (RY): Thanks for inviting me to the interview. Yes, it was great bringing back SIWW as an in-person event this year. The energy and buzz during the week was amazing, and delegates who we spoke with told us how excited they were to be able to resume face-to-face interactions. That is what everyone really missed the last two years – being together in a large room, engaging in discussions, intimate chats on the sidelines, finding out what everyone has been up to, reconnecting with old friends, making new ones.

Virtual events served their purpose to meet a short-term need, when international travels were curtailed due to border closures, but I think nothing beats the excitement of a physical event. I believe the world will go back to in-person events once the pandemic is over. There could still be events organised in hybrid formats in the short term but in the long term, I think we will see the return of fully physical events.

CWR: Each year the SIWW agenda keeps expanding (see our interview with Ryan on this last year here) and this year was no exception with several events on adaptation finance. Can you explain why you have included these?

RY: SIWW is probably the only global water show in the world that is organised by a utility, in this case, PUB, Singapore’s national water agency. As a result, the programme at SIWW is carefully curated to discuss issues and topics that are relevant to utilities and cities, especially in new and emerging areas.

The programme is carefully curated to discuss issues & emerging topics relevant to utilities & cities

We are facing unprecedented challenges, particularly impacts from climate change, and it is important that discussions at SIWW reflect that currency, so that collectively we can share and learn, not only from similar utilities around the world, but also from other stakeholders in the ecosystem.

CWR: Speaking of adaptation finance, CWR was happy to host a seminar on the topic and we are proud to have been a thematic partner for SIWW 2022. Do you expect adaptation finance to be a growing topic for the SIWWs to come? How do you want to see financing related events & discussions develop at SIWW?

RY: Climate mitigation and adaptation are going to remain key topics for the foreseeable future, as the water sector figures out what we need to do to tackle the impacts of climate change.

CWR’s event on financing was a small but significant step…

…we intend to grow this discussion

While I have no doubt that the brilliant scientific minds out there will figure out the technological innovation and solutions necessary to address engineering challenges, we need to also begin a parallel and important conversation on how cities and utilities can raise capital to finance adaptation solutions. To this end, we are delighted that CWR was our thematic partner at this year’s SIWW to bring in the private banks, insurers and financial institutions to begin a conversation on this. It was a small but significant step, which we intend to grow in future editions.

CWR: Water and energy are inter-linked but in climate discussions energy or carbon dominates. How does SIWW balance this and tackle both water and carbon? Have there been further development on net zero utilities?

RY: For water utilities, to continue doing what we have been doing in the past, by producing water with huge carbon footprint, is unsustainable. There is no other way. As Mr Peter Ng, CEO of PUB, eloquently said during his remarks at the Water Leaders Summit, climate mitigation for utilities basically boils down to how we reduce, replace and remove carbon dioxide and its equivalence.

The future for water utilities is to decarbonise & achieve net zero

Through SIWW2022, we hope that we have begun a conversation amongst the utilities, industry and international organisations on what we need to do to decarbonise and achieve net zero. Alone, we do not have all the answers, but collectively, by talking about it, sharing strategies, approaches and solutions, water utilities around the world can hasten the process to reduce their carbon footprints through collaboration and partnerships.

CWR: The latest IPCC reports paint a bleak future for humankind. Water featured very heavily in the AR6 WG2 report. Does this have any impact for SIWW? If so, what? How can SIWW help the world better adapt to the increasing water and water-related climate risks – especially since Asia is particularly exposed?

RY: Climate change is all about water – whether it be too much water, too little water, melting polar caps, or sea level rise. It’s all water. As water professionals, it is our responsibility to take concrete steps. At SIWW2022, we provided a platform to raise awareness, build collective ownership and showcase innovation and solutions to address these challenges. This will continue well into the next edition in 2024 and beyond.

We launched SIWW+, an open-source online platform to spread key messages & solutions

This year, we also launched a new online content hub – SIWW+. The intent of SIWW+ is to provide an open-source online platform where discussions and conversations that took place at the event can be disseminated to the wider community who are unable to be physically present in Singapore.

CWR: To wrap up, what do you see as the top priorities for SIWW in the next couple of years? And what would you like the see happen in the water space?

RY: For sure, climate mitigation, climate adaptation, coastal protection and digital water will remain high on the agenda for SIWW in the coming years. These are also the same top megatrends that were identified by global water leaders when we ran a poll in preparation for SIWW2022 earlier this year. We look forward to continuing our partnership with CWR, and we also welcome new partners to join us in developing the next edition of SIWW in 2024.

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