Minister of State, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Social and Family Development Sam Tan and Norwegian Secretary of State, Ministry of Petroleum and Energy Liv Lønnum, jointly-opened the Arctic Frontiers Abroad (AFA) Conference “Knowledge for Ocean Sustainability” in Singapore today.
This is the second edition of the AFA held in Singapore, and is supported by the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Singapore and the National University of Singapore. The previous edition held in Singapore in 2017 was the first AFA event in Asia.
AFA events are conducted under the ambit of the main Arctic Frontiers Conference (AFC), organised annually by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and various think-tanks in Tromsø, Norway, since 2007. It is a track 1.5 platform which brings together policy-makers, researchers and civil society to discuss Arctic-related developments.
The text of MOS Tan’s remarks is appended.
MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS
7 OCTOBER 2019
Opening Remarks by Minister of State, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Social and Family Development Sam Tan, Arctic Frontiers Abroad Conference, Main Auditorium, University Hall, National University of Singapore, 7 October 2019, 0930hrs
Norwegian State Secretary at the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy, Her Excellency Liv Lønnum,
Norwegian Ambassador to Singapore, Her Excellency Anita Nergaard,
Singapore Ambassador to Norway Mr Tan Wah Yeow,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
1 Good morning. Two years have passed since the Arctic Frontiers Abroad (AFA) held its first satellite event in Singapore in 2017. It was then the first AFA event held in Asia. Since then, the AFA has also organised events in Bali and Shanghai. These complement the annual Arctic Frontiers Conference (AFC) held in Tromsø, Norway, a key event on the Arctic calendar which draws an international crowd numbering in the thousands. This growing interest in the AFC reflects the growing international attention on Arctic issues.
2 Two years might not seem like a long time. However, many things have happened in these two years that have significantly impacted the environment. For instance, not only did the Summer of 2019 see an unprecedented number of wildfires in the Arctic Circle, it was also reported that the extent of Arctic ice has shrunk to its second-lowest point since records began. The Arctic permafrost is now melting at a rate 70 years earlier than predicted.
3 These are worrying developments which will have significant global ramifications. Singapore will also be impacted, including by rising sea-levels. By conservative estimates, sea-levels could rise by over a metre by the end of the century. That said, this one metre rise might take place sooner, or rise even higher, especially considering how “warmest year records” seem to be broken every other year.
4 It is against the backdrop of these developments that Singapore applied to be an Observer on the Arctic Council (AC). We were successful in doing so in 2013, and it helps to keep our eyes and ears close to developments in the High North.
5 The theme of today’s conference “Knowledge for Ocean Sustainability” is an apt one, particularly for a low-lying, maritime trading nation like Singapore.
6 Singapore’s fate is closely linked to the oceans. Maritime trade routes, food sources and security, and rising sea-levels are existential concerns to us, as we take a long-term view towards climate adaptation in these areas. For instance, in order to prepare for rising sea-levels, we have increased the minimum reclamation levels for newly reclaimed lands to at least four metres above the mean sea level since 2011. We also have spent around $1.8 billion on drainage improvement works to boost our flood resilience in the same time frame, and estimate to spend another $400 million on drains upgrading over the next two years.
7 In addition, there is also a more recent and growing problem of marine plastics. Despite the lack of human activity, researchers have found marine plastics deposited high up in the Arctic wilderness through wind and currents. These plastics in turn enter the bloodstreams of precious arctic biodiversity - harming and poisoning lives. On this front, the key to a plastic-free ocean lies in the judicious use and proper disposal of plastics. Singapore plays our small part through our strict anti-littering laws and dis-incentives when it comes to single-use plastics.
8 In much the same way, sustainability too, has been a key tenet of Singapore’s development story and central to the idea of Singapore being a “City in a Garden”. We are now also looking towards adopting a circular economy approach to prepare for a resource-constrained future. Among other initiatives, we have designated 2019 as the “Year Towards Zero Waste”. This is also part of our longer-term efforts to develop a national consciousness to care for our environment and galvanise ground-up action.
9 Today’s conference also underscores the importance of science and research in informing action, and the need for international cooperation in dealing with complex global problems. Singapore is therefore very pleased to be able to work with Norway as a like-minded partner. In addition to our Arctic-related cooperation, I am pleased to note that we have in tandem exchanged best practices in green shipping and marine debris management, through the Asia-Europe Meeting framework. In addition, under the Singapore-Norway Third Country Training Programme, we conduct Marine Litter management courses for participants across the Asia Pacific.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
10 The challenges posed by a warming Arctic will undoubtedly require international efforts and multi-stakeholder engagement in order to find meaningful solutions. Conferences like these are steps in the right direction to foster greater awareness and knowledge and I wish it every success. Thank you.
Minister of State, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Social and Family Development Sam Tan, delivering opening remarks at the Arctic Frontiers Abroad Conference “Knowledge for Ocean Sustainability” in Singapore, 7 October 2019
(Photo Credit: Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
Minister of State, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Social and Family Development Sam Tan and Norwegian Secretary of State, Ministry of Petroleum and Energy Liv Lønnum