SIWW 2022 – 3 Key Takeaways

By Dawn McGregor 24 May, 2022

CWR was the thematic partner for Singapore International Water Week 2022. CWR's McGregor shares what kept us busy from our seminar to interviewing 13 global water leaders, plus check out our key takeaways from the event

SIWW 2022 was Asia’s first large-scale water show since the pandemic & people were very happy to be back in person; SIWW + CESG = 11,000 in-person attendees
SG still a regional leader - Minister Fu clearly on top of IPCC AR6 reports; intersection of water & climate change a key topic; IPCC Co-Chair of WGII Dr Roberts in attendance
Also on the agenda were exciting innovations like net zero utilities & digital twins; more good news is that coastal threats & adaptation finance are here to stay at SIWW

Singapore International Water Week 2022 (17 – 21 April) was Asia’s first large-scale water show since the pandemic and people were very happy to be back in person. Singapore International Water Week (SIWW) with the co-located event CleanEnviro Summit Singapore (CESG) 2022 attracted more than 11,000 physical attendees comprising leaders in government, industry, and academia from around the world. Hear more on this year’s SIWW from the man who runs the event, Ryan Yuen, in our interview with him here.

We were happy to attend in-person & were busy at SIWW 2022

We were also very happy to attend in person, especially as CWR was a thematic partner of the SIWW 2022 event to help foster future water resilience. We were also very busy with:


It was indeed a packed agenda with many insightful conversations, people and topics. Below are our 3 key takeaways from the event.

1. Singapore continued to impress as a regional leader in the water space

Throughout the event, all the Singapore government representatives and local experts spoke knowledgeably, eloquently, and realistically about not just water but it’s intersection with climate change and sea level rise.

SG clearly on top of latest water & climate risks…

…SG Minister Fu comfortably drew points from IPCC AR6 reports during her keynote..

…we were also pleased she called for more adaptation finance

Singapore Minister for Sustainability and the Environment, Grace Fu, demonstrated this with her keynote and sit down session at the Joint Opening of SIWW and CESG. Minister Fu is clearly on top of the latest climate science and the enormity of the challenges ahead, drawing key points from the IPCC AR6 reports during her opening keynote.

Minister Fu also covered the many actions and initiatives Singapore is doing from waste reduction to recycling and the Singapore Green Plan to the largest floating solar farm, as well as touched on the financial side mentioning that the Singapore government aims to issue up to SG$35 billion in green bonds by 2030 for green infrastructure projects such as the Tuas Nexus, Singapore’s first integrated water and solid waste facility.

Speaking of finance, we were very happy to hear Minister Fu call for more adaptation finance. Clearly, we are on the same page as our seminar – “Futureproofing Cities to Avoid Atlantis – Evolving Finance for Adaptation Solutions” – was curated to discuss just that. Get on top of what the experts from across the finance sector, IPCC Co-Chair of Working Group II & representatives of Singapore & New York city said here. In fact, this was one of three actions that Minister Fu called for – 1) innovation, 2) more adaptation finance, and 3) international collaboration – see more details in the box below.

SG Minister for Sustainability and the Environment 3 Calls to Action At SIWW 2022

“What I think would be really required here are three things. First is innovation. Innovation in many many sense the word…

…[adaptation] finance is very important, that is the second key critical element. The region, actually the whole world needs adaptation finance. And if you think about the timeline we have, the IPCC report II actually has highlighted that we are late in some areas. We are already seeing loss of ecosystems, biodiversity and that will have an impact on the food chain, on food production. So, we need to get that piece of the equation right. How do we mobilise finance?… We need to be innovative in finance… How can we look at some of the adaptation finance projects that actually are so critical and viable? An example, when we look at adaptation finance, we usually think of sea walls, hard engineering solutions but actually, adaptation finance is also about sustainable food production systems, a sustainable water production system. Water is going to get scarce in some places while it is going to get too much, inundated in other places. So, for water that is something to basic to human lives, how can we ensure it is adapted to new climate conditions? How do we fund that?…

…And I think that comes back to the third element, which is international collaboration. Because whether we are to find the financing, whether we are able to build capability, whether we are able to find innovative new products for this part of the world, I think collaboration is really an important ingredient. And here, it is not just in terms of trade of products and services but creation. We are also looking at creation of marketplace that isn’t even there.”

-Grace Fu, Singapore Minister of Sustainability and the Environment

Another relevant and emerging topic that Minister Fu spoke of was climate anxiety, “I think climate anxiety is real, especially with young people and we need to ensure them that we have their future on our radar screen and we have their backs.” Indeed, this is a growing issue and IPCC Working Group III did empower individual action.

SG Minister Fu also touched on climate anxiety

However, in many cases people aren’t sure where to start or that they can even make a difference. This is why we did the report, “Together We Can: 8 Habit changes for below 2°C”, to show that collectively we can make a difference. If enough of us made simple habit tweaks across eight areas of our daily life from food, online shopping to internet surfing plus more, we could save more than two billion tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions; equivalent to the combined 2015 GHG emissions of Japan and South Korea! Check out the report to see more.

2. Agenda included climate change and exciting innovations like net-zero utilities, digital twins ++

The interlinkages between climate change and really every aspect of life, especially water is being acknowledged more and more.

“I think as with many sectors globally, the water sector is now well aware of the fact that the intersection with climate change is creating unique and unusual challenges and opportunities…”

Dr Debra Roberts, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group II

This understanding was clear at SIWW with various climate related events but especially with the invitation and attendance of Dr Debra Roberts, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group II who said, “I think as with many sectors globally, the water sector is now well aware of the fact that the intersection with climate change is creating unique and unusual challenges and opportunities and I think they really wanted to hear what the science had to say so that they can take it into consideration in discussions this week.” See more on what Dr Roberts had to say in our interview with her.

There were more exciting developments with water utilities discussing net zero energy/ carbon goals, some very ambitious like Greater Western Water in Australia with a 2030 deadline. And there were also discussions on how digital is advancing and streamlining water management and how digital twins (can be seen as combinations of models and real-time data that provide a digital representation of a specific part of the water system’s behaviour) can help optimise and help build resilience. As with all innovations, there are challenges but as many said during the event, there are also many opportunities in terms of resources, cost savings and futureproofing. You can see more on what water leaders said about these innovations in our takeaways from the Water Leaders Summit here.

However, water sector still traditional & too much in its own silo…

…water needs to invade other sectors like finance

However, despite the excitement at SIWW 2022 it is obvious that the water industry is still traditional and stays largely within its own silo, both of which need to change urgently.

“Water is about liveability…”, said Tom Mollenkopf, President at International Water Association in our interview with him, and so is connected to every sector. Finance is one of the sectors that water needs to cross-pollinate with as we showed in our event at SIWW, see key takeaways from that here. So overall, progress is being made, discussions are more inclusive but there is still much to do for integrated and climate flexible solutions to become the norm.

3. Coastal threats and adaptation finance discussions have started & are here to stay

Coastal threats and sea level rise really first appeared at SIWW last year during the SIWW 2021 Spotlight, see our takeaways from that here. This year they were firmly on the agenda. These are topics that Singapore takes very seriously so it is not surprising but is still encouraging. As PUB Chief Executive Peter Ng Joo Hee said last year, “There are the two things to becoming resilient, a) know what will kill you [referring to climate change]…” and “Singapore has no choice but to be clear eye about climate change. Singapore is pancake flat, most less than 5m above sea level so wouldn’t take a lot for the sea to rise to turn us into a new Atlantis”. This year we heard more on the existential threat from climate change and sea level rise from Minister Fu, again PUB Chief Executive Peter Ng, PUB Director of Coastal Protection Hazel Khoo and various others.

Discussions on adaptation finance to pay for coastal protection very limited…

…need to allocate finance carefully to avoid maladaptation

As for adaptation finance, there was the call from Minister Fu as mentioned above in our first takeaway and was discussed at our event. Beyond that, conversation on adaptation finance was limited. A key takeaway from our event is how much of a wake up call it was for both the water and finance sectors and that unless the two start learning each other’s languages and working together, everyone is going to pay the price – see more here.

While it’s clear we need to do much more adaption fund raising, we also need to be smart as to what adaptations we finance or we are wasting money or maladapting as Dr Roberts said – see box below.

“Working Group II also warns us that don’t think everything you do from an adaptation perspective is going to be great. We are already seeing signs of maladaptation so, adaptation interventions that are generating unexpected consequences like generating increased greenhouse gases or generating inequality.

And we are very clear on the fact that there are limits to adaptation. Do not think you are going to be able to adapt your way out of this problem. Even at the current levels of warming, even with the best levels of adaption, we cannot avoid losses and damages so that is something we need to prepare for. And certainly, as we go higher in terms of global warming levels adaptation options begin to fall off the table particularly those linked to nature-based solutions because at the higher temperatures ecosystems are simply can’t do what they need to do.”

-Dr Debra Roberts, IPCC Co-Chair Working Group II

The good news is that coastal threats and adaptation finance are here to stay at SIWW and will be getting more and more attention. Hear more on the future of SIWW in our interview with the man who runs the event, Ryan Yuen.

The undertone throughout SIWW & our conversations is that we need change everywhere

The undertone throughout SIWW and the conversations is that we need change everywhere. The world is in massive change exercise as Minister Fu said, “Going forward climate action requires change in a massive massive scale and this change has to be led and the leadership is not just political leaders. It has to come from all levels… this is a massive change exercise the world needs to undertake and the world needs everyone to step up in your capacity.” So, it is time we each do our part to facilitate and fast-track this change to build a climate resilient future that we can survive in and hopefully thrive in too.

Further Reading

More on Latest

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.
Read more from Dawn McGregor →