This article was written by Faris Mokhtar and published on Channel News Asia on 12 November 2015.
SINGAPORE: Environmental and economic developments in the Arctic are of great interest to Singapore, as challenges facing the region will affect the country and the world, according to Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean.
He was speaking at the Arctic Circle Singapore Forum on Thursday (Nov 12), which discussed issues in the region.
The event was organised by Arctic Circle – a non-profit organisation co-founded by Icelandic President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson in 2013 – together with the Singapore Maritime Institute. The forum seeks to facilitate dialogue on the the Arctic.
Mr Teo said physical changes in the Arctic are affecting the global climate and will have far-reaching economic impact. He pointed to a study by Cambridge University together with the National Snow and Ice Data Centre, which estimated that rising temperatures from greenhouses gases, released by melting permafrost in the Arctic, could cost the world about US$43 trillion over the next 200 years. That would be partly be due to the need to compensate for agricultural losses.
The Deputy Prime Minister added that changes in the region could also affect the future of marine transportation and this will impact Singapore, which relies heavily on sea trade. For instance, the Northern Sea Route – a new passageway for ships in the Arctic region – bypasses Singapore and reduces travel time between Northeast Asia and Europe by up to two or three weeks.
Mr Teo said Singapore has been striving to be a constructive player in Arctic affairs since it was granted observer status in the Arctic Council in 2013. The council, formed in 1996, is made up of eight countries that have territory in the region, such as Canada, Norway and Russia. It holds a forum every six months, attended by government representatives, to discuss issues pertinent to the region.
Also at the forum was Mr Grimsson, who is in Singapore on a three-day visit. Apart from touching on the points mentioned by Mr Teo, he said Singapore should enhance, and not only continue, its engagement with the Arctic region.
“As a small country, it is in Singapore’s interest to remain plugged into the world and to understand how environmental and economic developments, even in a seemingly distant region like the Arctic, can impact Singapore – perhaps not immediately, but 20, 50 or even 100 years later,” said Mr Teo.
“The experience and the development of Singapore is of critical importance – how you have made this country a significant location in the global trading system. But also how you have, as a small country, in a sophisticated, non-threatening way, placed yourself in this position. That contribution as well as your diplomatic efforts, your style of thinking and dealing with others are of great importance to the Arctic,” said President Grimsson.