A survey has revealed that more than half of respondents want ASEAN countries to stop building new coal plants immediately, while almost two-thirds want their countries to phase out coal consumption either immediately or by 2030.

It found that nearly a third of respondents identified extreme weather events as the main threat to their country’s food supply.

Singapore-based ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute on September 8 released the findings of its third climate survey on Southeast Asians’ attitudes and perceptions, revealing widespread worries over coal power plants and climate impact on food security.

The third annual “Southeast Asia Climate Outlook: 2022 Survey Report” was conducted in hybrid format between June 8 and July 12, covering topics ranging from climate change impacts and food security, to climate governance and international cooperation.

As well as English, the survey was offered in six Southeast Asian languages – Bahasa Indonesia, Burmese, Lao, Khmer, Thai and Vietnamese – and it drew a total of 1,386 responses from citizens of all 10 ASEAN countries.

“Notably, over 60 per cent of ASEAN respondents believe that regional countries should stop building new coal power plants immediately, whereas 72.5 per cent wanted to cut coal reliance immediately, a slight decline from last year,” the survey said.

It said nearly two-fifths of respondents identified the EU and the US as global climate leaders.

However, it added that when asked who could play a more proactive role in sharing climate expertise and know-how in their countries, respondents favoured Japan and the US over other ASEAN dialogue partners.

Among ASEAN countries, more than half of respondents believe that Singapore has the potential to be the region’s climate leader, the survey noted. Indonesians are more likely to choose their own country for a leadership role.

Choi Shing Kwok, director and CEO of ISEAS, said many in the region saw climate resilience as key.

“The challenges of energy and food insecurity have become more stark and complex as a result of crises such as Covid-19 and the Ukraine conflict.

“But one must not forget the ongoing threat constituted by the elephant in the room of climate change, one that will haunt the region and the world for many decades even in the best-case scenario.

“Building climate resilience needs to become a crucial component of transforming regional agricultural production, which many Southeast Asians agree is a top priority,” he said in a September 8 statement.

Sharon Seah, senior fellow and coordinator of the Climate Change in Southeast Asia Programme at ISEAS, said regional concerns were growing.

“While climate worries are elevating year-on-year as the region continues to face extreme weather impacts, governments, businesses and other stakeholders are seen to be slow and ineffective in their responses.

“We have been conducting this survey since 2020, and Southeast Asia’s climate concerns and expectations are becoming clearer to us with each iteration of the survey,” Seah said in the statement.

Stanley Loh, Singapore’s permanent secretary at the Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment, said at the survey report launch event on September 8 that the whole world was set to face extreme weather events and a united response was needed.

Last year the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said every region in the world was projected to witness stronger and longer heat waves, unprecedented droughts and floods, and accelerating sea level rise and storm surges, he said.

“The report assesses that Southeast Asia would be among the hardest hit regions.

“Climate change is a global challenge that requires both national action and a global response, because participation and collaborations at all levels regenerate international partnerships, and among ASEAN countries also,” Loh said.