S'pore's efforts on the Arctic should involve the young

S'pore's efforts on the Arctic should involve the young
Polar bears roaming the Arctic. Singapore may be far removed geographically from the ice-capped North, but the island's future is intertwined with that of the Arctic, a region that is important to the functioning of Earth systems such as oceans and the climate.

Since its entry to the Arctic Council as a permanent observer in May, Singapore officials have been busy stamping the Republic's name on Arctic projects.

Indeed, Singapore's efforts on the Arctic are gaining recognition. But this needs to be supplemented by efforts within Singapore to get the young interested in an issue that has a long-term impact on the nation's survival.

Singapore, located about 137km above the Equator, is far removed from the ice-capped North. But the island's future is intertwined with that of the Arctic, a region that is important to the functioning of Earth systems such as oceans and the climate.

Melting polar ice has opened up the prospect of greater access to the Arctic's riches, including 30 per cent of the world's undiscovered natural gas and 20 per cent of the world's oil reserves. The region is also rich in minerals, fish and fresh water.

There are international concerns that there is a ticking Arctic time bomb that will go off if environmental and human development issues are not addressed while resources are exploited.

If sea levels continue to rise because of climate change, Singapore could be submerged.

Mindful of the need to tackle this and other long-term challenges, Singapore applied for permanent observer status in the Arctic Council in 2011 and got in this year.

Set up in 1996, the council promotes cooperation and interaction on issues such as sustainable development and environmental protection in the Arctic.

Singapore officials attended their first council meeting as permanent observers at a three-day meeting of senior Arctic officials that ended on Oct 24 in Whitehorse, Canada.

A week before that, a Singapore team was at the inaugural Arctic Circle Forum held in Reykjavik, Iceland, attended by over 1,000 participants from more than 40 countries.

Set up this year, this body facilitates global discussion on Arctic matters.

The Republic's Arctic strategy was clearly spelt out at both meetings: Singapore will give, not take from the Arctic.

Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs Sam Tan said Singapore intends to share its experience on how the Arctic environment can be protected.

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