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November 09, 2017

MFA Press Release: Transcript of Opening Remarks by Minister of State in the PMO, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Manpower Sam Tan, at the reception for the launch of the "Ice in the Tropics" Artic Photography Exhibit, 9 Nov 2017

Minister of State, Prime Minister’s Office, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Manpower Sam Tan delivering the opening remarks at the launch reception at the ‘Ice in the Tropics’ photo exhibition at the National Museum of Singapore, 9 November 2017 (credit: MFA)

Ambassador of Finland, Her Excellency Paula Parviainen,

High Commissioner of Canada, Her Excellency Lynn McDonald,

Ambassador for Arctic Affairs, His Excellency Aleksi Härkönen,

Director of the National Museum Singapore Ms Angelita Teo,

Distinguished guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,


               A very good evening to all of you.   I am pleased to be with you tonight at the launch of the “Ice in the Tropics” Arctic Photography Exhibit.  This reception kick-starts an exciting month of Arctic activities taking place here at the National Museum, jointly presented by the High Commission of Canada and the Embassy of Finland, with support from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and National Museum Singapore.

2             The Arctic may appear at first to be a remote and distant region to Singapore.  Singapore is located one degree north of the equator, just in case you wondering why there is a club at Sentosa Cove called ONEo15 Marina.  While the Arctic is located about 7000 km away from Singapore, it is of hugely consequential importance for our region.  I have been attending a lot of Arctic conferences.  Each time, without fail I will always hear the researchers mention that “What happens in the Arctic will not stay in the Arctic”. My response is “What happens in the Tropics does not stay in the Tropics as well”.  We have to pay attention to the Arctic and protect the beautiful landscape of the Arctic. Otherwise, I fear that the title of the next exhibition will be changed from ‘Ice in the Tropics’ to ‘Water in the Tropics’.  I am a frequent visitor to the North, from Whitehorse in Yukon to Rovaniemi in Lapland.  Rovaniemi is actually the official office of Santa Claus, where I managed to take a photo with him.  Previous dignitaries who have taken photos with Santa Claus include the Russian Foreign Minister and the President of China.

3             Climate change also threatens the fragile environment and biodiversity of the Arctic.  It is our hope that the Ice in the Tropics exhibition, which features works from Canada, Finland, as well as by Mr Michael Aw – one of the world’s most influential conservation photographers – will leave a lasting impression about the Arctic’s beautiful landscape and raise greater awareness among Singaporeans of the need for urgent action to address climate change worldwide  As a low-lying island with one-third of our island being less than five metres above the sea level, Singapore is especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change.  The Arctic, which is warming at twice the rate as the rest of the world, acts as the world’s early-warning system.  

4             We are encouraged by the growing number of Singaporeans, including youth, taking an active interest in the Arctic.  This October, Ms Gina Goh, an undergraduate at the Nanyang Technological University (NTU), shared her experience as a young environmentalist at the Arctic Circle Assembly, in Reykjavik, the capital city of Iceland.  Apart from Gina and Mr Aw, Mr Toh Poh Joo, who came in second in the Artic Ultra marathon last year, will be sharing more on their experiences during the “Ice in the Tropics” month.  These are positive signs that Singaporeans are become more aware of and concerned with the sustainability of the Arctic, and its implications on our region and for the rest of the world.  I feel the effects of climate change from my own personal experience.  When I visited Karasjok in Norway, the temperature was -50 degrees Celsius.  I had to wear 5 layers to keep warm.  When I visited Tromsø, Norway, I only needed to wear 3 layers.  This year, during my visit to Tromsø again, I only need to wear 2 layers!  The weather has certainly been changing dramatically within the last 5 to 6 years.  Scientists warn us that the sea level can rise by half a meter within 50 years. In January this year, the president of the World Meteorological Organisation warned that if we do not do anything, the sea level might rise as high as 8 meters. We might probably have to look for another planet to live!  Therefore, there is a lot of urgency to do whatever we can, whether we live in the Arctic or in the Tropics. It is our responsibility to protect Planet Earth and the rich biodiversity of the Arctic.

5             In closing, I would like to express my appreciation to the High Commission of Canada and the Embassy of Finland for organising this event and bringing a slice of the Arctic beauty and countries to tropical Singapore.  We thank both countries for their strong support for Singapore’s Arctic Council observership.  I would also like to extend my congratulations on behalf of the Singapore government for Canada’s 150th and Finland’s 100th birthdays.  We hope that those visiting the “Ice in the Tropics” at the National Museum will also come away with a greater understanding of the Arctic and its inhabitants, and appreciate the importance of preserving it for future generations.  On that note, I hope you will all enjoy the reception tonight, and the other upcoming events.   

Thank you.

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