March 2018: Reform! Long Live the Ecological Civilisation: China’s “Two Sessions” weren’t just about a “President for Life”, an “ecological civilisation” is now enshrined in the constitution and ministerial reforms are imminent. What do these mean for water? Pay attention to our five highlights or risk being blindsided! Don’t just take our views. See what top commentators have to say on China’s global leadership on the environment as City University’s Nanda summarises. Also, hear from water experts Biswas and Tortajada on China’s soft power expansion and hurdles ahead. All these will need the help of finance and technological innovation. Hong Kong appears ready to lead in sustainable finance, as RS Group’s Kelly, Ng and Lui find from the Sustainable Finance Initiative’s first market-survey. As for innovation, China can learn from Singapore in developing new technology to produce clean water. Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy’s Lee and Tortajada expand. The era of Beautiful China has “officially” begun. Start by catching up with our 2017-2018 review of key water policies.
February 2018: Puppy Love, Top Dog or Underdog? As we move from the Year of the Fire Rooster to the Year of the Earth Dog, stay ahead and find out who’s the top dog, pitbull or underdog in our 5 trends. It’s also Valentine’s Day, so let’s talk about love! Firstly, we are in love with China’s water regulations and laws. Not only did the new Water Law come into effect on 1 January 2018, but so did the new Environmental Protection Tax Law and more. Plus, the Water Resource Tax has expanded to 9 provinces. See our reviews. Also, the 2018 No. 1 Document is out and its focus is charting a roadmap for rural vitalisation. We are loving it all! The public too are getting more of a “bite” by having a greater say in the environment – Pacific Environment’s Hanyuan, McDonald & Zhong expand. We can also show our love for water by re-examining our diet. Vanham from the European Commission looks at Hong Kong’s diet’s high water footprint. Furthermore, Ovink, Special Envoy for Water, points out that we still haven’t grasped the complexity of water crises but there are ways to leapfrog. Whether it turns out to be a pitbull or poodle of a year, we need to recognise that Asia doesn’t have enough water to develop. We need to plan, plan and plan to avoid a ‘dry-out’ like Cape Town. Reaching for low hanging fruit is not good enough, we need to reach high. Now go fetch us a bright future! Happy lunar new year!
January 2018: Climate Risks, Corporate Action & Green Finance: The recent “bomb cyclone” which caused historic low temperatures in the US is a clear reminder that as we step into 2018, addressing climate and water risks must be on the top of our new year’s resolutions. So, this January we review topics that urgently need our attention and action that we can build on. A recent World Bank report shows just how impactful droughts are with economic costs up to 4 times that of floods. We sat down with one of its authors, Damania, to find out more. In China, droughts and floods in 2016 resulted in 44 million tonnes of crop failure. Check out our 5 facts. As for business, it’s a positive start to the year with CDP’s Lamb sharing key findings from their 2017 Global Water Report. Then, we hear from ITP’s Hughes on their recently announced vision and goals for 2030 and their alignment with the SDGs. On the investor front, see Dr Guo of SynTao Green Finance key takeaways from the 5th China SIF conference. However, Professor Asit and Hartley caution us that infrastructure investments often have overstated economic benefits. China is starting 2018 on the right foot with both the Water Pollution Prevention and Control Law and the new Environmental Protection Tax Law in force as of the first of January. Let this inspire us to be as ambitious in our actions this year.
December 2017: Hopes & Fears: Our world seems to be increasingly split into that of hope and fear. Given this, we look at what is making us hopeful and fearful this festive season. On the “hope” side, yes, our glaciers are melting but Wangchuk of SEMCOL is making artificial glaciers as we learn in our interview with him. Meanwhile, as the US and EU are pulling back foreign aid, Prof Biswas & Hartley from the Lee Kuan Yew School for Public Policy see this as an opportunity for China. Then in fashion, where hyper-consumption continues to grow, so too is the mainstreaming of sustainability. Catch up on industry buzz with CWR’s McGregor. On the “fear” side, if you’re partial to Moutai, water risks along the Chishui “intoxicating” River could spell change as we warn. Meanwhile, “Fish forever more”( 年年有“鱼”) could also be in jeopardy. We leave you to mull over these hopes and fears plus, CWR Tan’s thoughts on our contradictory behaviours from tech to values. We remain exuberant with China’s Water Pollution Prevention and Control Law coming into effect on 1 January 2018 and hope you do too. Happy Holidays from the China Water Risk Team!
November 2017: Can Xi make China beautiful again?: Trump’s recent visit to China softened US-China trade tensions but the two countries’ stances on the environment continue to diverge. We look this month at how Chinese President Xi Jinping is fighting to make China beautiful again. After decades of growth, China’s area of contaminated land is larger than the UK. Prof Biswas & Tortajada look at what policies the country is implementing to change this. Meanwhile, we review key environmental & water messages from China’s 19th National Congress, where Xi called for harmony between the environment and economic growth. This edict was echoed by the new Minister of Environmental Protection, who outlined the Ministry’s achievements and future plans. Singapore is also a country taking action as Utrecht University’s Kirchherr and Circular Economy Academy’s Santen show. Global supply chains mean the private sector also has a part to play. Logan and Ding from the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs share which brands have performed best in the 4th Corporate Information Transparency Index. And Water Foundry’s CEO, Sarni offers his thoughts on what corporates can do to go beyond water stewardship, which is no longer enough. Given Xi’s actions, it seems that China will indeed be beautiful again.
October 2017: Safeguarding our rivers: Rivers are the lifelines of not only our lives but our economies. Yet, they have suffered as CWR’s Hu shares in his reflections from Zhejiang. But this doesn’t have to be the case as we look at actions to safeguard rivers this month. At the regional level, managing Asia’s key rivers falls on China and India. Dr Ho from the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy looks at this more. Meanwhile, domestically, China has said by 2018 all of its rivers/lakes will have an appointed river chief. We review. Plus, we also share five facts you need to know about the strategic but relatively unknown Tarim River basin. Rivers also matter to industry. Unit cost in China’s coal-to-chemical sector could increase by up to two-thirds due to environmental risks. Trucost’s Kaboo Leung expands. Then there is action on ground. See key findings from the Kunshan Industrial Park Water Stewardship project, run by AWS, WWF & the Qiandeng Environmental Protection Bureau. Reduced water flows, pollution, reappropriation into roads, if this continues what rivers will there be left to safeguard?
September 2017: Re-branding toxic strategies: This month we spoke at the CLSA Investor Forum on the same day as Steve Bannon. His rhetoric on economic nationalism is nothing new, but do these strategies make sense given China’s dominance in critical raw materials (CRMs)? CLSA U®’s report warns that transitional risks are abound across key CRMs as China says no to pollution and yes to a high-tech future. However brands’ “no sense strategies” point to focus on short-term profits rather than mitigating such risks. Is this sustainable? Find out in our review. Even Apple does not have a traceability system in place for CRMs found in their products. Plus, what lies ahead for rare earth recycling? Researcher Liu expands. With China committing to embed environmental risk into credit policies, it’s essential to identify ‘hotspots’ across assets or supply chains. Here, we expand on a new dashboard which gauges water risks across operations, suppliers or investments – check it out! The textile industry also faces similar risks and circular fashion was a hot topic during World Water Week. Is fast fashion poised for a circular makeover? See our key takeaways. Government action is also ramping up with the recent initiation of Green Power Certificate trading. China is gearing up to be “future ready” on less pollution: brands need to wake up and re-brand toxic and short-sighted strategies for a cleaner and circular future.
August 2017: Circular fashion: Is it in style? The fashion industry is facing greater scrutiny over its environmental impacts than ever before. However, among this scrutiny, the industry and related actors are also mounting actions to change their ways and move towards a clean & circular business model. Given the above and the world’s growing focus on the environment and climate change we thought it was a good time to check on the status of fashion’s ‘pro-environment & circular’ redesign. Meanwhile, Jeffries from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation outlines what a circular economy is. Good news here is that there are brands and organisations already doing and driving circular actions. FINCH Designs is one such. As its co-founder Kaye shares, this China brand uses recycled PET to create sustainable swimwear. Also, hear from Dean, Founder of Redress, on their decade of work and victories driving the circular model. What about manufacturers in this transition? Dr Anthony Ma of HKPC sat down with us to share key findings from the HSBC Water Programme for Industrial Water Management. Meanwhile, we share five key findings from our report, “Insights From China’s Textile Manufacturers”. - which will be launched at our event at World Water Week on the 30th of August, come join! All in all it seems that circular fashion is not in style yet, but that it is definitely on its way in. We are excited to see what the circular apparel economy era brings.
July 2017: Climate Change: Not Fake News: Last week we saw the G19 breaking off from the US position on climate change. With fake news everywhere, we take a real look this month at climate risk plus action so far. First, see why we think it’s time to step up efforts to bridge science and policy and to go ‘science unusual’ to counter fake news. Look no further than China’s groundwater shortage for urgency. Biswas & Hartley from the Lee Kuan Yew School for Public Policy explore solutions. Meanwhile, China has approved the revised ‘Water Pollution Prevention & Control Law’. Closer to home, action is underway to transform Hong Kong into a climate ready & flood resilient sponge city, as Leung from the Drainage Services Department shows. But is HK’s water supply secure under climate change? Much is made of the DongShen Agreement’s price tag but discussions need to move onto more complex issues such as the city’s rampant overuse and leakage. Hear from Civic Exchange on HK’s ‘illusion of plenty’. Even China’s power sector is taking action to treat air pollution from thermal power plants. However, this is not good news for wastewater - is zero liquid discharge the way to tackle the issues? Bluetech Research’s Owen expands. Climate resilience financing is on the rise. We sat down with Dr. Chan from the Climate Bonds Initiative working group to find out the latest on green finance. How have China’s climate bonds been received? What’s next? Climate change is not fake news. It’s more than time to take a reality check!
June 2017: Pollution Report Card: China’s “War on Pollution” appears to be paying off. The recently released 2016 State of Environment Report shows that groundwater quality has improved but there is still work to do with mixed news for rivers, lakes and reservoirs. Meanwhile, see how provinces fared in meeting their 12th Five Year Plan water quality targets with Greenpeaces’ Deng and Bao who share from their latest report. Environmental protection was significantly stepped-up in China with its new Environmental Protection Law (EPL), which has been in force for more than two years. What have the impacts been? Professor Wang from the University of Political Science and Law in Beijing reviews. Environmental laws and regulations can actually have adverse effects through creating a “pollution haven conundrum” – we explore the unintended consequences of these havens. Meanwhile, solutions to curb pollution continue to be developed. CTEG’s Liang & Zeng share how a key wastewater treatment plant can help pollution control in the PRD. Another solution as Derek Lam explains is a waterless, chemical-free toilet system that could help 2.4bn people. While there is concern over the US withdrawing from the Paris Agreement, it is encouraging to see China’s efforts on climate and water pollution. Here’s to China’s steadfast commitment on the Climate Agreement.
May 2017: Action Beyond Borders: Parks, Deltas & Kazakhstan: With the One Belt One Road summit kicking off in Beijing, we look at action on water stewardship that goes beyond borders this month. Industrial parks generate 22.5% of China’s GDP but can this last given water risks? Find out how Tianjin’s Economic-Technological Development Area (TEDA) mitigates such risks from TEDA Eco Center’s Chen and Alliance for Water Stewardship’s Xu. Looking beyond parks into regional action, we turn to the Pearl River Delta (PRD). This region is a key target area of the Water Ten as dazzling economic success has brought about water challenges. See why we think businesses should take the lead on water stewardship to ensure continued prosperity. Get started with our 5 must-knows about water in the PRD. It’s important that actions from businesses are in the right direction. Shiao from the Pacific Institute shares a new context-based approach to setting corporate water targets. Also, get on top of the switch from guidelines to the first global sustainability reporting standards at the Global Reporting Initiative with their Hjaltadóttir. Moving beyond national borders, Dr Ho from the National University of Singapore expands on China and Kazakhstan sharing transboundary rivers. It’s clear that actions on water stewardship are going beyond borders and working together is the way forward.
April 2017: Using Other People’s Water: This month we take a closer look at water embedded in trade. The Xi-Trump summit saw an end to China’s ban on US beef imports but does this really benefit the US given beef’s huge water footprint? For water-stressed China it makes sense to use someone else’s water to produce beef. To really get a handle on who’s using whose water we sat down with Prof. Hoekstra, creator of the water footprint concept, who shares the hard truths on the challenges ahead over virtual water trade. Indeed, the idea of a water footprint is not without its critics. We take a look at the criticisms and share five reasons why the concept is relevant. Meanwhile, groundwater globally is being over extracted to grow cotton. Who is to blame – China, fast fashion? We explore growth trends of major fashion brands. Water is also embedded in electricity. Here we explore water flows in China’s grid. China wants to embed environmental performance in a company’s credit rating. Dr. Guo of the China Financial Association’s Green Finance Expert Committee expands on how publicly available environmental data can help do this. The public can also help safeguard water resources as Earthwatch Institute’s Chick shares. FreshWater Watch connects volunteers and scientists to fast-track research. In the new phase of balancing economy and environment, will the future point to the import of more water-intensive goods like beef? It’s time to rethink trade; best to not be too over-reliant on other people’s water.
March 2017: The Water Beneath Blue Skies: There is no doubt that air pollution was one of the major headlines at China’s CPPCC & NPC meetings. As Premier Li Keqiang promised to step up the battle on air pollution saying, “we will make our skies blue again”, we take a look at blue skies but also what lies beneath, water, in our key takeaways. It’s not just the government but also on-ground organisations taking action on water pollution. One such is MyH2O, one of China’s first online crowdsourcing networks covering drinking water quality. We sat down with its founder, Charlene Ren, to learn about its inception, work and next steps. Along with quality, China’s water scarcity is another serious issue. WRI’s latest data shows that water stress across 54% of China worsened in 2001-2010. Dr Jiao Wang, Dr Lijin Zhong & Charles Iceland share the good and the bad news from their research. Since water and energy are inextricably linked, tackling one can result in mutual benefits. An example of a water and air win-win as Xylem’s Lu Shuping shows lies in China’s energy intensive wastewater treatment industry. With its rapid expansion it is ripe for attractive energy saving opportunities. Meanwhile, China had the biggest carbon emissions reduction for the first time. PwC’s Robert Milnes on how this is tracked in their Low Carbon Economy Index. While blue skies may be the focus, water and soil are no less important. So, get up to date with our review of China’s key water policies over the last year.
February 2017: Rooster Crows A New Pecking Order: Here we go, strutting into the year of the Rooster… we said the Monkey would be disruptive and it did not disappoint, leaving us with a topsy-turvy world. President Xi’s Davos address leaves us with no doubt that the Rooster crows a new pecking order. As China drives structural changes at home and leads the climate fight globally, stay ahead of this changing waterscape with our 5 trends. Since the Rooster has a penchant for tidiness, we expect the central government to continue driving action in 2017. Important changes were made in environmental policy over the last year from enforcement to finance and we summarise these into 5 regulatory trends. Be sure to catch up on them. Leading a low carbon future will likely see China rethink its global critical raw materials supply in the 13FYP. So this month, we also review the implications of these “dug-up in China” materials, many of which are significantly supplied by China with multiple WTO dispute cases. We may avoid a trade war, but a global trade rebalancing is imminent with China’s own demand for resources rising. Mother hen characteristics will also be displayed with China striving to protect river basins; supporting new growth industries while revamping/revitalising old industries; and pushing to embed environmental/water risk into financial valuations. This unwavering support for new growth industries could disrupt. WWF’s Jean-Marc Champagne says an aggressive push for electric vehicles in the 13FYP could displace 1 million barrels of crude oil per day by late 2020s; while Zhang Chun from Chinadialogue expands on the fall of the cement industry and the painful transition into high end manufacturing. Such reform and innovation against a backdrop of looming trade wars in 2017 signal a year that is precariously balanced. In such times, it is best to ignore petty disputes and look for holistic solutions like Veolia’s innovative T Park in Hong Kong. Nina Cambadelis explains how this state-of-the-art sludge treatment facilities can also close the loop on water and energy. The new China norm is de rigour: a water-nomics path where economic and resource planning are in sync is inevitable. Despite the uncertainties and elusiveness of business unusual, there is ”firm resolve to forge ahead”. We are at the dawn of a new era, and dawn always favours the East. Get with the program and stay prosperous: make sure you are not walking on eggshells but laying golden eggs. Happy lunar new year!
January 2017: Are Corporates & Governments Acting On Water Risk?: To start the year with a bang we take a look at the action on water risk by corporates and governments. Water is again in the Top 5 global risks in terms of impact in the World Economic Forum’s 2017 Risk Report. So how well are corporates acting? Well, according to a recent report, little has changed from business-as-usual in terms of water management. We sat down with report authors IUCN’s Dalton & ODI’s Newborne. CDP’s latest Water Survey shows more corporate action is still needed with USD14 billion reported in impacts. Their Gillespy expands. Sarni, water stewardship expert, shares how innovation through “business ecosystems” can help move stewardship forward. On this front we are pleased to announce our new partnership with the Alliance for Water Stewardship to jointly promote good water stewardship in China’s river basins. What about governments? We look at Hong Kong and Scotland. We sat down with Dr Lee of HKU to learn more on the JC-WISE initiative that aims to change the public’s relationship with water. Meanwhile, Scotland is pursuing its ‘Hydro Nation’ vision. Hear from Grieg from the Scottish government on their many successes. Preparing river basins for impacts from climate change is important. adelphi’s Sabine Blumstein shares 3 reasons for stronger climate diplomacy. Meanwhile, it is positive to see China already taking action this year. Just last week CWR gave a talk on water risk valuation at a green finance workshop on environmental stress testing organised by People’s Bank of China. Also, three of China’s richest entrepreneurs (Jack Ma, Zhang Xin & Pan Shiyi) have announced they will back the USD1 billion New-Energy Fund. These point to more action in 2017.
December 2016: Christmas Wishes For The Next Five Years: This year the CWR team has all sorts of wishes that will keep everyone busy for the next five years. Dawn writes to Santa asking for less stuff but don’t worry, that doesn’t mean no to presents. On the topic of presents, Hongqiao wishes that people and brands would take responsibility for their electronic presents/products. Current procurement methods for critical raw materials in these devices are causing rampant pollution. Think twice before your next purchase. This time of year is always filled with food, drink and merriment. Woody takes a look at exactly how thirsty beer, crisps & chocolate are. Meanwhile, Hubert plays with trees with the World Resources Institutes Global Forest Watch Tool. How are China’s forests doing? Given the current diametrically opposed global views on climate change, Asia needs to step up their game. After attending two key climate conferences, Feng wishes for more finance for adaptation, especially in APAC. Just this week China released its 13FYP for the environment. It also so happens that this year China Water Risk turned 5 years old. It’s been a whirlwind but we are happy to report that “water risk” has now become the new norm. Debra takes a look at how far we have come and what we have achieved. Plus, check out our grand wishes for the future. We are excited and hope you are too. Happy Holidays from the China Water Risk Team!
November 2016: Keep Moving Forward: The world is again looking to COP 22 for our path forward on tackling climate change. This was the first Conference with the Paris Agreement in force though it may have been somewhat overshadowed by the uncertainty following the US presidential election. With the USD3 billion dollar pledge to the Green Climate Fund up in the clouds there are clearly challenges regarding funding. However, in Asia, there are positives pointing the way forward. The Indonesian government backed financing facility is one as Genasci, CEO of ADM Capital Foundation, tells us. Another is the recently approved new standard for climate-resilient water bonds. Hear about it from members of the consortium that created it, Matthews of AGWA and Creed & Dai of the Climate Bonds Initiative. China is also full steam ahead on lucrative solutions. All new waste & wastewater projects must follow the PPP model. We take a look to see if this differs from previous funding. Also, new Chinese EPA standards tackling highly polluting landfill leachate are putting traditional solutions to the test. OriginClear’s Kindler, Eckelberry & Jan introduce a viable alternative. To move forward we also need to go backwards to some degree, well more precisely circular. Fashion can help go circular on plastic waste as Waste2Wear’s Kim expands. Our global path on the climate may be cloudy but as we can see there are some bright patches. Knowing where we are is a good start and so we reflect on whether we are now seeing clearly on corporate disclosure. Regardless of the situation it’s important that we look in all places for innovations and keep moving forward, otherwise lucrative solutions will be missed. On a positive note, in September we said it’s over to financial research analysts to build scenarios to value water risk and we are glad to see UBS publish two reports regarding this. It could indeed be sunny times ahead.
October 2016: Taking Stock: As we write this, two typhoons are heading for HK and there’s been others hitting South-eastern China. It seems fitting with these close-to-home weather events, that we are in Q4 2016 and that the Paris Agreement will come into effect shortly that we take stock. Whilst the Agreement has been hailed as one the greatest achievements, there is no time to relish in this as global crop staples and water security is still at risk as MIT’s Dwortzan shares. Meanwhile, it’s been more than 18 months since China’s amended Environmental Law came into effect. Have things changed? We sat down with Liu of China University of Political Science & Law to find out. Now more than ever, cities and their waterscapes face challenges. In Arcadis’ inaugural water index 9/12 Asian cities are ranked in the bottom half. Their Batten expands. With time and resources at such premiums, more needs to be done with less. Recycling water is one way to achieve this. We share 8 things you should know about recycling water in China. Plus, we explore unconventional water sources that can reduce the impact of China’s power sector. Diets have great impact too. We take a look if China’s “milky-ways” can continue. The overall stock take is, as usual, more needs to be done. But as we can see from the above, problems are being called out, action is happening and solutions exist. Maybe we will know more on our “stock” after COP 22 next month.
September 2016: Waterproofing Exposure: With China and the US agreeing to ratify the Paris Agreement at the G20 summit this month, climate and water risks have come of age. In China, regulations have also made them more tangible and immediate. Banks with longer term investment horizons are exposed, but where is the financial community on waterproofing their portfolios/investments from such exposure? Check out who’s doing what on this front in banking and see what 70+ investors from 50+ financial institutions and funds have to say about our recent water risk valuation work. Challenges remain in disclosure and measurement and Biswas, Tortajada & Chandler expand on why we must work together to set common goals. Water risks are not going away, if anything they are intensifying. Urgent water resources issues pervade from high up in our mountains to deep underground. Glaciologist Inglis explores the threat to the Yangtze’s headwaters while Earth Securities Group CEO Litovsky & researcher Hill Clarvis explain the urgency behind depleted aquifers. The call for united action was echoed in this year’s World Water Week where efforts were made to start aligning the interests and aims of bankers, investors and corporates with the SDGs, in particular SDG 6 on water. There are multiple challenges. We can start by directing capital responsibly and protecting capital by reducing exposure to rising water risks. Building resilience for either water infrastructure or loan/investment portfolios will be costly, but the cost of inaction will be much greater. Surely it’s time to start investing in waterproofing your exposure.
August 2016: Floods, Food & the Future of Fashion: It’s been a summer of floods & heavy rains in China. So for this month, we turn our focus to floods and what a changing climate means for growing food and the future of fashion. Leading water experts, Professor K Biswas & Cecilia Tortajada, expand on the costs of floods in China & share with us how to mitigate this destructive force. Meanwhile, we look at lessons & opportunities in flood insurance in China. Floods can also damage crops yet they cannot survive without water. Here, we see 8 reasons to invest in irrigation in China. However, reining in China’s agricultural water demand means inevitable trade-offs. The growing of thirsty cotton has been de-prioritised but how will the textile industry respond? We look at top fashion brands’ sustainability actions & explore circular fashion today with insights from leading circular fashion innovators. Has there been improvements one year one? Who’s not yet going circular? Ultimately, the question is whether dirty thirsty fashion has a future in a Beautiful China? We don’t think so – there are short term & long term water risks but then again, opportunities are also abound. Also check out our latest brief: “Today’s Fight for the Future of Fashion – Is there room for fast fashion in a Beautiful China?” Get updated and on top of these and find out what this means for OEMs and brands now! See you at World Water Week!
July 2016: Digging Deep: Is Our Smart Future Clean? This month we dig deep into clean energy & smart tech, only to find shades of grey and a black market lurking upstream in the global supply of rare earths. Although mostly unpronounceable, rare earths used everywhere & every day are highly polluting resulting in contaminated drinking water sources, “cancer villages” and toxic e-waste in China. Can we build a clean & smart future on toxic rare earths? Find out if your smartphone, tablet or electric car is party to this “open dirty secret”. Are electronic giants and other countries helping China with the crackdown on this black market? Find out more. Elsewhere, Green Initiatives has launched the [WE] Project in Shanghai to ensure safe and easy ways to tackle e-waste and WRI China has released new Baseline Water Stress maps for China with higher granularity. We also look into options for the parched North: how wind & solar power can provide relief and how the Hebei pilot in Water Resource Tax reform can point the way forward in groundwater management. With much at stake, it is crucial to get on top of these “hidden risks”. Accelerated adoption of ‘clean’ tech since COP21 means it is time to rethink our clean & smart future to ensure we do not build it on a foundation of environmental crime and illegal trade at the expense of China’s water resources.
June 2016: Pollution! Soil Ten & River Flows: It is hard not to focus on pollution this month with the issuance of the much anticipated ’Soil Pollution Prevention & Control Action Plan’ or “Soil Ten”, and the release of the 2015 State Of Environment Report. Headline stats are bad: 19.4% of surveyed farmland is polluted and 16.1% is polluted by heavy metals and the 2015 report says China’s overall environmental quality declined in the last year. Clearly, some industries will feel the heat more than others. Check out the latest status of groundwater, rivers, lakes & reservoirs and find out what’s in store for China’s “Hateful Eight” polluting industries named in the Soil Ten. Is this the end of China’s chemical love with nowhere to hide? Get the distilled version of the 231 actions in our Soil Ten review. Pollutants are carried downstream by rivers. Specific provinces are tagged to specific actions & industries in the Soil Ten and provinces along the Yangtze River feature across actions. This is not surprising as a disproportionately high percentage of China’s heavy metals discharge lie in this region. We take a deeper look into pollution & heavy metal flows from the upper reaches of the river to the delta. Can the Yangtze River continue to flourish as China’s socio-economic powerhouse? Check out key findings from our recently published joint brief with the Foreign Economic Cooperation Office of the Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP FECO) on the “Water-nomics of the Yangtze River Economic Belt: Strategies & recommendation for green development along the river”. Cleaning-up pollution with green development means China needs innovative technologies and holistic strategies. We take a look at how floating solar can be a solution for China while Doug Woodring, the founder of Plasticity Forum shares key takeaways from the 5th annual forum in Shanghai. It’s not just plastic, all sort of stuff flows down the river into the sea and soil. What happens upstream matters downstream; but if you are downstream, would you pay for the poorer upstream regions to clean up?
May 2016: Be Water Smart: Our lives are continuously becoming more ‘smart’ thanks to next gen tech. So it makes sense that we get smart about water too, especially when water scarcity is exacerbated by climate change. A new report by the World Bank says the mismanagement of this could cost some countries as much as 6% of their GDP.With this in mind, we sat down with Anne Freeman, Deputy Director at UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, to talk about the GBP2.3 billion spend in flood defence. In China, floods cost the nation close to RMB2 trillion in 2000 – 2014 and with urban areas prone to flood risk, we take a closer look at the current popular answer: sponge cities. Meanwhile, Ecosoftt’s Stanley Samuel & Marcus Lin share how their Water SMART Blue Building standard can be a solution to urban areas not covered by China’s central systems. As for rural areas in China, Lien Aid’s Ivanna Tan introduces a new model in village water management. Much worry over water pollution means we also need to get smart about water safety. Dr. Howard Dryden tells us how the up-cycled glass AFM® filter he invented can lower costs and bacteria for municipal and industrial use. We can also be water smart ourselves. Patricia Dwyer of The Purpose Business Group reminds us that our habits & actions, however small, can make a difference. Another good place to start to get smart about water is at the Singapore International Water Week in July 2016, where you can rub shoulders with industry players and share the latest in business, science & tech innovations. Also, don’t miss out on the BlueTech China Awards for water solutions in Shanghai in June 2016.
April 2016: Wanted! What’s My $$$ Exposure? Industries are clearly exposed to water risks but financial valuation of such risks remains elusive. For this month, we review existing quantification tools & methods. Get the low down from tool developers on their tools “Corporate Bonds Water Credit Risk Tool” (GCP & GIZ) and “The True Cost of Water” (Veolia). Other tools are also being developed. The latest Blue Map app from IPE integrates real-time water pollution emissions data with violation records. Hear from IPE what this means for consumers, suppliers and brands. Meanwhile, check out 3 reasons why we still feel positive about a clean-up in dirty fashion. With China and the US heading to ratify COP21 commitments, coal is in the news again as Greenpeace expands on coal’s great water grab. There clearly are increased risks in a tighter water-energy-climate nexus. It’s time to put a number on water risk and know your $$$ exposure. We have quantified water risks for 10 listed companies in energy related sectors. Initial findings show material risks. Investors/ financial analysts, we are looking for your feedback on these valuations and results. Think you have something to add? Want to make a difference? Or just curious? Don’t miss out on these results – ACT NOW !
March 2016: Beautiful China 2020: China wants to exert “tireless efforts” to build a “Beautiful China where the sky is blue, the land is green and the water runs clear” says Premier Li Keqiang in his 2016 work report during the 4th Session of the 12th National People’s Congress. Beautiful China is both a social & economic vision.”To take a path that leads to both economic development and environmental improvement,” structural reform from governance to economic mix is needed. We review the targets set for 2016 and 2020; additional ecological barriers & sponge cities to build resilience; avoiding man-made disasters to catastrophe insurance and more. Challenges & innovations ahead are vast in the 13FYP. Beautiful China points to the health and longevity of the people and the country. Although over 300 million people gained access to safe drinking water in the 12FYP, there are now worries over endocrine disruptors, algal toxins and antibiotics in China’s waterways. We interview Yin Zhan, the head of Water & Human Health Center at the Chinese Academy of Science for his take on these emerging contaminants in seemingly “clean” water. Meanwhile, with continued rapid urbanisation to 60% by 2020, water use and wastewater discharge will both increase. We turn to experts Y. Zheng, Wang, F. Zheng & Dillon from the China Managed Aquifer Recharge (MAR) Working Group to see how MAR can help build resilience and reclaim water for storage and use later. But being beautiful isn’t cheap. Already, China says it needs to spend RMB2 trillion per year to finance climate solutions and address environmental issues. Can China’s new green bond rules help raise such funds and make China the leader in global green bonds? Trucost’s Chaoni Huang & Derek Ip expands on their Chinese characteristics. Elsewhere, Fiji was the first to ratify the climate deal towards a low carbon economy and CDP’s Kate Levick updates on successes & struggles on the road from COP21 so far. China has yet to ratify but its lead climate envoy said the nation will likely to “far surpass” its 2020 emissions reduction goal. Yet we are far from blue skies. Indeed, “tireless efforts” lie ahead. Kickstart these efforts by getting on top of China’s policies in our summary “Key Policies for 2015-2016″.
February 2016: Monkey! Be good & disrupt: Here we go, swinging into the year of the Monkey. If you thought 2015 was “happening” for water and the environment, brace yourself, Monkey by nature brings with it more energy, innovations and disruptions than the surefooted goat. In a year of wild swings, check out our top 5 trends in water in 2016 for it is better to be in a position to disrupt than be disrupted. China’s prime minister, says “employment, income-levels and the environment are all high on our list of priorities”. The No. 1 Document released last week echoed this sentiment focusing on new development concepts and modern agriculture in beating a path to a “well-off society”. Holding the Three Red Lines on water was also specifically spelled out and the need for endangered wildlife conservation was mentioned for the first time. To show it’s serious, China will “kill a chicken to warn the monkey”. No more monkey business and harsher punishments mean that businesses in China will look for new ways to be green and prosper. We delve into this and also take a closer look at the imminent resource shuffle as China negotiates the winding road towards food security. With China’s farmlands, twice the size of France threatened by urbanisation and pollution, can China find more food in a changing climate? In search of more resources, Chinese companies are also being encouraged to ‘go out’. Some already have; China is the world’s #1 dam builder. So how do Chinese hydro companies fare? International Rivers’ Stephanie Jensen-Cormer shares their study which benchmarked the overseas performance of seven Chinese dam building companies. The resource rush is not specific to China and so it is best to have an international approach to water stewardship. Alliance for Water Stewardship’s Zhenzhen Xu, Ma Xi and Michael Spencer introduce the alliance’s first ever international standard and share lessons learned from Ecolab’s China pilot which pioneered its use in the chemical sector. Monkey heralds the start of China’s 13th Five Year Plan and in this march towards a “well-off society”, 5 key words for the year are ‘innovation’, ‘harmony’, ‘green’, ‘open’ and ‘share’. In this regard, we think China’s push for renewables could be bigger than you think but is this aggressive surge enough to address issues at the heart of China’s climate-energy nexus? Read on…But beware … big is not always better and it’s not just tech innovations that can disrupt; policy decisions are also disruptive across multiple industries. So in the year of the Monkey, avoid monkey-see, monkey-do: think disruptive but think comprehensive; be green and prosper. Happy Lunar New Year!
January 2016: No Rest for Climate & Water: The COP21 Paris Agreement is a clear signal that climate threats are serious. China Water Risk was on-ground in Paris; read our key takeaways on how time is running out to make the transition to a low carbon economy. Inaction only brings growing adaptation costs; but actions taken to keep global temperature rise “well below 2°C” raises financial risks across sectors – we cover these and more in “What Paris Means for China”. Water was recognised as the most vulnerable sector in the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs). Already USD19 billion of economic losses were incurred due to flooding in 2012. With these on the rise, we asked Deltares’ Wouter Jan Klerk to share cases from the Netherlands, China and Vietnam of how flood risk modelling can lower costs and ensure robust growth. The rise of water at COP was also evidenced by the Paris Pact for Water and Adaptation, Delta Coalition and the Megacities Coalition on Water to name a few. A good start but the lack of significant financing commitments to protect key mountain watersheds left us feeling somewhat blue. It comes down to money. We need lots of it to ensure climate resilience. Where will this money come from? Who should pay? Xu Nan from Central University of Finance & Economics takes a closer look. As the largest contributor to global emissions, China can play a key role – World Resources Institute’s Shouqing Zhu & President Andrew Steer share why it can lead the green finance revolution. The hard work has just started. Climate change doesn’t rest and nor should we. Water risks remain pervasive – expect all hands on deck in 2016. Be sure to catch our trends for the soon to be Year of the Money in our newsletter next month.
December 2015: Dreams Can Come True: Some say a dream just came true with the COP21 Paris climate deal over the weekend. US President Obama called the agreement “the best chance we have to save the one planet that we’ve got.” But are we moving fast enough? The latest China climate change report signals a bleak future for white Christmases, Winter Olympics and skiing holidays. We mull over these and why Game of Throne’s Jon Snow could be wrong – winter is not coming. More can be done for the climate – we will expand on this next month with on-ground takeaways from our team who were in Paris. We can do more … for the holidays, change it up with China Water Risk’s 8 gifts tips that are good for the planet. Also, why not shop wisely? We look at brands to buy over Christmas from fashion & electronics to F&B, on the back of the latest Corporate Information Transparency Index Report. When holidaying, choose hotels that are making a ‘great leap’ for water – International Tourism Partnership’s Fran Hughes expands. Meanwhile, Sophie le Clue of ADM Capital Foundation contemplates something fishy over Christmas. With depleting stocks of some species of fish now close to 60%, know which to pick or avoid. In October, two environmental groups became the first NGOs in China to win a lawsuit against polluters on behalf of the public – so dreams can come true! We want more of this and more data to reflect the real state of China’s environment. See why our wish can come true in next year’s 13th Five Year Plan. Happy Holidays from China Water Risk!
November 2015: Vanishing Ice – Asia Running Dry? Glaciers in the Hindu-Kush Himalayan region feed 10 major rivers that provide water to 17 countries in Asia. They are vanishing. Obsessed with their rapid decline CWR’s Tan and award-winning explorer Jeff Fuchs undertook a month-long quest to live upon two of the India Himalayas’ great stalwarts of ice – the Bara Shigri and the Lasermo Glacier. Tan and Fuchs recount their journey and their worry over the lack of cohesive action to tackle real threats. At the same time, glacial streams are being tapped across Asia by the bottled water industry. In Tibet alone a 52x growth is expected. But actions like these are at odds with President Xi’s wish for an ‘ecological civilisation’. We take a closer look at who’s bottling where. Should more be done to align climate change policies and water conservation? We know choosing the right power type matters for climate and water. More coal could lead to faster glacial melt and more megadams could lead to increased geopolitical tensions. But what small hydro – can it help? We talked to the Director General of the International Centre of Small Hydropower. Prof. Dr. Liu Heng makes it clear that small hydropower will play a role in China’s energy mix. Meanwhile, Fu, Zhong & Wang of WRI share key findings from the WRI-CWR study on managing water stress for coal & economic development in Ningxia. Future energy choices made today impact our water and food for tomorrow. On this front, we are pleased to see the recently announced collaboration between China’s NEA & IRENA – renewables can help reduce both water use & carbon emissions. We need to choose wisely – parts of Asia running dry may not be too far fetched – as Prof. Vivian Forbes at Wuhan University shares, the mouth of China’s Yellow River has changed many times over the centuries. Prosperity along the coast depends on what happens in the mountains. Rivers that start there are the lifelines of Asia – let’s make sure they flow eternal.
October 2015: Unwrapping Our Future: We lead a “packaged” lifestyle consuming plastics and paper at every turn. This month, we unwrap water risks in the packaging industry and mull over the challenges of being a responsible consumer – which brands? Plastics or paper? Bottled water or tap? Can we consume responsibly? Weibo was flushed with comments on piles of rubbish left by tourists during the Golden Week. Indeed our recent report “Bottled Water In China: Boom Or Bust?” warns of the rise of plastic walled cities. Already, China’s bottled water industry produces one plastic Jinmao Tower per year. If mainland China consumes bottled water like the average person in Hong Kong, we are looking at an annual addition of four plastic Jinmao Towers. Is that sustainable? What if the rest of Asia followed suit? We appear to be urgently in need of a bottled water revolution. Without proper collection and recycling, our oceans have already become littered with plastic waste. Doug Woodring, founder of Ocean Recovery Alliance says this is already costing us USD13billion per year and shares with us strategies for a plastics-free ocean. Plastics also litter our lands. The use of plastic mulch films to help save irrigation water has also unfortunately led to soil pollution as these plastic films lay buried in the soil. BASF’s Dirk Staerke expands on damage caused to farmlands in China and how biodegradable films can be a win-win solution for both water and soil. So what can we do? We can start by drinking responsibly. Know what is inside your bottled water – is it “fake water”? Is the labelling of bottled water regulated? What is each bottle’s environmental footprint? Those “in the know” may be less swayed by fancy packaging and more inclined to switch back to the tap. To be a responsible consumer is easier said than done. But should consumption be at all ‘cost’ – be it to our waters, land, air and glaciers? It doesn’t have to be. We are not going to stop consuming but we can change how we do it.
September 2015: Water-nomics & Trade-offs: This year’s World Water Week was all about water & development. This month we summarise our key takeaways from Stockholm on water & the SDGs to the need for more “unsiloing” action and delve into some points covered in the newly released HSBC’s “No Water, More Trade-off: managing growth with limited water”. We cover China water-nomics whilst HSBC’s Wai-Shin Chan expands on trade-offs and warns that cotton & coal could be heading for a clash in the North China Plain given China’s need to balance water, food and energy security. With tough trade-offs in the horizon, we look at the fashion industry’s exposure outside of cotton and find that a large portion (32% – 75%) of global hides, wool, chemical fibres and silk are either produced in or passed through China via imports. At these levels, risks are a plenty. Should brands move manufacturing out of China or should they stay and help factories meet the new Water Ten Plan? Onwards to more action: start by incorporating the environment into business – Flavia Micilotta expands on the Foreign Trade Association’s latest environmental performance initiative. The fashion industry’s actions in water was also covered by the GLASA Awards. China Water Risk, although nominated as a finalist for the award did not win, but we came away with some takeaways from the award ceremony. Heartfelt congratulations to the winner, Pratibha Syntex!
August 2015: Too Much Stuff, Too Little Water: Many of us lead a throw-away, fast-moving lifestyle from fast food to fast fashion at cheap prices. Convenience is prioritised: we can even now shop from our homes. Aside from making more waste, we are also using stuff faster than the rate it can be supplied, be it naturally grown, man-made or recycled, threatening the sustainability of not just our planet but businesses. This month we reviewed 10 top fashion brands from fast fashion to luxury groups – how do they fare in sustainability? Two of them H&M & Kering have themselves identified upstream exposure to raw material risks but are yet to “walk the talk”. Dawn McGregor mulls over how serious they are. China is a big market for luxury brands but given the rise of the ‘new Chinese consumer’ for more green products, corporates may need to change their strategy say Hart, Zhong et al. from Renmin University in their new study. Elsewhere in Hong Kong, despite mounting plastic waste and lack of landfill space, Civic Exchange’s Mandy Lao expands on why convenience still drives Hong Kong’s thirst for bottled water. Can we have less waste and more food? Feng Hu contemplates how food waste from farm to fork in China can help meet future food demand – there maybe opportunities in logistics and storage as China moves to save grains in order to save water & energy with its new plans. Other plans to save water are afoot from agriculture to measures to address fake/tampered data; waste is also not to be tolerated with VAT on waste & wastewater. A glance at this month’s tapping in column shows China in a water-savings mode. It may be prudent for companies making stuff to follow suit. They can start by disclosing on water, as CDP’s Morgan Gillespy says their report found potentially inadequate water risk assessments by Chinese companies. With the ‘National Mid-to-Long Term Plan for Water Demand & Supply’ passing internal review since our last newsletter, business need to pay more attention to how much water they use as future allocation of water may differ. Can we still make/use so much stuff? Join us in Stockholm to discuss – “Rethinking Water for Growth: Balancing trade, resource allocation & economy”.
July 2015: Multi-front Actions on the War on Pollution: The State of Environmental Report in 2014 was officially “average” but a closer look reveals groundwater quality has worsened four years running and rivers in the Southwest are showing signs of deterioration for the first time. Can the war on pollution be effective when polluters are tampering with monitoring? There is hope … 2015 should mark the turning point with the new environmental protection law in force. Recent action include higher violation fines, more litigation and a continuing anti-corruption crackdown (see “Tapping In” column). Violations resulting in penalties and stop production orders have already doubled between 2011-2014 and corruption controversies are expected to double in 2015 – MSCI’s Chew & Wang further expand on their findings. With a multi-front war on pollution, it is important not to ignore the associated risks – already Ceres’ Freyman is saying that water – or the lack of it, is becoming a bigger financial issue for investors. Aside from fighting to lower carbon emissions, edicts and polices this month have also pushed safe drinking water to reach 60 million more Chinese and circular economy pilots in industry parks. We therefore have Li Ling share some cost effective rural drinking water solutions while WaterHubs’ Saraf tells us how urban slums can go circular with modular water & sanitation infrastructure and Veolia’s Cambadelis tackles the water-energy nexus by turning wastewater into energy in Urumqi. Another industry that needs to go circular due to limited water resources is the apparel sector. We are glad to see the industry recognising this in the Global Leadership Awards in Sustainable Apparel (GLASA) by focusing on water in 2015. We are also pleased to announce that we have been nominated and selected as a finalist for the 2015 GLASA Awards which will take place in Stockholm, to coincide with World Water Week where we will co-convene a seminar with HSBC on “Rethinking Water for Growth: Balancing trade, resource allocation & economy” (see events). See you in Stockholm!
June 2015: Made in China 2025: Are you on the list? China is firing on all fronts: One Road, One Belt; Water Ten Plan; Circular Economy Promotion Plan and now the Made in China 2025 Action Plan. Awash with ‘Future China’ buzzwords, each of these have identified target industries. This month we take a look at which industries have made it to which lists. The list you are on matters: industries identified in the Made in China 2025 Action Plan differ from those in the Circular Economy Promotion Plan. Fashion didn’t make it to the Made in China 2025 list but textiles is a sector identified to go circular. Since it is also the most targeted sector in the Water Ten Plan, we took a deeper dive into what this means for this industry and found that there are 8 reasons why it’s time to leap or fall. With only two to three years to comply, the apparel sector needs to move fast. There are initiatives & solutions that can help. The Better Mill Initiative has proven business cases in water savings, Solidaridad’s Zhao Lin expands. Another is NRDC’s Clean by Design, which as Linda Greer shares had stellar results in Chinese textile mills. Yet despite lots of action on ground and additional regulatory risks, engagement by global brands still lags. Global fashion could not only be blindsided by China’s Water Ten but new Future China policies as well. Ultimately, China wants fashion to go circular so we tapped Redress CEO, Christina Dean for insights into how design can generate less waste and new revenue streams. But it is more than buzzwords – radical changes in business practices and consumer habits are needed to go circular. Think about it – are you ready to wear, let alone pay more for recycled clothes? In reality, China policymakers may have made that choice for you now.
May 2015: Fast & Furious Water Ten: So the highly anticipated ‘Water Pollution Prevention & Control Action Plan’ or ‘Water Ten’ is finally out. It is more comprehensive and tougher than expected with tight compliance deadlines for some regions and industries. The plan’s actions are fast & furious and indicate a tough ‘comply or else’ stance by the State Council. Multiple related policies & new industrial standards released hot on the heels of the plan (see “Tapping In” column) also point to a fast & furious shift to a “New Norm”. Why? Because groundwater is under pressure in the North and the public are worried about pollution in their drinking water sources. But is the new plan enough? Are the targets too soft or do they reflect the complexity of tackling water pollution? With the latest official report showing continued deterioration of groundwater quality, focus is expected to turn to water pollution from agriculture and coal mining. We take a look at key takeaways from Shanghai’s Global Agriculture Sustainability Forum in relation to the new plan – will it revamp Chinese agriculture? We also examine water in coal and find that despite multiple policies on the matter, the road ahead is still murky with inconsistencies in data and targets. Ultimately, if China can protect water sources and deliver safe drinking tap water, will the bottled water market continue to thrive? It was bottled water galore at the World Water Forum in Korea last month. Check out our takeaways from this tri-annual forum and why country representatives attending should take a page from the Water Ten – it’s fast, it’s furious – be prepared.
April 2015: Caution Tough Choices Ahead: This month we tackle tough choices ahead in power expansion. There are no one-size-fits all solutions for China in the water-energy-climate nexus. Water supply solutions such as desalination and water diversion are power intensive while climate solutions like carbon capture and storage require more water. At the same time, China is still hungry for power but has limited water resources. Can China manage this? Many Chinese experts like Professor Xie Kechang, Vice President of the Chinese Academy of Engineering believe that China is not yet ready to move away from coal. Indeed, State Council’s 4.2 billion tonne coal consumption cap indicates an additional consumption of +690 million tonnes by 2020. More coal means more carbon emissions and accelerated glacier melt but more hydropower could mean tapping of China’s transboundary rivers to the ire of it’s downstream neighbours. Meanwhile, China’s inland nuclear power expansion plans in densely populated river basins face scrutiny over water contamination fears. Non-reliant water power such as wind and solar could provide relief but not all solar tech is water-friendly. Moreover, aggressive wind power expansion could intensify little talked about hidden water risks in rare earth mining. We explore all the above and more in our newly published report “TOWARDS A WATER & ENERGY SECURE CHINA – Tough choices ahead in power expansion with limited water resources”. Check out some key insights from the report in the articles below.
March 2015: Pollution in Mind: We have pollution in mind whilst we wait for the release of the Water Pollution Prevention and Control Action Plan’ fondly known as the ‘Water Ten’. Indeed it is difficult to stray from it with “Under the Dome” – pollution is on everyone’s mind in China. At the last session of the National People’s Congress, Premier Li Keqiang declared “War on pollution”. This year he said, “environmental pollution is a blight on people’s quality of life and a trouble that weighs on their hearts”. Since the Water Ten is yet to be released, we take a look at what to expect in “What’s the Plan?”2015 is also a big year for safe drinking water with the government promising to deliver access to clean water for 298 million rural Chinese by the end of this year. However, some experts believe that ‘completely solving’ rural drinking water is a ‘mission impossible’. We take a closer look at the status of rural water and China’s water sources. Why are they still under threat and suffering from pollution. Who is responsible? If you have the stomach, check out our comprehensive view on the true status of China’s urban and rural drinking water in “China’s Long March To Safe Drinking Water”, a report by China Water Risk and chinadialogue. The good news is that there are solutions. Deltares’ Dr. Marsman share remediation strategies to tackle large-scale groundwater & soil pollution. Whilst forecasting pollution impact is important, quotas on wastewater discharge means companies should make the most of wastewater and award-winning Dr. Matthew Silver and William Dean from Cambrian Technology expand on how to take waste out of wastewater. Despite the pollution there are many who remain positive. Professor Wang Canfa, from Beijing’s University of Political Science and Law, tells us that China’s amended environmental protection law marks a new era in environmental legislation. The new law came into effect this year and we hope that China makes good use of it to punish polluters and that justice is here at last for the environment.
February 2015: Surefooted Goat or Sacrificial Lamb? The regulatory landscape in China has changed due to multiple polices set & changes in the law in previous years. Many come into full effect this year… so in the coming Year of the Goat, check out our 5 Trends for 2015 for it is better to be the surefooted goat than the sacrificial lamb. If you have not been following these policy shifts, we have summarised 8 game-changing policy paths as Beijing herds the nation away from ‘economy vs. environment’ towards ‘economy & environment’. Water security is paramount. President Xi said “our environment has reached or is reaching the upper limit of its carrying capacity” at the year-end Central Economic Work Conference. It is all about water allocation and controlling water use & pollution. In short, staying within the ‘Three Red Lines’. So who gets water first? Which industries will be prioritised? Or will China’s energy bases drain the Yellow River? The Deputy Director of the Center for Water Resources Research at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Prof. Jia Shaofeng, shares his views on how water demand by the energy sector can be met. To tackle pollution, ongoing fine-tuning of industrial standards is afoot, with government encouraging centralised or collective industrial wastewater treatment to discourage illegal discharge. However, NGOs are concerned that centralised treatment brings about centralised pollution as many treatment facilities are sub-standard. Could brands become more exposed? Could wastewater treatment plants face fines? Check out our interview with IPE’s Ma Yingying on the matter. Be warned, risks are shifting beyond the factory wall. New ways of doing ‘old things’ are also being tested. China has been experimenting with market mechanisms to hold the ‘Red Lines’. We take a closer look at these new water trading market as they could mean you might not be able to afford water in the future. Don’t be blindsided by these ‘new market tools’. How serious is Beijing? In the last 30 years, we have ‘lost’ 8,000sqkm of glaciers in the Qinghai Tibetan-Plateau. This is equivalent to the land area of eight Hong Kongs. More coal could mean these glaciers melt faster; more hydro could add to regional geopolitical tension. International Rivers’ China Program Director, Grace Mang says it’s premature to celebrate China’s low carbon promise and urges a ‘river conservation scenario’ where we don’t have to sacrifice Asia’rivers for power. The situation is sobering and critical. It’s all interlinked and it comes down to water. It is time to seriously tend to these matters in the Year of the Goat… Happy Lunar New Year!
January 2015: Climate Risks: Ready or Not: A new year a new start? Unseasonal weather with flooding from the worst monsoon in three decades in Malaysia to abnormally mild weather in Europe, begs the question are we ready for increasingly frequent climate events? With the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change meeting or “COP 21” looming at the end of this year, we summarised our key takeaways from the last four climate conferences we attended from Hong Kong to Peru. We also looked at funding gaps in flood control investments in China and how China expects to finance rainy days ahead. Whilst governments are working towards climate resilience, what about corporates? Read why more action (globally & in China) is needed to match the risk whilst Deloitte Consulting’s Will Sarni expands on how businesses can secure the water to fuel growth as simply paying more for it will not work in the future. Moreover, Columbia Water Center’s Paulina Concha explains the Center’s climate forecasting pilot with PepsiCo to mitigate supply chain risks in the company’s Frito Lay business. With interlinked risks around the water-energy nexus, we need to be sure solutions are holistically beneficial. Analysis by WRI shows that desalination alone cannot quench China’s thirst and the team explains why investments in less power hungry solutions should be prioritized.
December Newsletter: How to Spend Water: This year we believe Christmas has come early. It is not just Xi’s carbon emissions promise but the Chinese government has adopted a “zero tolerance” stance towards pollution violations increasing regulatory risk. At the same time it has also introduced stimulus plans to encourage investment to clean water. This “carrot & stick” approach is meant “to force the economy to transform and upgrade”. The timing could not be better. Xylem’s 2014 Value of Water Index survey published in December shows that 99% of urban consumers says it’s important for the government to take urgent action to solve water. This month we have views from the President of Xylem China, give our thoughts on investing in Chinese waters and run through why it doesn’t pay to be naughty in 2015. Speaking of being naughty, are we inadvertently spending on “dirty water” by buying cheap clothes? We talked to fashion bloggers, editors of lifestyle magazines & other aspiring fashionistas to get their views. With the holidays fast approaching, think how you are spending on water and make it good investment … Happy Holidays!
November Newsletter: Know Your Water Rights: Ensuring water security is paramount; an important part of this is down to allocation. Who gets water and how much? To get a grip on this, we sat down with Professor Jia Shaofeng, Deputy Director of the Centre for Water Resources Research at the Chinese Academy of Sciences. He shares his views on water rights in China – who owns them? are they “traded” between provinces/ between industry & agriculture? what would a market trading system look like? We also have commentary from European & Chinese water policy experts Martin Griffiths & Cheng Dongsheng on the challenges ahead in reforming China’s water permitting system. If you don’t know anything about this, check out our overview on how to get water in China and risks associated given these impending reforms. It not just rights that are “traded” across provinces, but virtual water flows through the trading of goods. A study of virtual water flows embedded in products across 30 sectors and 30 provinces reveals that Beijing, Shanghai & Tianjin maybe contributing to China’s water depletion. Study authors Professor Klaus Hubacek & Dr. Kuishuang Feng explain how a provincial ecosystem quality tax could be the way forward. A good governance framework is also key, especially for sharing limited water resources within a region. Independent consultant Kris Hartley on a new proposed governance framework for water sharing between Guangdong & Hong Kong. With rights come laws. Professor Patricia Wouters, Founding Director of the China International Water Law Programme at Xiamen University shares her expert views on the region’s water treaties. Can water laws & rights help keep the peace on Asia’s transboundary waters? Given President Xi Jinping’s recent commitment to swap out of fossil fuels in favour of cleaner energy sources such as hydropower, water rights & laws are increasingly topical… so know your rights.
October Newsletter: Water first, then energy: China’s energy demands are great and growing, but water comes first. As Li Junfeng, Director General of China’s National Center of Climate Change Strategy Research says, unlike oil, China cannot import water to develop the economy and so water will determine future energy mix. Read our in-depth interview with him on why water security takes priority over energy security. Also check out our key takeaways on ‘Water & Energy’ at the World Water Week in Stockholm last month. With governments & companies grappling to balance energy development with limited water, can countries unlock their energy reserves & manage their water resources? WRI’s Adam Maddocks & Paul Reig share three shale tales from China, Argentina & the UK whilst Tommy Patterson from Kreab Gavin Anderson says proceed with caution regarding desalination despite rapid growth. It’s apparent we need innovation across all sectors in order to meet growing demands. An example of this is the new Water Benefit Standard – Brendan Smith from the the Gold Standard Foundation explains how this finance-based framework helps drive financing into water projects. Another innovation is the KAF bio-sand filter – Patrick Cox & Fan Chen of Geo-Life Inc. walks us through how this filters out arsenic contamination in water.
September Newsletter: Dirty Thirsty Fashion: This month, we focus on fashion off the back of the recent CLSA U® report “Dirty Thirsty Fashion: Blindsided by China’s water wars”. The report warns that polices set to ensure water security in China could pose an”existential threat” to the US$1.7 trillion global fashion industry. We review why fashion may be in the crossfire. We are not the only ones concerned. Hu Kehua, of the China National Textile & Apparel Council tells us how OEMs are ‘stuck in the middle’ as they try to meet the more stringent water standards whilst keeping down costs to meet brand demand. Meanwhile, there is on-ground help and Dr Anthony Ma introduces the new HSBC Industrial Water Management Programme led by the Hong Kong Productivity Council. With almost 50% of the world’s cotton grown in India and China, the two most water stressed countries in the world, the future of cotton is also a question. Liza Lort-Phillips from CottonConnect shares the key headlines from their report titled ”More Crop Per Drop” released earlier this month, whilst Trucost’s Jacqueline Jackson takes a look at fashion’s broader impact on the environment. This includes takeaways from the 2014 Copenhagen Fashion Summit & GLASA awards where calls for change in the way fashion uses natural resources were loud and clear. Given the current regulatory changes in China, perhaps it is time for both brands and investors take a closer look. Shifting the textile sector from a linear economy to a circular economy is not a ‘nice-to-have’ corporate water stewardship strategy, it’s a ‘must-have’ in China’s book. Can brands do more? We take a look to see how their supply chain practices rank in China. Find out who’s ahead and who’s lagging because in fashion, one day you are in, and the next, you are out.
August Newsletter: Power Play: Water makes a power play this month as China tightens policies and regulations that affect the coal & coal-related industries. We explore how water drives coal reform as State Council moves to protect its No. 1 fuel source against water scarcity. For better air and less smog, China is also moving to become less reliant on coal-fired power generation which sees its share of energy mix fall to 43% by 2050 in favour of more hydro, nuclear, gas, wind & solar. All good for air and climate change but not necessarily good for water or neighbouring countries. We look into the inevitable rise of geopolitical tension with the planned hydropower expansion of over 120GW between 2015-2050 on transboundary rivers. Can we avoid sparking hydro wars? Wen Bo, policy advisor for the National Geographic Society, provides a review on China’s inland nuclear power expansion in water stressed regions whilst Monika Freyman from Ceres’ water programme shares lessons learnt from the US shale gas boom. However, as China plans to add 1.8TW between 2015 and 2050, changing the energy mix is not enough, water savings (be it through energy savings or direct savings) are also necessary. Robert Brears, associate fellow at the Free University of Berlin shares price & non-price strategies available to urban water managers in China and Carlos Vazquez, project manager of “Mas Agua Para Todos” tells us how Cuba is working to alleviate water scarcity to help sustain its people & economy. It’s not just China that is concerned, “water & power” is the theme of the upcoming World Water Week in Stockholm where China Water Risk will be co-convening a seminar on coal-fired power & water as well as delivering a keynote at the Stockholm Water Prize Seminar.Water is important to power. Balancing fuel mix and water scarcity in China does not just ensure its water & energy security but regional stability. It’s time for Asia to get involved in this power play. With shared glacial watersheds in the Himalayas shrinking, there is much more at stake here than just power and transboundary water disputes.
July Newsletter: The Real State of Pollution: China has been making public previously unpublished pollution data. This is a step in the right direction but with 7,700 tonnes of lead in China’s rivers carried to the sea unaccounted for, we can’t help but wonder what is real? We take a closer look at this and other discrepancies in heavy metals discharge carried by China’s rivers into its coastal waters. Is the real state of environment worse than we thought? Environmental toxicologist Dr. Tan Qiaoguo from Xiamen University shares his views on historic trends in heavy metal pollution in China’s coastal waters, whilst we review MEP’s 2013 State of Environment Report and find mixed news.Dirty water creates new markets … so what about pollution solutions? Incidents like Lanzhou’s benzene scare could be avoided if leaky water pipes, which allowed contaminants to seep through were fixed . We talk to Mark Nicol from Echologics on how acoustic technologies can non-invasively detect underground leaks as well as save water. Also, check out our key takeaways from China’s largest international water show, Aquatech China and see what local & foreign industrial leaders have to say in Shanghai during the Industrial Leaders Forum. Is the domestic water market maturing? Are there opportunities for foreign players? Tom Freyberg, Chief Editor at Water & Wastewater International (WWi) expands on China’s growing membrane technology market and whether it’s boom or bust for international manufacturers.
June Newsletter: Avoiding Military Conflict: Recently, a US military board reclassified climate change & water risk from a “threat multiplier” to a “catalyst for instability & conflict”. This month we review the impact of water risks on national security and other conflict pinch points such as food and energy security in an increasingly hot and water scarce world. Already Oxfam is seeing the impact on small farmers who support 1.5–2 billion people with food and fear we will end up “Hot & Hungry”. Oxfam’s Magrath & Morris-Iveson share with us how local disaster response plans deployed by Oxfam can help ease exposure to such risks. Energy security is also an issue. Beijing’s new low carbon development plan in a bid towards cleaner air means more clean energy. Hydropower seems an obvious choice but with over 46,000 dams, Chinese NGOs are worried that China’s rivers are already at maximum dam capacity. The Woodrow Wilson Center’s Dong & Turner say its time to rethink China’s dam rush. Moreover,China’s drive in hydropower has meant damming in seismic zones; Chinadialogue’s Yunnan Chen expands on the need for urgent review. Natural disasters such as floods & earthquakes strain military resources, ultimately weakening national baseline readiness. An effective Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) system, can go some way to mitigating this by preventing the construction of environmentally unsound projects. Unfortunately, fraudulent & substandard EIA reporting persist in China. Green Stone Environmental Action Network’s Li and Wang share their findings from the ground in Jiangsu province whilst we review the EIA process. Ensuring water security is not China’s issue alone. Recently, the Chinese Academy of Science reported that glaciers in the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau have shrunk by 15% in the last three decades. This is China’s largest surface freshwater reserve; it provides water to 250 million people in China and up to 500 million in South Asia. China’s pursuit of clean energy security and climate change may accelerate geopolitical risk. In short, water matters to national security. Surely it’s time to plan for these black swan risks to avoid military conflict.
May Newsletter: Wishful Thinking: We want responsible and efficient use of water in China. We think our “wish” has a chance of coming true. It was not so long ago that naming a philanthropic water initiative “China Water Risk” was considered risky branding. Now everyone is talking about “sensitive issues”. Even statistics on soil pollution previously classified as “state secret” have finally been made public. Yes, the UGH factor we alluded to in last month’s newsletter on heavy metals & agriculture is now official – almost a fifth of China’s arable land is contaminated. Yet, there are reasons to remain optimistic; Debra Tan shares with us five reasons while Gao Shengda, Secretary of the China Environmental Remediation Association, tells us why cleaning up dirty soil is not an easy task. Given the public spotlight on pollution, reputational risk is at an all-time high. Edelman’s Ashley Hegland explains why there may be no choice but to tackle water issues head on while H&M shares the challenges they face in implementing water stewardship initiatives one year on. Transparency appears to be the weapon of choice of local officials, who are using Weibo/WeChat to announce the suspension of drinking water supply to China’s largest chicken farmer giving consumers access to every step of its supply chain via their smartphones. But water woes are not China’s alone. They have geopolitical implications that could destabilise Asia’s economy. Check out our key takeaways from AIDF’s Asia Water Security Summit and read why Lisa Genasci, CEO of ADM Capital Foundation, thinks Asia needs to step up with innovative ideas in philanthropy to tackle issues that could possibly derail the region.
April Newsletter: Food Safety & Security: A couple of reports on global food security were published last month including HSBC’s “No Water, No Food”. The author, Wai-Shin Chan shares with us how the pursuit of food safety and food security in China could lead to increased food imports. 87% of the Chinese public is now deeply concerned about food safety. This is clear from award-winning photographer Lu Guang’s documentary works. Recently, his heart-rending & insightful photographs left the audience in shocked silence at the Water Philanthropy Forum. See the tangible links between industrial pollution & sensitive social issues through his powerful images as he talks us through China’s Crying Lands.Need more stats on pollution & water scarcity? Get the latest update in our review on the state of China’s agriculture. Concerned about cadmium, mercury and lead? We also reviewed China’s farmland & crop exposure to heavy metal discharge. Worried about your rice? Check out “8 Things You Should Know About Rice & water. Ensuring food security amidst rising food demand is not just China’s problem. WRI’s Francis Gassert tells us why tension between global crop production and available water supply is poised to intensify.
March Newsletter: Fundamental Change: The ‘enemy’ has been identified: China has declared “war on pollution”. We take a closer look this month into the key ingredients required to wage a successful war against water pollution. Are there key areas of focus? What are the current stratagems & offensives? Is MEP reform from “mountaintop to the ocean” crucial for success? What are the policies implemented over the past year and what other fundamental changes need to take place? With almost 87% of the public concerned over food safety and drinking water, all eyes are on heavy metal pollution from industry as excessive discharge has led to soil contamination and fears over cadmium & chromium rice. We discuss at length with Professor Ma Zhong, Dean of the School of Environment at Renmin University fundamental issues in industrial water and how current standards and pricing are set so that it is cheaper to pollute than to clean up. Don’t know anything about wastewater in China, start by checking out our 8 facts on wastewater. The situation is urgent – current water pollution has to be dealt with as wastewater will only rise with increasing urbanisation. Can China’s cities meet this rising demand for water? Shanghai Green Initiatives Nitin Dani and Georgina Glanfield share their thoughts on how the public can play a role.
February Newsletter: Game Changers: Will the galloping green horse derail us or will it race ahead in unchartered waters? With environmental risk cited as one of the top risks most likely to derail economic growth in China, check out our top 5 game changers in the watersphere for the year of the Green Horse. As attention turns towards saving water in the wake of rising tariffs, IFC walks us through financing innovations in industrial water efficiency. Regulatory changes which recognise the need to “un-silo” and manage water across industries are also afoot. With industries with high heavy metal discharge singled out, we take a closer look at the leather industry – is it time to look at new ways of doing old things? Ex-banker Martin Haigh thinks so and shares with us how he is betting on business unusual. As government policies turn toward shaping “Business Unusual” thinking, corporate water risk strategies and water risk valuation have become increasingly important. BASF’s Anthony Clymo shares why it is important for the group to have a corporate water strategy whilst WRI’s Paul Reig & Tien Shiao lament inconsistencies in water risk valuation tools that could hinder setting effective mitigation strategies. Here’s to a prosperous horse that hopefully keeps racing on track …. Happy lunar new year!
January Newsletter: Rethinking water: A good “water” start for 2014 with the NDRC proposing tiered tariff schemes to rein in top users of water in Chinese cities. With many criticizing that this will not make a difference, we take a closer look at price points & switchpoints between tiers. Pricing water correctly is essential in over-hauling water infrastructure and encouraging innovation. Will Sarni, Director and Practice Leader of Enterprise Water Strategy at Deloittes walks us through existing barriers to water innovation and what it takes to ‘rethink water’ in the face of rising scarcity. Another signal that it’s time to ‘rethink water’ is the Ministry of Water Resources announcement that regional water availability will dictate future coal plans. As part of CLSA’s ESG in China Report, Debra Tan shared her views with Charles Yonts, Head of Sustainable Research on why the Chinese government policy on pricing, enforcement, food & energy should be linked due to limited water resources. See why it’s time to ‘move out of silos’ in the full republished interview below. 2014 also brings about the renewal of the Dongjiang Water Supply Agreement between Hong Kong and Guangdong. In the face of rising water prices, is it time for Hong Kong to ‘rethink water’? Check out how Hong Kong’s water strategy stacks up against Singapore’s in Civic Exchange’s Su Liu’s Tale of Two Cities. It seems that 37 other countries also face national & economic security threats due to extremely high baseline water stress levels – check out who these are in Aqueduct’s new Global Water Stressed Rankings. Finally… have you made your New Year’s resolutions yet? Here’s one to consider … In 2013, for the entire year, Dr. Christina Dean, CEO of Redress, wore only secondhand clothes. See how much energy & water she saved and how you too can ‘rethink water’ and save the world by “redressing” your wardrobe. Happy New Year!
December Newsletter: Naughty or Nice: It’s time to be merry and to tally up who’s naughty or nice. This month, we wish for the all-time classic ‘peace on earth & goodwill to men’. But is this too much to ask for? A recent Coutts survey showed that in 2012, HK & China were rather charitable with large gifts, giving US$877mn & US$1.2bn respectively in donations above US$1mn. Here’s the catch: zero dollars of grants of this size (corporate or otherwise), were given to the environment. Are we doing enough? We examine the corporate conscience whilst Quek from Greenpeace says Shenhua Energy can do more in response to water grab allegations. Shopping for gifts is unavoidable at this time of year but with heavy metals dumped into China’s lakes from manufacturing, should we think twice before buying more electronic gadgets? Ditto for fashion. Check out the sinners and winners below. What’s ‘nice’ is Nike’s Materials Sustainability Index incorporated into the Sustainable Apparel Coalition’s (SAC) Higg Index. Now there is no excuse for brands not chose the right materials in making our clothes. SAC’s Sousa & Young walks us through the process. As pollution focus turnsto dye houses, to dye or not to dye becomes the question and Birla Cellulose talks us through dyeing techniques that are water friendly. With movement in water tariffs and pollution enforcement across ministries from Public Security to Finance (see ‘Tapping In’ column), it looks like corporate leadership better be good next year! If you have been good, don’t forget to apply for the UNDP backed 2014 Deloitte China Sustainability Awards with an added theme of water stewardship and if you want to do good/have been doing good, check out Royal Bank of Canada’s community action & leadership grants under the RBC Blue Water Project. Deadlines are looming so apply now! So are we doing enough? We could always do more. Be good … Happy holidays!
November Newsletter: From the Ground: We thought we would cover issues from the ground having just attended the Beijing Forum, an international forum of academics, scientists and experts. The forum supported by of the Chinese Ministry of Education and the Beijing municipal government, had multiple panels on the environment this year. The key message: more “institutional reform”. Debra Tan expands on whether this translates to more legislation & power to the Ministry of Environmental Protection and on “areas of confusion” in media and litigation that hamper the path to more enforcement. At the forum, China Water Risk talks about how water is shaping food & energy choices within the broader theme of “40 Years of Environmental Protection in China & the World”. Solutions for agriculture & energy are critical. Syngenta’s Dr. Sandhikar, tells us how to achieve big gains in water savings from small farms in India where there has been an explosion of small farmers and over-exploitation of groundwater. However, some solutions for energy whilst good for air, may be bad for water: WRI discusses why China’s latest scheme to cut air pollution by replacing coal with synthetically derived gas could exacerbate water stress. Another area of concern raised at the forum is groundwater over-exploitation. Since we have already discussed this extensively in previous editions, we turn to subsidence, an unavoidable side-effect of excessive groundwater depletion. We review the extent of subsidence in China and what sinking lands mean for agriculture and infrastructure. Can this be solved? With 50 cities in China at risk of subsidence, what about real estate risk? Cracks in the ground are already showing up in Shanghai and other cities; will this only rise with greater urbanisation? It is clear that cleaning up pollution and putting in measures to mitigate subsidence risk will only raise the costs of doing business. All eyes are on the 3rd plenary session next week where the amendments to the environmental protection law, which propose to remove caps on pollution penalties and introduce daily fines, are expected to pass. With this in mind, Xin and Brown from SynTao expand on why we should take a closer look at the mishandling of toxic waste discharged by companies as they could well turn into toxic assets.
October Newsletter: Multi-level Cooperation: The focus of last month’s World Water Week was on cooperation & partnerships. With that in mind, this month we took a look at “water cooperation” at a corporate level, within a sector and across international borders. Are corporates & governments doing enough? Despite recognition of the material impact of water risks in certain sectors, there is no universally agreed definition of water stewardship, leaving companies unsure of what it is and what to do. Whilst WWF’s Stuart Orr walks us through why companies should manage multi-faceted water risks, Fran Hughes of the International Tourism Partnership discusses the results of a recent study conducted by SIWI on the risks exposure of hotels located in Shanghai, Beijing, UAE & India and argues why water management strategies within the hotel industry must move beyond water use. Basically, companies can do much more. It seems investors would benefit too: the newly launched ‘Global Compact 100′, a stock index of companies committed to the 10 principles of the UN Global Compact beat the FTSE All World benchmark by over 25%. A fluke? PwC Partner, Gayle Donohue discusses research which shows that investors value fuller disclosure. Perhaps it’s time to consider Integrated Reporting… Jonathan Labrey of the International Integrated Reporting Council gives us the lowdown. On to government … MEP admitted that the “current water situation is still grim” and four provinces set aside RMB22 billion to clean up their rivers and lakes. Ningxia and Anhui are launching pilot initiatives, whilst Beijing continues to lead the way with a detailed groundwater prevention plan. Not surprising as 40% of the public surveyed now view water pollution as a “very big problem” compared to 33% in 2012. Li Keqiang himself “launched” the approval of the Draft Urban Drainage & Sewage Treatment Regulations. Given the flurry of activity within China, are China’s neighbours also focused on water? With over 70% of water sourced from mainland China, Dr Frederick Lee of Hong Kong University argues that it is time HK resets its water agenda & goals through proper water pricing, whilst Professor Wouters, Director of the UNESCO Centre for Water Law & the China International Water Law Centre of Xiamen University gives us her views on China’s ‘soft path’ to transboundary water. Looks like more cooperation is required all around, please!
September Newsletter: Mismatch? Time to focus on water: This month we look at the State Council’s new plan to grow the Energy Savings & Environmental Protection industry to RMB4.5 trillion by 2015. Mismatch #1: Many question whether the RMB4.5 trillion carrot has come with a big enough stick. If successful, the size of this Strategic Emerging Industry (SEI) is greater than the GDP of Switzerland but monitoring & enforcement, necessary to drive the industry, is less obvious. HSBC’s Climate Change Strategist Wai-Shin Chan thinks there are clear signals that monitoring & enforcement are “coming soon”. It certainly seems that way with Beijing leading the way, announcing plans for water a few days later calling for wider broadcasting of those named & shamed by the MEP as well as more public reporting through telephone hotlines & weibo. Mismatch #2: Water & Energy policy. With over half of China’s planned coal-fired plant expansion in water scarce regions, the World Resources Institute discusses how China must balance energy & water security. It is clear that water & energy people need to talk more – check out our three takeaways from the US-China water-energy roundtables hosted by the Wilson Center & Greenovation Hub in Beijing. At least the conversation has started. China is not alone; the world is also focused on water risk & management. At World Water Week (last week), the theme was “Water Cooperation-Building Partnerships”. Sustainalytics’ Loic Dujardin tells us why it’s time for companies to cooperate with communities. Bloomberg thinks so too: Francis Liu & Nathaniel Bullard share their views on why water data is crucial in the face of an increasingly water-insecure future. Just a quick glance at this month’s water headlines in China makes a good case to focus on water: Dead fish from excess ammonia, reports of arsenic contamination, ecosystem collapse, extreme weather; these all provide impetus to the new RMB4.5 trillion industry plus ample opportunities for corporates to work with communities suffering from toxic pollution, floods & droughts.
August Newsletter: Weather Matters: Apparently we are in for a 20-30 cycle of more rain in northern China thanks to an oceanic cycle shift in the Pacific ocean from a warm to cool phase. This month we explore the implications of this shift on agriculture in ‘Food, Water & Weather Heading North’. Unfortunately, a wetter North comes with a drier South. Already, we are seeing the impact of this high up in the Himalayas where award-wining explorer Jeff Fuchs recounts ‘tales of water’ from the nomads who believe that “the sky is confused” and “the mountains are dying”. But does less water in the South mean that hydro could face tough weather ahead? Or should we turn to cloud seeding for relief? Debra Tan mulls the viability of hydro whilst Sophie le Clue expands on transboundary issues tied to cloud seeding. In the meantime, the debate about coal and water continues. ‘China Coal-Fired Economy Dying of Thirst as Mines Lack Water’ was Bloomberg’s Top 10 most read article of the day. We believe that spending on water-in-mining will help coal-miners quench the thirst but turning coal to liquid fuel is another story… Greenpeace’s Calvin Quek explains why Shenhua’s coal-to-liquids project in Inner Mongolia could be facing significant financial and environmental headwinds given rising water risks.
July Newsletter: Small Steps, Many Directions: This month, it appears that things are rolling for anti-pollution. China’s economy slowing down but they are stepping up their game in water pollution on all fronts – transparency, pledges, enforcement, policy & tariffs. Check out our review of the current crackdown on groundwater – will it work? Separately, NGOs like IPE and the Green Choice Alliance are also taking a crack at investors for investing in cement companies with pollution violations. The only fly in the ointment is the proposed amendment to the environmental law released on 25 June 2013. We take a look to see if this will indeed set China back 40 years or whether it will be shelved. Separately, banks are also taking steps to factor in water risk. HSBC’s latest report on coal & power wiped out 26% and 45% of value in Shenhua Energy & China Coal respectively in a scenario where China was severely constrained from a lack of water by 2030. Gas & nuclear still rely on water (as does hydro) so fuel choices are limited. Enter algae… Pandhal, Hanotu and Zimmerman recount their cost-effective way of harvesting algae from eutrophied lakes. Could this be China’s new bio-fuel? Clean up & provide energy; two birds with one stone … we like it. Elsewhere in China, the government is looking to tackle electronic waste. Could this be the start of removing mountains of e-waste to make the rural environment less “grim”? Perhaps the semiconductor sector may also come into the spotlight given they are huge energy and water guzzlers? Check out 8 things you should know about semiconductors and water. Globally, developments on sustainability reporting are also prevalent. Robert Gibson gives us a run down of latest developments in integrated reporting; it is much needed as 47% of the audience polled at the Standard Chartered Earth Resources Conference are not familiar with the GRI reporting framework. 千里之行 始于足下 … a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step – as far as we’re concerned, so far it’s been in the right direction.
June Newsletter: Don’t be Blindsided, Do Something! With increased transparency by the MEP, naming & shaming polluting companies, and the newly released State of Environment Report 2013, we take a look at what different industries were doing/ can do to address water risk. Anne-Marie Fleury, Director of the Environment & Climate Change at the International Commission of Mining & Metals shares with us her views on the industry’s potential water blindspot. Public awareness is also building with concerns over pollution and health, so watch out for China’s new breed of water watchdogs! Kirsten MacDonald, Pacific Environment’s China Program Director gives us the lowdown. With the textile and chemical fabric industries expected to face closer scrutiny, Christina Dean, the founder of Redress tells us why getting the R Cert is could to the trick for denim and Sarah Swenson of Prime Asia Leather walks us though how the company reduced its water footprint in leather production. Finally, with the CDP water questionnaire deadline fast approaching, this is your last chance to measure and disclose water risks … Paul Reig & Tien Shiao of Aqueduct give us a step-by-step approach on how to get started.
May Newsletter: The Down & Dirty: This month we give you the down and dirty on water, energy and possible linkages to cancer. An estimated US$7.3 trillion is at risk in primary production sectors including mining and utilities according to the new TEEB report. Author of this report, Trucost tells us why US$1.9 trillion of this is down to water. So do we invest to mitigate this now or wait? In the case of the cancer villages, is official recognition the tipping point? We look at the spread of cancer villages around China and industries that may be responsible. As promised, we also review water for coal and why thirsty miners will in share the pain per CLSA’s recent report, whilst Nathanial Bullard of Bloomberg New Energy Finance tells us why Chinese utilities are in hot water as they have to spend US$20 billion if they want to be water efficient. With so much focus on mining, we also review the status of water disclosure for the sector globally to find out why despite leading the way in water disclosure, the sector still has far to go. Perhaps we should all play Aqua Republica: Chengzi Chew of the Danish Hydrology Institute explains how the game can help us gain better perspective on the importance of water allocation and its impact on business, people, food & energy. After all, water is a shared resource and other people also have a say!
April Newsletter: Time to Spring Clean: With over 10,000 pigs dumped into the Huangpu river in Shanghai, we focus on taking stock and cleaning up. Global Water Intelligence’s Olivia Jensen tells us why Asian water stocks are playing snakes and ladders whilst Magali Simon, the Asia Pacific Head of Water Solutions of BASF gives us a 101 on wastewater treatment. With much ado on pollution & talk about potential markets in “cleaning up”, we rooted around to find out if there is money in “sludging it” out. We also look to see what others are doing to spring clean: H&M’s Claire Hau talks about why water is important to the brand & how it is pioneering water stewardship in fashion, whilst Mike Kilburn of the Airport Authority of HK shares with us the airport’s innovative triple water management system. One of Tien Shiao from WRI’s five key takeaways from Asia Water Week hosted by ADB, is that governments & businesses are on the same page. This together with the recent CLSA report questioning whether pollution is the new canary in the coal mine points to opportunities abound to clean up. Spring cleaning is not an independent effect, it’s time for industry to act together … to borrow a quote from H&M …”it’s not enough to be a clean fish in a dirty pond”.
March Newsletter: All Change: Hope Springs: March ushers in the official “all-change” of the old guard. Does the new guard mean new policies? Xi’s bold statements and events leading up to this week’s National People’s Congress meetings lead us to harbour hope for water pollution control. Perhaps new laws will be introduced and enforcement of existing laws tightened. Professor Wang Canfa who has been involved in the drafting and revision of over 30 national and local environmental laws, regulations and decrees talks to us about whether a “new broom sweeps clean” and in case you are rusty on government policies, check out our summary of key water policies and decrees from 2011-2013. With environmental protection at the top of the agenda for the new guard, we also take a closer look at new ways of solving old water issues such as payment for watershed services. China is already the largest provider of these services globally but also plans to be more aggressive and innovative – we take a look at how. In addition, we asked Dr. Changjin Sun, the former Director of the Centre of Ecological & Environmental Economics at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences to share his views on the development of such services in China. If you are finally convinced you should get on top of water risks but don’t know how, Tien Shao of the World Resources Institute walks us through why tools like the new Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas make mapping water risk as well as identifying investment opportunities easy.
February Newsletter: Enter the Water Snake:Will we be bogged down or will we slide ahead with water this year? Check out our review of 2012 and top five water trends for 2013. Dr. Guo Pei Yuan of Beijing’s Syntao also shares his views on water in 2012. As we predicted, water moved from the sidelines into the spotlight in 2012 where we expect it to stay in 2013. Already in January we see five arms of Chinese government announcing three new water policies, from provincial quotas, inefficiencies & quality, to pricing and new markets – is China now set for economic growth? With 30 barrels of water required to produce one barrel of oil, Wai-Shin Chan of HSBC Climate Change Strategy tells us why water could be more important than oil in an increasingly thirsty world. We turn to technology to solve the water-energy nexus… Ron Dizy, CEO of ENBALA Power Networks (water industry’s Top 5 innovations that will matter most) shares with us their award-winning tech that uses water to balance the grid. If all else fails, China could follow the UK and import water through trade. Happy reading and happy lunar new year.
January Newsletter: Sink or Swim: With the Handan ‘Cover Up’ fresh in everyone’s mind (see ‘Tapping In’ for more) we take a look at corporate action on water – are corporates serious or just paying lip service? Water stress tops the list in causing operational disruption in the recent CDP Water Report, yet KPMG says only three of the world’s 250 largest companies report on part of their supply chain’s water footprint. Are companies really on top of water risks? Bangladesh is a clear example of where supply chain risk is ‘sinking’ reputations. At first glance, there appears to be lots of water but in actual fact, Bangladesh faces seasonal water shortages of up to 40% in the dry season. What lessons can we learn? As investor focus on water risk rises, we talk to Marcus Norton, Head of Investor CDP and CDP Water, about progress and the stumbling blocks in measuring and disclosing such risks. On a lighter note, our team takes a closer look at our Christmas presents to see if we were weighed down by “Gangnam Style” and useless gifts which only serve to stuff landfills. We wish you a very happy new year!
December Newsletter: Retail Therapy … shop, shop, shop: Tis’ the season to be jolly and in Hong Kong, the shopping frenzy has started. This month we look at our consumer choices vis-a-vis water … How long can we continue to enjoy a traditional turkey lunch or shall we stuff the turkey and be vegetarian? Where do we shop to avoid giving away toxic presents? What about shopping for water companies – is a big spender a savvy investor or villain in the making?Spent too much money already? There is always true “recycled fashion” – clothes picked out of trash. No really, check out the battle of the bins face-off! Had enough of shopping? Vent your frustrations on social media … see who else is getting blogged down (or not) with water on Twitter and/or Weibo. Go forth and shop, with water in mind (we wish) … Happy holidays!
November Newsletter: The Emperor is Naked: It’s all about exposure. The fashion industry took a hit last month with “Sustainable Apparel’s Critical Blindspot” naming 22 out of 49 brands as being non-responsive to claims that they use polluting factories. This month, we speak to Ma Jun on why fashion brands need to stop greenwashing and start taking responsibility. Greenpeace also shares with us their work in removing endocrine disrupting hormones from the supply chain, whilst Dupont tells us how enzymes can solve this. It’s not just reputation at risk, future consumers are also targeted. Beijing based, Thirst tells us how they are influencing the choices of the young by teaching them about the hidden value of water in their food & clothes. Exposure to water risk is builiding – isn’t it about time investors look deeper? Hi-street & hi-end portfolio diversification may not work when products are sourced from the same supplier – check out blackholes & blacklists.However, it’s not all doom & gloom, there are brands pro-actively trying to make sustainable apparel work. Jason Kibbey, director of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition walks us through the Higg Index and the challenges of measurement.
October Newsletter: A Shifting Waterscape Shapes China’s Energy & Food Choices: HSBC’s recent report “No Water, No Power” warned that project financiers, investors and companies could be stranded high and dry, so this month, we take a look at energy options and water. Is coal better than gas from a water perspective? To frack or not to frack in China? What about renewables & biofuels? Read about all these and more as Debra Tan gives us the lowdown on the Beijing Fortune Global Forum Sustainable Development Roundtable on “Energy, Food & Water”. We also asked International Rivers to give us their views on whether achieving hydropower capacity is mission impossible given climate change. Whilst Lisa Genasci looks at whether fracking is the answer to water-scarce China and gives us her key takeaaways on “2 Degrees + Food” where Dr Shenggan Fan, Director General of the Iinternational Food Policy Research Institute shares his views on feeding the world, food v. fuel and challenges ahead.
September Newsletter: A Way Forward in Water & Food Security: With the focus of the World Water Week in Stockholm on water & food security, this month we dive deeper into Hong Kong’s water security as demand on the Dongjiang River increases across the border. Will the new proposed desalination plant solve our concerns? The Assistant Director of the HK Water Supplies Department talks about the government’s plans whilst Daniel Cheng, Managing Director of Dunwell Enviro-Tech shares his views on the challenges ahead. We also explore the way forward in agriculture on how to grow smarter with BASF’s Head of Food & Agriculture for Asia-Pacific. Meanwhile, Village People Project provides insight into water woes in Gansu caused by mispricing of water at a rural level.
August Newsletter: Environmental Awakening: With over 500 protests a day, this month we look at the role and impact of environmental protests which are largely rural and water related. Professor Zweig, the Director of the Center on China’s Transnational Relations also weighs in with his views. Given increasing NGO pressure, reputational risk of brands come into question: Textile specialist Pinneco Research ponders if water woes signal the end of fast fashion or will new trends emerge? Esprit tell us why they are a trendsetter in this regard with their new recycled collection boasting up to 70% water savings.
July Newsletter: Water & Food Security: The Positives: With Rio+20, how can we not explore water & food security. Unfortunately, these themes are large, slow moving and generally depressing. So this month, we choose to look at the positives as the financial sector takes a step towards moving beyond GDP in the Natural Capital Declaration and 45 CEOs call for a price hike in water to reflect its real value. We continue to be bullish on China importing more food following panel discussions on food and water at Standard Chartered Earth’s Resources Conference, and feel optimistic after hearing institutional managers of US$1.8trillion say water risk is beyond pricing in NBIM’s water seminar. The water sector is also heating up with S$13.6billion (US$10.7bn) of MOUs & deals announced and signed last week at Singapore International Water Week; the head of cleantech at Singapore’s Economic Development Board gives us the lowdown on the event, new tech and growth areas. Singapore’s drive to be a global water hydrohub is in stark contrast with Hong Kong’s laissez-faire attitude, the Civic Exchange tells us why time may be running out for Hong Kong.
June Newsletter: In Pursuit of Standards & Standardisation: This month, the Chinese government issued various new standards on pollution. We take a look at these and other standards set recently. We talk to Swire Pacific about intergrating sustainability into their Annual Report and Redress talks about how their newly launched recycled clothing standard could end up staving water. We also review the difficulty in standardising disclosure despite investor demand and company questionnaire fatigue and compare disclosure differences between the Top 10 CSR China & Global companies on the Fortune Top 100 Socially Responsible List. To round up the picture, certification expert, Control Union Certification gives us a 101 on standard setting.
May Newsletter: Liquid Solutions: “Two Degrees Celsius + Water” was a success with over 70 participants. Most found it a ‘sobering’ event – check out the forum’s 8 take aways. With so much talk of risk, we thought it’s time for solutions! This month we asked some experts to share their experiences in harvesting the low-hanging fruits of water efficiency gains: pipe expert Pure Technologies on non-revenue water, AECOM on harvesting rainwater using cities as catchments and Energenz on how water audits could result in water earnings. Sometimes simple solutions are the best. Thinking out of the box works too… Global Water Intelligence expands on why there could be streams of gold int he water-for-mining sector.
April Newsletter: No water = no power: Is a shift in fundamentals required for China’s drive for energy security to succeed given water is the elephant in the room? We ask where are the water risks in coal mining company Winsway’s bond offering document, whether biofuels could be the next big thing and why China may have to build more dams… which brings us to water treaties with her neighbours, or rather the lack thereof – should we start to worry? With DEG and WWF’s new free Water Risk Filter tool, there really should be no more excuses not to asses such risks; perhaps we are heading in the right direction. Separately, we are co-hosting “2oC Plus Water” with the Climate Change Business Forum of Hong Kong.
March Newsletter: Do the Right Thing: The Chinese government appears to be “doing the right thing” by putting water high on the political agenda ahead of the World Water Forum, which started this week. This month, we review the government’s ‘stark warning’ and mull over why they are being frank about the water crisis.
February Newsletter : Enter the Water Dragon: Are we headed for a year of ‘smooth sailing’ or turbulent waters? Find out in our 2011 water review which includes five trends for 2012. Given the new No.1 Document’s focus on agriculture, we look to see if China can grow enough food to ensure ‘a prosperous ever after’ and gain insight on water pricing trends from Steve Clark, of Sino French Water. With China owning the headwaters of South and SE Asia’s largest rivers, we review the overhanging threat of water wars. Will the Water Dragon stir up these heated waters? Isabel Hilton, editor of China Dialogue explains why she thinks this is much ado about nothing. Happy reading and happy lunar new year!
January Newsletter: Double Savings = Double Happiness! We look at ways to remain prosperous with savings in energy and water; how to make “water sense” of your property; how Zero Liquid Discharge could be the solution for pollution; and set out 8 things you should know about Hong Kong water. We wish you all the best in the Year of the Dragon!
December Newsletter : A Green Christmas? This month, we look at where key fashion brands and Apple stand on water pollution, discuss sustainable apparel with Patagonia, and seek advice from Redress on where and what to buy. Finally, the recent Evian and Volvic scare in China leads us to question whether it is time to invest in water filters … Happy Holidays!
November Newsletter : Is desalination a solution for China’s water crisis? This month, we review trends & opportunities in this market, discuss policy issues with the Secretary General of China’s Desalination Association and Amnon Levy, COO of IDE Tech shares his insights on desal technology and the challenges ahead. It has now been two weeks since we went live and the fact that we have been presenting and participating/moderating in panel discussions on water risks at events hosted by global banks shows how important water risks are to the economy. Some of the more interesting discussion threads are covered in our last highlight “Food for Thought.”