Minister of Maritime Economy and Inland Navigation,
His Excellency Marek Gróbarczyk
Ambassador Magdalena Bogdziewicz
Ladies and gentlemen
1. Good evening. I am happy to join you on this beautiful ship on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of Poland’s independence. I would like to thank the Government of Poland and His Excellency Gróbarczyk for the invitation.
2. This ship is appropriately named the “Gift of Youth”, having hosted 12,000 youths for meaningful programmes since 1982. I understand that 150 youth ambassadors have come all the way from Poland on a year-long “Independence Cruise” to celebrate Poland’s remarkable journey over the last 100 years and to share their hopes for a bright future.
3. Compared to Poland, Singapore is a very young nation – at 53 years old, we are only a little over half of Poland’s age. Nevertheless, we share your belief that we must never forget our history - how we came to be where we are today, and the values and principles that have served us well in our nation’s development.
4. As a small state, Singapore has always looked outwards to make a living. During the 19th century, Singapore gained a reputation as a free port under the British colonial administration and served as a transhipment point of regional and international trade. After independence, we continued to develop our port while strengthening trade, economic and people-to-people linkages around the world. Today, Singapore is the world’s second busiest port, connected to 600 other ports in over 120 countries.
Addressing the Global Challenge of Climate Change
5. Singapore is particularly open to the world. But the reality is that today, every country’s prosperity and security are inextricably bound up with global developments and trends. Climate change, for example, is one of the most significant challenges of the 21st century, and affects us all. The recently released report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has delivered a serious warning on the urgent need to get global warming under control. The litany of climate disasters, including the extreme storms and droughts that inflicted untold damage in 2018 alone, underscores our vulnerability.
6. Singapore is fully committed to supporting global action on climate change. We were one of the first 55 countries to ratify the Paris Agreement and have pledged to reduce our emissions intensity by 36% from 2005 levels by 2030, and stabilise our emissions with the aim of peaking then. This is a challenging target given our limited access to alternative sources of clean energy. Next year, we will also be the first country in Southeast Asia to implement an economy-wide carbon tax. The carbon tax, which will be applied uniformly to all sectors without exemption, will encourage companies to price in the cost of externalities and spur the adoption of innovative eco-friendly solutions.
A Sustainable Maritime Industry
7. As a major maritime hub, Singapore is committed to developing a maritime transport industry that is not only competitive and efficient, but also responsible and sustainable. As part of our efforts to promote clean and green shipping in Singapore, we launched the Maritime Singapore Green Initiative in 2011 to reduce the environmental impact of shipping and related activities. The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore has also pledged to invest up to S$100 million to support five major programmes to encourage ship owners to adopt environmentally-friendly practices and reduce the environmental impact of their operations through voluntary initiatives.
8. We are also enhancing our infrastructure to cope with climate change. The waterfront you see here today at this Promenade may look somewhat different in future, when you visit Singapore again. As a low-lying island, Singapore is highly vulnerable to rising sea-levels. Hence, we are planning ahead to ensure that our infrastructure is resilient to climate change impacts. This includes planning for new wharves at the western part of Singapore, where we will develop our new mega-port. Just as what we are doing for the new Changi Airport Terminal 5 which will be built 5.5 meters above mean sea level, we will be doing likewise for the new port wharves. We have also made significant investments in building seawalls and raising the height of coastal roads.
Partnership for Climate Action
9 To tackle climate change, we need all stakeholders, businesses, civil society organisations, and individuals to work together. To galvanise ground-up action, Singapore designated 2018 the Year of Climate Action. Since its launch, more than a quarter of a million pledges for climate action have been received from individuals, businesses, organisations and educational institutions.
10. When I met His Excellency Gróbarczyk in Warsaw six months ago, he shared with me the ambitious initiatives that the Polish government is undertaking to pursue economic and social development. Whether it is in shipbuilding, or setting high standards in the maritime industry, or using cleaner energy mix – all of these point to the need for strong leadership supported by good governance. On this note, I would like to commend Poland for its leadership of global climate action, as the incoming Presidency of the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Poland’s leadership will be crucial during this landmark year, as we are due to conclude negotiations on the Paris Agreement Work Programme that will guide the implementation of the Paris Agreement. I am deeply appreciative of Poland’s leadership and commitment in this important endeavour. You can count on Singapore to support your efforts to achieve a successful outcome at COP-24 in Katowice, Poland.
Strengthening Bilateral Relations
11. 2019 will mark the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Singapore and Poland. Our countries have much to learn from one another and collaborate on. Our bilateral trade has been growing and now stands at S$1 billion annually. There are also opportunities for collaboration in technology and innovation, particularly in the area of financial services. Our universities have been growing student exchanges and research collaboration with Polish institutions of higher learning and to-date, 300 students have gone for programmes at Polish institutions, while Singapore has received around 280 students from Poland. All these augur well for our relationship, and I look forward to many more years of friendship and collaboration.
12. On this note, I wish all the crew members a safe and enjoyable journey and the successful completion of the sail in January next year.