Singapore’s survival is directly jeopardised by the rising sea levels and future generations of Singaporeans have a responsibility to mitigate such effects, according to Sam Tan, the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs.

“Climate change concerns the well-being of future generations. I think it is only fair that they would have to shoulder their share of the responsibility because it cuts across so many decades.” Mr Tan remarked.

Speaking at the sidelines of the Arctic Frontiers, a conference in Tromso, Norway, where he participated as a panellist in one of the plenary sessions, he said to Straits Times, “It’s not sufficient for one generation to raise the funds. Our generation also has our own priorities and important infrastructure that we want to put in place to make sure we are able to grow the economy and create enough jobs,”

Mr Tan further added that the government is also looking into borrowed spending as a possible source of funding for infrastructural projects which can combat climate change, such as the construction of sea walls.

On Tuesday (28 Jan) at the plenary session themed Sustainable Arctic Ocean, Mr Tan expounded on the developments in the Arctic which could affect Singapore.

Sea ice that melts in the arctic region will lead to more heat to be absorbed by the oceans because sea ice functions to reflect light. Sea level also rises when as the ocean warms and expands.

Facing the audience of policymakers, academics and businessmen, Mr Tan remarked about the country: “We have 5.7 million people living on this tiny island, and we have literally built our city to the brink of the land… With climate change, a melting Arctic and rising sea levels, Singapore is also in trouble. If this happens, our future prime minister will have to conduct Cabinet meetings in a scuba diver’s suit, for we will be submerged underwater.”

In 2019, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reported that if greenhouse gas emissions increase continuously, sea levels can rise by up to 1.1 m.

An estimated fund of S$100 billion is expected to be spent by the country in its battle against climate change: “We will raise our peripheral and low-lying areas by more than 1m by 2100. We have decided to set aside more than $100 billion to deal with the rising sea level. New developments will be built 4m above sea level, and critical infrastructure will be elevated 5m above sea level,” Mr Tan commented.

Plans have already been enacted such as constructing higher road levels and higher buildings. A third of the country is low-lying at less than 5m above sea level, including its central business district.

The State Secretary to the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Audun Halvorsen, told The Straits Times that countries in the tropics such as Singapore affect the Artic even as it is affected by Arctic.

“The Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the globe. The Arctic sea ice is retreating faster than ever, and the polar glaciers and ice caps are shrinking…But this development is mainly caused by factors outside of the Arctic, for example, emission from factories, cars and other pollutants. We, therefore, need to find global solutions to this problem,” Mr Halvorsen remarked.

Mr Tan referred to the carbon tax that was introduced in 2019 to stress that Singapore is committed to reducing its carbon emissions. Facilities that generate at least 25,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions yearly across all sectors will be carbon taxed uniformly.

“Around 2030, we want to reduce our emissions intensity by 36 per cent from 2005 levels. This is a very painful process. But compared with the pain of Singapore being overrun by seawater, it is a political price we think we should pay,” Mr Tan concluded.

Arctic Frontiers is an international conference bringing together not less than 3,000 delegates from more than 35 nations to address relevant and important issues about the Arctic.

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