Singapore can play a part in the Arctic: DPM Teo

The Straits Times AsiaOne 13 Nov 15;

Though the Arctic is a "seemingly distant region", its developments have a great impact on Singapore, both environmentally and economically, said Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean yesterday.

But he envisions Singapore playing a part in the development of the Arctic by creating suitable technology for the region and sharing expertise, like managing oil spills, with the eight Arctic nations .

Such engagement between Singapore and the Arctic nations has boosted the industry capabilities of both sides for sustainable resource development in the polar region, he added.

A most recent effort he pinpointed is the collaboration between the National University of Singapore and University of Alaska Fairbanks in areas such as cold regions engineering and oil spill research.

Mr Teo underlined mutual gains from strengthening co-operation when he opened the Arctic Circle Singapore Forum, the first major meeting in Asia on the region's future.

Singapore is hosting the one-day forum, attended by 150 government officials and researchers from countries that include the eight nations which form the Arctic Council, an inter-governmental organisation that sets the rules for the future development of the polar region.

Its members are: United States, Russia, Canada, Iceland, Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden. Singapore is a permanent observer at the council.

In his speech, Mr Teo also underlined the need for Singapore, as a maritime nation, to maintain a keen interest in the Arctic as changes there will "invariably change the future of marine transport". A robust legal and institutional framework is also important as economic activity in the Arctic grows, he added.

"As a small island state that has always depended on sea-borne trade as our economic lifeline, we believe it is in the interest of all states to preserve the freedom of navigation and rights to safe passage through the Straits of Malacca and Singapore and other waters, as provided for by United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea," he said.

Environmentally, a warmer Arctic has far-reaching impact globally, both in terms of costs and investment potential.

For Singapore, it has led to shore protection works to guard against erosion, and the raising of the minimum level of newly reclaimed land to pre-empt the projected rise in sea level.

Icelandic President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, in his opening address at the forum, similarly noted that the Arctic affects every country in the world.

"It is extraordinarily rich in resources which are of great relevance and importance for the economies of the 21st and 22nd century - not just oil and gas but also hydrothermal resources."

He also spoke of the need to create an "environmentally responsible" framework for countries with a financial interest in the region.

Dr Grimsson, whose three-day state visit to Singapore ends today, is leader of the Arctic Circle, which seeks to address issues the Arctic faces because of climate change and melting sea ice.

During forum discussions, participants talked about the best ways to govern northern sea routes, new technologies to meet infrastructure needs, and investment and research opportunities in the region.

Challenges facing Arctic will affect Singapore and the world: DPM Teo
Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, who was speaking at the Arctic Circle Singapore Forum, says changes in the region could also affect the future of marine transportation and this will impact Singapore, which relies heavily on sea trade.
Faris Mokhtar Channel NewsAsia 12 Nov 15;

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.

- CNA/dl

Iceland, Singapore 'have much in common'
Lim Yan Liang, The Straits Times AsiaOne 13 Nov 15;

Iceland stands in the Northern Atlantic and is blessed with an abundance of natural resources while Singapore, sitting halfway across the globe in South-east Asia at the crossroads of the Pacific and Indian Oceans, can rely only on its people.

But the stark geographical difference between the two island nations belies the many common characteristics they share, especially their views on many issues, President Tony Tan Keng Yam said at a state banquet for visiting Icelandic President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson.

"For both of us, the sea is a crucial lifeline. Fishing is in Iceland's lifeblood, while Singapore flourishes as a maritime trading port," Dr Tan said, adding that climate change and how oceans are governed are issues close to the heart of both countries.

Dr Grimsson, invited by Dr Tan, is on a three-day state visit here, the first by an Icelandic President.

Economic relations between Singapore and Iceland, with almost 330,000 people, have grown since the European Free Trade Association-Singapore Free Trade Agreement took effect in 2003.

Both also co-operate closely in the Arctic region, said Dr Tan.

At the broader strategic level, Dr Tan said: "Small countries like Singapore and Iceland will have to stay nimble to navigate the waves and currents of the shifting global geopolitics."

Dr Grimsson, in his speech, said: "As island nations, we can both bring important lessons to challenges facing the world."

He added that, for example, pollution and environmental degradation increasingly threaten the future of the ocean.

He also said Singapore's experience, knowledge and developmental insights can help ensure the future success of the Arctic.

For this reason, it was welcomed as a permanent observer nation to the Arctic Council in 2013, he said.

Singapore, he noted, has been an active participant in the grouping of eight Arctic nations comprising the United States, Russia, Canada, Iceland, Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden.

Today, it will host the first major meeting in Asia on the future of the Arctic.

"I thank Singapore for its constructive engagement in the Arctic dialogue and co-operation, and I express hope that the evolution of Arctic co-operation will continue to benefit from your country's contributions and involvement," he added.

Dr Grimsson also congratulated the Singapore people on the country's golden jubilee.

"Throughout my life of public service, I have admired the vision and the leadership of Singapore," he said.

Dr Grimsson began his state visit yesterday. He was given a ceremonial welcome at the Istana and called on Dr Tan.

The two leaders reaffirmed the warm and growing ties between their countries, and discussed ways to strengthen bilateral and regional co-operation.

Dr Grimsson also met Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. They exchanged views on a variety of issues, including Singapore's interests in the Arctic, climate change, and developments in their respective countries.

Earlier in the day, Dr Grimsson and First Lady Dorrit Moussaieff visited the Botanic Gardens, where an orchid was named after them. He also met officials from regulator Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore and port operator PSA Corp.

Dr Tan noted the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve plays host to migratory Arctic birds every winter, and it is one reason that Singapore's flora and fauna are closely connected with the Arctic despite the geographic distance.

There is also a small but highly skilled Icelandic community here, while some Singaporeans have made Iceland their home.

"It is my hope that our officials can continue to traverse the geographical distance and step up mutual engagement, both bilaterally as well as vis-a-vis the Arctic," said Dr Tan.

Iceland President: Important to maintain inclusive dialogue on the Arctic
AsiaOne 12 Nov 15;

Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, President of the Republic of Iceland His Excellency Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson and Publisher of the Alaskan Dispatch Alice Rogoff, at the opening session of the Arctic Circle Singapore Forum on Nov 12, 2015.

Photo: The Arctic Circle and the Singapore Maritime Institute

SINGAPORE - It is important to maintain an inclusive and dynamic dialogue on Arctic affairs, Iceland President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson said on Thursday.

Delivering the opening address at the Arctic Circle Singapore Forum, he also highlighted the growing global interest in the Arctic, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said in a statement.

Dr Grimsson was accompanied by Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean at the forum, which was jointly organised by the Arctic Circle and the Singapore Maritime Institute with support from the Singapore Government.

Both Dr Grimsson and Mr Teo welcomed the growing co-operation between Singapore and Iceland on the Arctic.

Mr Teo, who is also Coordinating Minister for National Security, also spoke of Singapore's efforts to deepen its understanding of the Arctic and make relevant contributions.

Dr Grimsson will deliver the closing remarks for the forum, which was attended by over 200 speakers and participants, later this evening.

The first Icelandic President to visit Singapore, he is currently here on a three-day State visit from Wednesday to Friday.

Yesterday, he met with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and attended a State banquet hosted by President Tony Tan Keng Yam.

Dr Grimsson and his wife, First Lady Dorrit Moussaieff, also visited the Botanic Gardens earlier in the day, where an orchid was named after them.

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