Ex-staff Perspective On 10 Years Of CWR: Feng Hu

By Feng Hu 26 October, 2021

On the 10th anniversary, CWR's former water valuation lead Feng reflects his time with us in journey of 'distilling' the water conversation

Previously focusing on Carbon, Feng joined CWR & focused on water-nomics research to map climate & water risks from the Hindu Kush Himalayas mountain ranges to major Asian rivers
Looking back, Feng believes his biggest achievement was helping to grow CWR’s brand with a small & idealistic team; this brand is what allowed him to present to a room of professors
The biggest challenge ahead may be how to re-imagine our economy & new ways of life in the face of intensifying climate & water risks, even after adaptation measures
Feng Hu
Author: Feng Hu
Having previously led CWR’s work on water-nomics, Feng now sits on our advisory panel to help us push the conversation on integrating water considerations in planning sustainable transition and mobilising finance toward climate and water resilience. Feng currently works on ESG advisory at a regional financial institution. Prior to that, Feng worked as Sustainable Finance Research Manager APAC at V.E, part of Moody’s ESG Solutions. During his time at CWR, he initiated and led projects for CWR including the joint policy briefs with China’s Foreign Economic Cooperation Office of the Ministry of Environmental Protection on the water-nomics of the Yangtze River Economic Belt. Feng expanded the water-nomics conversation beyond China by co-authoring CWR’s seminal report “No Water No Growth – Does Asia Have Enough Water To Develop?”. He has given talks on water-nomics and other water issues at international conferences, academic symposiums, corporate trainings and investor forums. Previously, Feng also sat on the Technical Working Group of the Initiative for Climate Action Transparency (ICAT) and worked as a senior carbon auditor on various types of climate change mitigation projects across Asia and Africa. Feng holds two MSc degrees – one in Finance (Economic Policy) from SOAS University of London and the other in Sustainable Resource Management from Technical University of Munich – and a BSc degree in Environmental Science from Zhejiang University.
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CWR: Tell us about your time at CWR…

When and why did you join?

Feng Hu (FH): January 2014. After working a few years on “carbon”, I wanted to re-connect with “water”, which was my research area in the university. Actually, in the beginning, I just wanted to volunteer and email the team a few times.

But after meeting Debra – thanks to Sophie – I got offered a job. I was responsible for CWR’s development and projects in mainland China, connecting with NGOs, academics and government agencies.

How long did you spend at CWR?

FHFull-time for over four years and then part-time for a year.

What did you do?

FH: I was responsible for CWR’s development and projects in mainland China, connecting with NGOs, academics and government agencies. During my last one to two years, I focused on water-nomics research to map climate and water risks beyond the Hindu Kush Himalayas mountain ranges along major Asian rivers.

CWR: Looking back to your time there, what do you consider as your biggest achievement? Part of the job included public speaking, any memorable firsts? Were you nervous, any tips?

FH: The biggest achievement, I feel, is that we as a team grew the CWR brand together and had some really memorable moments (e.g. Stockholm, Daegu, Beijing….). We were not afraid of being small and we were a bit idealistic.

Positive feedback on first public presentation to professors made me believe the value of CWR’s work

A few months into my first year, I did my first public presentation for CWR in front of a room of professors at an international water law forum in Xiamen. I never would have imagined presenting to such a knowledgeable audience, but the positive feedback made me believe the value of CWR’s work.

Later in the summer, I got invited to present to a group of foreign correspondents in Beijing. Hubert, then studying at Tsinghua, reached out to me when I was there, and we met up at a bookish cafe. He moved to Hong Kong a few months later and became an important member of the CWR team – just like how I met Debra and ended up joining CWR.

I was always nervous about public speaking and still am. I slowly learned my way of dealing with stress by getting prepared early and focusing on what I want to share.

CWR: Is your current work related to water? If so, how? If not, do you still keep tabs on water challenges?

FH: Not always. My current work is related to sustainable finance in Asia.

Given the importance of water issues for the region, the water conversation still often comes up. I still regularly follow research and studies from the water community, and most importantly, read CWR’s monthly newsletter.

CWR: Has CWR changed your career aspirations?

FH: CWR taught me not to box myself – focus on what I’m passionate about and where I can contribute the most.

CWR: Do you think CWR has made a difference over the last decade? What is the biggest challenge you see today regarding water and climate risks?

FH: CWR helped “distil” the water conversation from the traditional NGO and academic space and dummied it down for corporates and investors. It created this open platform full of sparkling information for everyone to tap in.

The challenge is how to re-imagine our economy & new ways of life

The biggest challenge may be how to re-imagine our economy and new ways of life in the face of intensifying climate and water risks, even after adaptation measures. Humans are very adaptable, but the world as a whole need to do more to leave fewer behind, and also make sure future generations have the opportunity to appreciate this planet and explore the rich diversity of natures and cultures.

CWR: Three words/bullets on what makes CWR unique …


• Whiteboard strategy mindmaps

• The team

• CWR newsletter

CWR: Any comments, advice to CWR on its 10th anniversary?

Looking forward to what CWR will bring in the next ten years!

CWR: Any advice to those who want to join work in the water/climate space?

Congratulations that you have chosen one of the biggest challenges of this century. Find where you can make the most contribution, work hard and enjoy the journey.

More on CWR 10-year anniversary 

Further Reading

  • New Report: Does Asia Have Enough Water To Develop? – Since our economy runs on water, no water means no growth but there is little conversation on this topic in Asia. To catalyse such conversations, this report provides an overview of the water-nomic challenges facing Asia
  • Too Big To Fail! Protect At All Costs – Multiple policy innovations have been unleashed to protect the Yangtze River as it is too big to fail – corporates and investors need to get on top of the YREB to avoid regulatory shocks
  • What ‘Xi’s Thought’ Means For Water – One key message from Xi Jinping at the 19th National Congress was harmony between environment & economic growth, surely this bodes well for water? China Water Risk’s Feng Hu reviews
  • Yangtze Flows: Pollution & Heavy Metals– Areas along the Yangtze River dominate Chinese production but at what cost? With Grade V water in its tributaries, rapid growth in upstream wastewater plus concerns over a disproportionately large share of the nation’s heavy metals discharge, can the Yangtze River Economic Belt still flourish? CWR’s Feng Hu takes a closer look
  • 8 Key Challenges In Rural Water Security – Rural water supply in China is challenging due to size, increasing urbanisation & more. CWR’s Feng Hu shares 8 key challenges & reflections from the China Europe Water Platform workshop