5 Trends for 2022: The Year Of The Tiger

By Debra Tan, Dawn McGregor, Dharisha Mirando 23 February, 2022

Will we be able to channel the bold Tiger and leverage its fearless character or just end up a wet cat? Find out more in our 5 Trends

Expect aggressive & bold expansion in 2022 to channel the Tiger; those who can navigate BIG risks can benefit with BIG gains; mantra for the year: “adapt, adapt, adapt”
More extreme weather, rising seas, vanishing ice & a turning tide of customers all need bold action; companies that fail to strategize to earn their stripes will end up wet cats
Banks & Regulators are the Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon that should hopefully move more ferociously & forcefully this year to drive changes in the financial industry

We said last year that it was premature to think “it will get back to normal” in the Ox year and we were right. The Ox did however, dutifully plough on to stabilize COVID disruptions unleashed in the ever-multiplying Rat year. So, what’s in store for the year of the Tiger? Will it be a roaring success or will we end up being holed up again like a scaredy cat?

Tiger year will double down on climate action; expect aggressive & bold expansion in 2022

The two years that follow the Ox – the Tiger and Rabbit are expansive years. Basically, the Rat kicked off a new 12-year cycle toward recognizing, embracing and fending off climate threats; the Ox ensured it stayed on course; while the Tiger and Rabbit will double down on the action.

Expect expansion in 2022 to channel the Tiger – it will be aggressive and bold. But be careful, the Tiger’s brash style could stoke new and existing conflicts which could hamper expansion. Luckily, this year is followed by the calm Rabbit, whose skilful diplomacy should smooth any feathers ruffled by the Tiger.

Being a Water Tiger brings both good & bad luck…

…either way, the Tiger favours the bold

Also, note that it is the year of the Water Tiger. There is no life without water and so water is seen as an amplifying force. Many star gazers thus believe that the vital force, health and essence of the Tiger spirit will be amplified this year. The good news is that we can ride this “Water Tiger luck” to expand out of COVID, but conflicting views as to how to do this will be unavoidable.

Water also symbolises wealth in Chinese culture so abundance and prosperity will also be amplified but unfortunately, so will the temperamental and volatile nature of the Tiger. All these signal that “big changes” are coming – some will lose their house; others will gain power.

The year of the Tiger favours the bold – so those who can navigate BIG risks can benefit with BIG gain. But before we leap into how we can roar to success with the Water Tiger, let’s reflect on how we did with our Ox Year trends.

What we said for the Year of the Ox …

We said in Trend #1 that “the chance to reset our lifestyles as well as the corporate and development agenda was finally here” and that there will be an “inevitable rise of Ox-ternative cash cows”. Indeed, many green trends that sat on the fringe have now been mainstreamed – alt proteins are on restaurant menus; Zoom/Teams et al are now part of our daily work/study routine and WFH has become the norm. Even ESG, once a fringe nicety is now all the rage as are electric cars.

There were no new surprises, the Ox just built on the ones that surfaced in the Rat year

There were no new surprises, the Ox just built on the ones that surfaced in the Rat year. But take heed … rising trends that are bad for the climate did not make it – although crypto is here to stay, coal-fire powered bitcoin took a tumble with China shutting down bitcoin mining. Why? Because if left unregulated, researchers estimated that by 2024 it would have generated around 130 million metric tons of carbon emissions in China. For perspective, this exceeds the entire annual greenhouse gas emissions of Italy.

Halfway through the year we were worried that “laziness and mis-cowculations [by financial institutions] could put us all out to pasture” – they were brushing aside our warnings of accelerated sea level rise (SLR) and other rising water risks. But then along came a summer of floods, fires and other water nightmares across the world. Inundated with consecutive extreme weather events, banks started to realise “Holy cow its bad!”

Banks woke up to the accelerating threat of consecutive and clustered extreme weather events of rising intensity while central banks moved to “steer us back to safety in the stable Ox” by “ploughing through clustered water & climate risks”. Delivering on both Trends #2 and #3, some regulators and banks have now started stress testing against physical risks – chronic and event driven – and in doing so realized that physical risks likely exceed carbon transition risks.

Banks woke up to the accelerating threat of extreme weather & water risks seeped into the financial space…

Water risks have also seeped into the financial space and vice versa – macro waternomic threats are now enmeshed in a book on water security under climate change targeted at policymakers at COP26, while water risk assessment methodologies are formalized in textbooks.

Technical consensus on a disclosure frameworks on water have also been reached by the CDSB and this framework should inform the upcoming ISSB disclosure standards. Even TCFD, which has been primarily carbon transition focused, now has tutorials on how to assess water risk in its Knowledge Hub – we know because we provided the content!

Then came a sluggish and disappointing COP which pretty much hit the nail on the head of our Trend #5: “No herd mentality on carbon neutrality means we must kow-tow to no-regret adaptation strategies”. Strongly worded warnings from the IPCC AR6 on imminent climate impacts drove the urgency home: 2m of SLR by 2100 and 5m by 2150 “cannot be ruled out”  if we are unable to rein in emissions. These levels will wipe out low-lying island nations and reshape Asia – at around 3m of rising seas: 20 ports, 12 airports and urban real estate equivalent to 22 Singapore’s will be submerged; and that’s just for 20 APAC cities. In case you have missed out on this … catch up with the articles below.

By the end of the year, sea level rise was highlighted by key bankers and regulators as a key threat across several panels at the HKEX Green Asia Summit – HKEX’s Chief China Economist said that he is worried about SLR; and HSBC’s APAC co-CEO citied CWR when he discussed HSBC’s exposure to coastal threats.

… and by the end of the year, sea level rise was highlighted by key bankers & regulators

It’s no surprise that they are worried – HK’s financial exposure is sobering – the HKMA’s pilot stress test of the SAR’s banking sector involving 27 banks revealed that up to HK$2.9 trillion worth or 28% of participating banks’ total lending are vulnerable to climate impacts mainly from flooding & typhoons.

Yet, the downside could be worse still. The worst-case scenario stress tests performed used the high GHG emissions scenario with warming between 1º-3ºC by 2051-2060.  Sadly, we may be already tracking this worst-case scenario now – globally, we have already warmed by 1.2ºC; and in Hong Kong by 1.8ºC.

As if this is not bad enough, these tests were done BEFORE the recent warnings of multi-metre SLR by the IPCC. Updated numbers will likely be a lot worse as our 3D maps show in our HK SLR factsheets.


Like we said last year, “we can moo about risks until the cows come home, but it ain’t safe until downside scenarios are tested, tail risks recalibrated and systems made safe.” While we now largely ‘get it’, loopholes must be closed and stress tests updated for the latest science/impacts.

In short, the steady Ox was great for laying down foundations and frameworks … but now, we must capitalize on the vigour of the Tiger and roar ahead with action. We are racing against the onslaught of impacts and right now we are losing.

While Hong Kong trudged along on the adaptation front, Singapore charged ahead in the Ox year: leading the conversation in building a resilient future in 2021. We were pleasantly surprised how refreshingly honest it was when it admitted vulnerability to coastal threats – “Singapore is pancake flat” piped PUB’s CEO at Singapore’s flagship water week (SIWW) last year. Singapore’s resilience playbook has set the bar on no-regret adaptation – critical assets will be protected against 5.5m of coastal threats – now let’s see if others also leap ahead or lurk behind in the Tiger – more on this in our 5 trends later.

While HK trudged along on the adaption front, Singapore charged ahead & China stoically plodded on

And then there was China …  we said it will “stoically plod on” towards its vision of a Beautiful China and create “golden opportunities in the green economy”. Indeed, it was the only country with significant positive GDP growth of 8.1% in 2021. But was it green?

China’s water use per unit of GDP output has been falling (see track record here) plus water pollution has been steadily improving, albeit with stubborn groundwater challenges. On the carbon front, continued carbon intensity reduction per unit of GDP plus energy reforms (although there are hiccups) in the Ox, all point to greener pastures.

All this and other efforts confirm our statement last year: “Make no mistake; this new China is not the same as old China. The new China has fully embraced climate change”. Yet, many are still stuck on the previous “dirty” version of China. An example of this was the recent hoo-ha on fake snow – we were inundated with requests to comment on whether or not it is wise for water stressed Beijing to make fake snow for the Winter Olympics. We were too busy with coastal threats to comment but regardless, some cited our old articles properly, others completely misquoted them.

The fact of the matter is this: Beijing has made significant strides to alleviate its water stress by protecting its upper watershed  & adding new water sources, with reclaimed water use almost doubling in the last decade to 1.2bn cubic metres. Reclaimed water accounted for 30% of Beijing’s water supply in 2020 & is set to rise in the 14FYP to 35% by 2025. Such strategies have also been adopted by similarly water stressed Singapore where up to 40% of water supply is reclaimed water. So, if you are not worried when Singapore adds another semiconductor factory, you shouldn’t worry when Beijing makes fake snow.

That said, we are worried about the future of all winter sports… but that’s another conversation altogether!

Let’s face it – there will be bumps along the road in getting to a “blue skies, clear waters & net zero” China, but we should give credit where credit is due – China is tending to its water challenges. It has also committed to a tight timeline – peaking carbon emissions before 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2060; a gap of 30 years between the two targets. Perhaps it could be faster, but its already very speedy compared to the same time gap for the EU of 71 years; the US 43 years and Japan 37 years.

China’s attempts at resilience will not be perfect but at least it’s quietly making considerable efforts. At this eleventh hour to save our planet, a divisive China strategy could sink us all; instead, we must urgently work towards a shared future, or all is lost. Incidentally, “Together for a shared future” is the message of the Winter Olympics.

Tyger tyger burning bright?

So … can we tame the tempestuous Tiger and divert time & energy away from stoking conflicts? Can we instead harness its power for good and seriously fight climate change? Or will we cower in fear like a scaredy-cat, in denial or immobilized by the daunting challenges ahead?

The mantra for the Tiger year has to be “adapt, adapt, adapt”

In the Year of the Tiger, it’s time to let go of the past and feel the pull of the future. The Tiger is restless by nature so change is coming whether you like it or not. The fact that the Tiger is under the influence of “amplifying” Water, means that these changes will be BIG.

The good news is that the agility and grace of the Tiger can help us deal with such changes ahead but be warned … to be successful, do not resist … to survive the year and come out on top, the mantra for the year has to be “adapt, adapt, adapt”. Obstacles and conflicts will be plenty when hunting for new opportunities in the sea of change … so leap forth with our guide to avoid falling in traps and roar on to a fierce 2022!

Here are our 5 trends for the Year of the Tiger …

1. Extreme weather ahead! Water tiger is difficult to tame; once unleashed expect havoc

Under the influence of the water element, it will be all about … you guessed it … Water in 2022. It is not only the most vulnerable resource to climate change, it is also primarily “how we will feel climate change impacts”. Not reining in emissions means that water-related climate impacts – be it in the form of floods, droughts, blizzards, hail, storms, sea level rise or storm tides – will all intensify.

Unfortunately, it’s too late to turn back the clock – we have unleashed the Water Tiger as we’ve already locked-in some climate impacts at 1.2ºC today…

Unfortunately, it’s too late to turn back the clock – we have unleashed the Water Tiger as we’ve already locked-in some climate impacts at 1.2ºC today. This is bad news on the water front as around two-thirds of the IPCC’s 35 Climatic Impact Drivers were related to water. As we will now likely (40% chance) reach 1.5ºC by 2025 (75 years earlier than intended) climate impacts will occur sooner than we think – there will be no taming of this Water Tiger.

This means that the Water Tiger will bring new meaning to the phrase “raining cats and dogs”. Multiple new rainfall records were set last year from China to Europe and 2022 will see this record-setting trend continue around the world.

The negative characteristics of the Tiger does not bode well for extreme weather – volatile, unpredictable, aggressive, temperamental …  the list goes on – you get the picture.

If you are not a believer, let’s take a look at the events around the tail of the Ox and the head of the Tiger when water came roaring in along with the new year and Chinese New Year in the form of floods, blizzards & cyclones …

In South East Asia, unusually heavy rains in the last week of December brought floods in Malaysia and Indonesia. More than 125,000 people were affected across seven states in Malaysia; in Indonesia, tens of thousands across Northern Sumatra, Java, Kalimantan and Papua were affected by flash floods/overflowing rivers/ heavy rains. All of the above happened throughout January.

Elsewhere, floods in Iran affected 80,000 and dams burst in Brazil plus Sao Paolo was submerged. Madagascar was hit with two consecutive storms – Tropical Cyclone Batsirai and Tropical Storm Ana – Batsirai damaged/ destroyed homes of ~124,000 residents compounding earlier devastation from Ana which affected ~132,000 people. The sheer number of people who had a bad time over the new year is staggering. But it’s not just developing countries that were hit with big floods – food supplies in Western Australia were disrupted as flooding washed out more than 300km of the only rail line that linked the state to the east coast.

The phrase “raining cats & dogs” has a new meaning with even more extreme weather as we had a taster this year…

…it snowed in the Middle East, there was a bomb cyclone in the US…

…safe places may no longer be safe

Water also came pelting in the cusp of the Tiger year in the form of snow – Northeastern US was hit with a bomb cyclone that cut power for tens of thousands of homes while a snow cyclone blanketed swathes of Russia with record snowfall. Abnormal snowfall was also seen in Greece and Istanbul paralyzing transport, airports & businesses; Japan too saw disruptive record-breaking snowfall wreaking havoc in Sapporo.

It even snowed in parts of the Middle East – snow in Syria Lebanon, Jordan and Israel covered areas it has not reached in years. And if this is not enough, you know something is off with the weather when temperatures plummeted to below zero (lowest in 30 years) in Saudi Arabia as rare snowfall and hailstorms blanketed six cities. Soothsayers also say natural disasters with water impacts will also feature in 2022. Enter Tonga, also blanketed but with ash from its volcano eruption which then triggered a tsunami leaving well over 80,000 people affected.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of events, yet the human toll and cost is great; and it had nothing to do with COVID … and it is only February – there is a whole year ahead of us. Even as we are writing this, Storm Eunice is hitting Europe leaving 400,000 without power.

Read the tea leaves, the signs are here: freak/extreme weather will be the norm this Tiger year. Historic events no longer point to future events so yes, that freak tornado that recently tore through Ipoh, Malaysia may well occur again in the future.

As safe places may no longer be safe, expect the unknown and prepare for the worst. Upping insurance may help but this may be temporary as insurance premiums rise or worse still assets become uninsurable but even insurers are worried. British insurer Aviva has called for urgent action,A cultural shift is needed to better understand the risks from extreme weather and prepare for its impacts… We need collective engagement from government, local authorities, industry and home and business owners to bring about this shiftsaid the CEO of Aviva UK & Ireland General Insurance.

Imminent and inevitable havoc from extreme weather demand deep changes yet we are slow on delivering this. We were caught last year as we never thought extreme events would be this extreme, this fast. Hopefully this year, we will wake up and take aggressive action to tackle the dangers and disruptions ahead.

Start shoring up flood/drought defences and invest in early warning systems – although this may not prevent damage, it could save lives. Remember … a wet cat is not a happy cat … which brings us on to our Trend #2.

2. Survive the eye of the tiger – bold & aggressive actions needed to avoid Atlantis

The clock is ticking – our seas are “virtually certain” to rise – it is only a matter of time before cities by the sea are submerged by rising seas. Unless we adapt, we are literally staring at the “eye of the tiger” before it devours us. What we do in the next few years decides the future of the generations to come.

It is a fight for survival…

If you are now humming the theme song from Rocky … you are on the right track – it is a fight for survival, but do you have the guts and drive to survive?

You may not see it from the comfort of your home but when it comes to rising seas, it’s a jungle out there and smoke signals from polar ice really do not look promising.

Scientists with front row seats to the Arctic and Antarctica have been firing multiple warning shots over the last few years, each more alarming than the previous.

If you are not up to date on these – take a tour of our poles with our review of the 2021 State of Cryosphere report as well as the latest updates since in On Thin Ice: 5 hot trends for rising seas – from a hotter Arctic, record-breaking ocean warming, to the implications of the collapse of an iceshelf equivalent to the size of Florida.

Each trend is alarming on its own but together they are terrifying. It’s worth noting here that these five observation trends only surfaced in the last two months – we have likely under-estimated the impact timeline of worst-case scenario outcomes. This means that those in their 20’s today could see a rapid jump in SLR by the time they are in their 50’s or so.

Even Bloomberg is sounding the alarm: warning that US sea levels could rise “faster within the next three decades than they did in the past 100 years”.

…since adaptation lags, everyone will feel the urgency of the Tiger & scramble to have a waterproof plan this year

These signals mean that we may be left with no choice but to adapt. We are woefully behind on this front but the Tiger year should help us catch up … like we said, cats don’t like to get wet and this Tiger wants to stay out of the water! And since adaptation lags, everyone will feel the urgency of the Tiger and scramble to have a waterproof plan this year.

However, while we expect the Tiger to usher in much needed discussions on adaptation planning, action and financing, for the Tiger to purr contently and prosper, no-regret scenarios must be used when planning resilience, especially when dealing with deep uncertainties as this ensures our paws stay dry.

But planning/building resilience to no-regret levels is extremely costly and disruptive as it will require a grand redesign of our cities. Will we be brave enough?

Expanding and leading the pack in times of deep uncertainty is difficult. Here, we advise to adopt a “do or die” approach when it comes to formulating resilient strategies.

Don’t just take our word, the CEO of Singapore’s Public Utilities Board  (which is tasked with national coastal defences) advises “There are the two things to becoming resilient, a) know what will kill you and prepare the best the best that you can when these things do come to pass and b) know what you need to keep going and make sure you never run out.”

See his other concerns here plus views on the future here.

With this in mind, Singapore has added sizeable buffers on top of the worst-case scenario SLR. But what happens if you cannot afford to do this? This brings us to our next trend – the role of bankers – see Trend #3 for more.

Regardless, when in the Tiger year, do as tigers do – leverage the strong, self-confident and fearless characteristics of the Big Cat and pounce right in – we badly need Tiger leaders across Asia to put in place bold and visionary plans for future resilience.

We badly need Tiger leaders in Asia to implement bold plans for future resilience

This is a marathon, not a sprint and our “fight” against rising seas will be long and daunting. So, when in doubt, play the song “The Eye of the Tiger” and get pumped to ramp up coastal defences. Channel your inner chi and ‘rise up’ to the challenge; embrace “the thrill of the fight” and hopefully, together we will all be “rising up straight to the top” because we “had the guts, got the glory”.

 Be the hunter not the hunted; success later will depend on our will to survive now.

3. Banks & Regulators are the Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

When it comes to getting finance to act on climate change it does feel like herding cats at times. Many continue to brazenly support dirty industries while talking about their green credentials and the need for collaboration, which can be quite exasperating.

Banks & regulators are the Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon – expect ferocious change…

But action is slowly starting to go in the right direction because banks & regulators can be the 卧虎藏龙 (wòhǔ-cánglóng) or “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”a hidden talent pool that can ferociously and forcefully drive changes in the financial industry that will have catalytical impacts across sectors around the world. Capital can be driven towards actions that protect the planet, not destroy it.

Central banks and supervisors have been quietly working together through NGFS (now made up of 108 members and 17 observers). They are acting because they know that we are not like cats with nine lives, but just one.  Way back in 2018 they acknowledged that “climate-related risks are a source of financial risk – so their action isn’t about green credentials, but toensure the financial system is resilient to these risks”.

They have been slow, they are central banks after all …as WWF and 2° Investing Initiative explain, one of the major barriers to action is finding the motivation, as not all understand the case for action. So realistic risk assessments must be carried out to understand what’s at risk. Only then can the best course of action be taken. And as the latest UNEP FI report says, carry out transition and physical risk analysis simultaneously, be sector as well as location specific, use forward-looking metrics, and take into account feedback loops.

In the Ox Year, central banks around the world started to methodically pilot climate risk assessments for their domestic financial institutions. In Asia, the HKMA recently released its pilot findings while the MAS’ stress testing is expected to yield results in the Tiger Year, along with the Japan Financial Services Agency, Bank of Korea, and Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (Philippines). Of course, we at CWR will also be poking this crouching tiger.

…expect central banks/ banks to leap ahead with stress testing

So in the Year of the Tiger, expect central banks/banks to leap ahead with stress testing as rising recognition of risks in Trend #1 & #2 brew across business and finance. In case you have missed the slew of recent reports released on the topic, here are our top picks inRisks Rising: 5 Reports You May Have Missed” – so don’t miss out!

Not acting would be disastrous because as the saying goes, 骑虎难下 (qí hǔ nán xià) “a tiger once mounted, is hard to dismount”, which refers to a situation where quitting could have disastrous results. This is because many banks currently have significant amounts of their loan books at risk as their lending tends to be concentrated in a few clustered and vulnerable locations as well as vulnerable sectors such as mortgages/real estate.

With no way out, banks can only aim to survive the climate threats ahead. They must push their corporate clients which they lend to, to decarbonise and withhold capital to carbon intensive projects in favour of greener ones. At the same time, they must make sure they waterproof their loan books by investing in adaptation which is certainly lagging transition finance. Let’s not forget that the richest nations are still unable to raise the US$100 billion per year they pledged to vulnerable nations to help them adapt; it has been 12 years.

Remember: decarbonisation and adaptation strategies must be aligned! Plus, climate threat assessments must be realistic – as our analysis of New World Development (NWD) shows, even a company with some of the best green credentials in town has to improve its climate risk assessments.

NWD says its mission is to “create, and orchestrate our creativity and social innovation for the next generation” for a company that wants to build long-lasting assets, NWD’s climate outlook/risk assessment timeline is way too short-term leading to an understatement of risks ahead; or maybe it just didn’t use all the available data/ latest science. But they are not alone in their struggle with taming water risks … see Trend #4.

Anyway, if you are confused over what parameters to test against, contact us – we can help you set the scenarios plus run your water risk stress tests for you!

Understanding risks means that the current adaptation action and finance gap which is about as deep and dangerous as the Tiger Leaping Gorge needs to be bridged. Without enough money, how are we going to put in place protection to futureproof our cities?

Trillions of dollars will have to be raised to withstand the imminent onslaught of existential threats, yet we have cowered away from this difficult conversation … but no more in the Tiger Year. In the Tiger, we expect the fear of drowning and sinking assets to surface these tough topics – how can cities and banks survive? Will water risks dampen valuations or strand investments?

Banks that help their clients achieve net zero will win big

These are not for the faint-hearted. But fear not, Tigers have traits of a leader – they are logical, determined and successful in helping others function optimally. Brave and bold “Tiger banks” that lead the way in helping their corporate clients achieve net zero as well as put in place adaptation action will gain BIG; other scaredy cat banks will tread water.

Bankers beware! Use these tips and you can be like the cat that got the cream – you will know what’s at risk and be in a much better position to thrive in the future. Otherwise, you could be out in the cold feeling wet or worse still, underwater.

4. Fat Cats aren’t Tigers and must strategize; they must put in the work to leap into the future

Fat cats may think they are Tigers, higher up in the food chain and protected from water risks but they aren’t. And for those “kitten” companies that haven’t even started tackling these risks, now is the time to take bold steps or pretty much get used to being a wet cat!

Water risks are greater than ever for companies

Water risks are greater than ever for companies. In addition to the risks already outlined in our 5 trends, the total potential financial impacts of companies reporting water risks in 2020 reached US$301 billion – the highest ever, according to CDP’s 2020 Global Water Report. Meanwhile, the three out of the Top 10 Global Risks by Severity in the 2022 Global Risk Report from the World Economic Forum are water-related – climate action failure, extreme weather and biodiversity loss.

Also, the power is shifting from brands to consumers who have had enough of greenwashing. So, in the ever-changing Tiger Year, expect the turning tide of consumers who want products and services that don’t cost the planet everything to rise as more and more people are willing to change their habits to fight climate change.

Given material and mounting risks, companies must step up; they need to roar, meaning at minimum they need to do the below:

  • Comprehensive risk assessment that covers water and climate related water risks (physical – event driven & chronic, regulatory, financial, reputational etc.);
  • Understand what the assessment results mean and how to action them;
  • Get the Board and C-Suite to understand;
  • Develop an effective, holistic and adaptive water strategy;
  • And … new to the list… set a water neutral/ positive target.

What does being water neutral/ positive mean?

Well, there is no one global standard and the concept is still evolving but at its core it means: it is often possible to reduce a company’s water footprint, but it is effectively impossible to reduce it to zero. The negative externalities (environmental, social and economic) of this residual water footprint are what should be offset to make a company water neutral or with additional offset, water positive.

Water neutral/positive target is the latest addition to a company’s water risk checklist…

…BP, Facebook, Google, Heineken, PepsiCo. & others have made the commitment

And to be clear, it is not the same as carbon neutral as carbon is fungible – one tonne of carbon is the same in Hong Kong as it is in other locations – but that is not the case for water with its multidimensional nature.

Various global companies have recently committed to being water neutral/ positive including BP, Facebook, Gap Inc., Google, Heineken, Microsoft and PepsiCo. among others. Whereas in Hong Kong, Swire Pacific is the only group who has taken this step.

Why have these companies made this commitment? To shore up future business and to shore up their far cat status, but if they leap further – expand the target to supply chains – they could become real tigers.

Volumetric Water Benefit Accounting can help companies avoid being ‘paper tigers’ – all roar but no teeth

Paper Tigers with all roar but no teeth will be plenty on this front but being water neutral/positive is not some token commitment. It is not easy and requires capital plus long-term commitment. There is no room for a 虎头蛇尾 (hǔtóu-shéwěi) “Head of a tiger and tail of a snake” approach where it starts with a bang but goes out with a whimper. It needs to be the real deal.

Fear not … to help deliver the real deal, enter Volumetric Water Benefit Accounting (VWBA) – companies can use this to estimate and communicate the volumetric water benefit of their replenishment activities; in short account for their water offsets.

VWBA is the go-to standard used by most companies and we sat down with one of its creators to learn more, see that interview here.

As we said earlier, the Year of the Tiger favours the bold so set a water neutral/ positive target and earn your company some stripes.

But remember, you can’t 照猫画虎 (zhàomāo-huàhǔ) or “draw a tiger modelled on a cat” – the locational nature of water demands unique strategies so you can’t copy others, it simply won’t work. You have to make it your own … if you need help with that, let us know and we’ll get you started on your water journey!

5. Infrastructure R Us! Asian Tigers will leap from behind in the Race to Resilience

Cat fights between global leaders have been distracting us from the climate and this Tiger year will sadly be no different. Leaders will parade and snarl around each other but such displays of power may not come to much as dealing with climate disasters on their home turfs will keep them occupied.

Climate events will be more and more difficult to ignore and by the end of the year, global leaders will be racing to resilience. It is no surprise then that “Race to Resilience” is the theme of COP27 scheduled for November 2022 in Egypt.

Resilience is not just about reducing/averting damage, it is also about how fast we get up after we’ve been hit

But let’s get something straight here … there is no avoiding the onslaught of climate impacts laid out in Trend #1 and #2. We will be hit and for that we must be prepared – like we warned in the Ox and we will say it again adaptation cannot be an afterthought as climate risks cannot be reduced to zero”. 

Resilience is not just about reducing/averting damage, it is also about how fast we get up after we’ve been hit. This measure will become increasingly important because if we are lucky, we may be hit annually, but it’s more likely than not that we will face compounding events where each hit makes getting back on your feet harder.

It will come down to stamina and persistence which luckily the Tiger possesses in spades. Here, developing countries are better positioned than developed countries: two key reasons…

  1. Tiger economies can build better faster – rapid development means they don’t play around when it comes down to building things …for them, it’s not Toys R Us but “Infrastructure/Construction R Us”. Take China as an example, it built an 80,000sqm hospital with 1,600 beds in 10 days to deal with COVID, repaired an overpass bridge with 12 lanes in 43 hours and put up a 10 storey modular apartment block in just over 28 hours. In Asia, even developed Japan is also speedy when it comes down to construction – fixing a huge sinkhole in just 2 days.
  2. Tiger economies are “closer to the wild” – infrastructure lags in developing countries so they can leapfrog ahead by building new structures that can withstand future climate. While infrastructure in developed countries now work, they are aging (some are 100 years old) and in desperate need of multi-billion dollar makeovers. They were built for a different climate and will not withstand the onslaught ahead, yet funds for upgrades are hard to raise.Even President Biden had to settle for a much needed US$1trillion infrastructure plan for the US; he initially proposed $2.3 trillion. The plan was finally passed in November 2021. In reality, upgrades are often only actioned on the back of disasters – we are sure Storm Eunice will make the UK question the adequacy of their current resilience plans; theirs as well as those across Europe will have to be upped.

Asian Tigers are well positioned as they are also the biggest producers of key infrastructure ingredients…

Moreover, the breakneck speed of development means that a large portion of the population knows what it feels like to be dirt poor in developing economies. This hunger to survive adds tenacity in times of trouble. Here, Asian Tigers are well positioned as they are also the biggest producers of key ingredients – China, India, Japan & Korea produced 70% of global crude steel in 2020; and China, India & Vietnam made around 61% of global cement in 2020.

Ironically, these key ingredients are also carbon intensive providing these countries with BIG opportunities to innovate “green steel” and “green cement”. It’s possible … cement may be well on its way to being net positive. Anyway, Asian Tigers have no choice but to innovate as continuing to produce steel & cement the old way will accelerate the sinking of their coastal cities – think Shanghai, Shenzhen, Tokyo, Osaka, Seoul, Mumbai, Chennai and Ho Chi Minh underwater … we don’t think those practical Tigers will make that trade!

So, expect Asian Tigers to dare to kickstart a hard conversation to protect their cities in the Year of the Tiger. Critical infrastructure, especially ports and airports will also be prioritised for discussion as they are essential for trade – an essential part of the economy no Asian Tiger can currently survive without. Watch this space in SIWW 2022!

While this could be a boon for Asia, danger could lurk for the rest of the world … imagine, when ports are underwater how will cement & steel, or other goods be shipped? This signals an onshoring of these industries in the future; as they will have to be built from scratch, it will certainly prolong the time to get back up.

…but we need to think ‘shared future’ & ‘cooperation’

Regardless, no matter where you are … in addition to the Eye of the Tiger, add Tubthumping to your playlist this year. Think ‘shared future’ and ‘cooperation’ because only then can “I get knocked down but I get up again, you are never gonna keep me down”. 

Cast aside your differences and prejudices, retract those claws and shake paws on accelerating both decarbonisation and adaptation. Don’t wait, we are already past the 11th hour.

Don’t get distracted by COVID – Keep your eye on the real danger …

COVID and its ever-evolving variants are distracting us from the real threat: the fast-evolving climate crisis. While COVID did bring down global CO2 emissions by 6.4% or 2.3 billion tonnes in 2020, emissions have rebounded in 2021 – expected to be up by 4.9% from the previous year.

Given that the UNEP estimates that we need a cut of 7.6% per year for a decade to 2030 to stay within 1.5ºC, this is hardly comforting news. The fact that COP26 was shrouded with empty promises and hypocrisies does not help either.

We need emissions cut of 7.6%/year for a decade to 2030 to stay within 1.5ºC…

…yet, 25 MNCs (~5% of GHGs) net-zero targets aim to reduce aggregate emissions by only 40% at most, not 100%

But what about the 25 global companies accounting for 5% of the global GHG emissions that pledged net zero – could that lead the way? Well, a recent report showed that their “Net-zero targets aim to reduce the analysed companies’ aggregate emissions by only 40% at most, not 100% as suggested by the term “net-zero”. Um … this is hardly “racing to net zero”.

That said, we remain positive as central bankers could be the unlikely heroes in driving more aggressive strides towards both net zero and adaptation in 2022. The extent depends on how finance navigates Trend #3 and corporates Trend #4. But then again, we have to admit that these gains may be offset by an expansion out of COVID as everyone is gearing up for “revenge travel & holidays”.

Water Tiger is unleashed! To deal with it, find the Tiger in you…

The Water Tiger is unleashed, there will be havoc and rising emissions point to even more mayhem ahead. Many will suffer in the new climate reality and there will be many unhappy factions. As usual the rich will fare better than the poor but no one will be left unscathed.

Can we avert danger by taming the Tiger with emissions reduction?  Fundamental & tough changes will have to be made to avoid further warming but we will not be able to reduce climate risks to zero. So, the dangerous Water Tiger will be lurking and ever-present and we must not 纵虎归山 (zòng hǔ guī shān) – we have to deal with it otherwise it will become even powerful and come back to bite us. We allowed this to happen some much more so than others and now we must own up to the consequences.

Pointing fingers will not get us anywhere, so there’s no point lashing out like a rash Tiger. There is much work to do and so there’s no space for mediocre/ so-so/ careless action – which incidentally in Chinese is summed up by the phrase 马马虎虎 (mǎ mǎ hǔ hǔ) in short neither a horse nor tiger”.

In 2022, don’t horse around; find the Tiger in you & ROAR…

…Don’t, and your inaction this Tiger Year will come back to bite you in the future

Basically in 2022, don’t horse around; find the Tiger in you. Under its influence, we can all be braver and take bold risks to save the planet. Also, remember to go with the flow of the Water Tiger as it’s volatile nature points to BIG CHANGE ahead … these changes will either happen to you or you will have to make changes.

The Tiger Year is all about, changes for good, adaptation action and … water, water & water impacts to remind us of how close we are to the edge. It’ll be a jungle out there – we will be hit but we’ll have to get up, only to be hit again – it will literally be a fight for survival for many this year.

To stay alive, channel the Tiger and ROAR – stay nimble and adapt so you don’t get drenched, soaked or sunk. Enjoy its vigour but don’t give in to its rage. Be aggressive but collaborative at the same time. Do all this and you will see roaring success. Don’t, and your inaction this Tiger Year will come back to bite you in the future.

So … roar on! Here’s to a healthy and prosperous Year of the Tiger!

Further Reading

More on Latest

Debra Tan
Author: Debra Tan
Debra heads the CWR team and has steered the CWR brand from idea to a leader in the water risk conversation globally. Reports she has written for and with financial institutions analyzing the impact of water risks on the Power, Mining, Agricultural and Textiles industries have been considered groundbreaking and instrumental in understanding not just China’s but future global water challenges. One of these led the fashion industry to nominate CWR as a finalist for the Global Leadership Awards in Sustainable Apparel; another is helping to build consensus toward water risk valuation. Debra is a prolific speaker on water risk delivering keynotes, participating in panel discussions at water prize seminars, numerous investor & industry conferences as well as G2G and academic forums. Before venturing into “water”, she worked in finance, spending over a decade as a chartered accountant and investment banker specializing in M&A and strategic advisory. Debra left banking to pursue her interest in photography and also ran and organized philanthropic and luxury holidays for a small but global private members travel network She has lived and worked in Beijing, HK, KL, London, New York and Singapore and spends her spare time exploring glaciers in Asia.
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Dawn McGregor
Author: Dawn McGregor
Dawn leads CWR’s work to help corporates navigate increasingly disruptive & material risks from water & climate threats, as well as transitional risks in the supply chain arising from new regulations in China. Here, Dawn engages extensively with the global fashion industry delivering on-ground workshops in China to keynotes and strategic input at European HQs. She has written at length on the end of dirty and thirsty fast fashion and her report to overcome gaps between brands and manufacturers for a clean and circular future inspired the industry to create a new wastewater tool. Dawn also works closely with the property and tourism sectors where she not only conducts strategic assessments of their exposure but builds collective action toward resilience via closed door working groups and invite-only events. Having helped build CWR, Dawn is a frequent keynote, panellist & moderator at events, including being twice selected as the lead-rapporteur at World Water Week. Her articles are cited in various industry publications including the UN’s ‘World Without Water’. Dawn previously worked in a global investment bank assessing geo-political risk, crisis management and business resiliency. She was born and bred in Hong Kong and has lived in France, England, Singapore and Beijing.
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Dharisha Mirando
Author: Dharisha Mirando
Dharisha Mirando hails from the finance industry and joined CWR as she believes that climate and water factors are downplayed by the sector despite being significant investment risks. To tackle this, her ambition is to help build consensus, bridge the gap between finance and science, and engage with investors to incorporate these risks into their due diligence and portfolio management. This could in turn lead to innovative Green Finance instruments becoming more prevalent. She has already made strong headway as the lead author of a recently published report with Manulife Asset Management and the Asia Investor Group on Climate change, which highlights the imminent threats to Asian asset owners' portfolios from climate and water risks. Dharisha has also undertaken a number of speaking engagements on these pressing issues at investor and insurance conferences. Prior to joining CWR, Dharisha worked for a long-only public equities fund. She has also worked in the impact investment space in London and Singapore where she provided technical assistance to social enterprises, helped them raise equity investments, and managed a debt portfolio.
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