Southeast Asia Climate Outlook: 2023 Survey Report - Regional Programme Energy Security and Climate Change in Asia and the Pacific
June 2023 saw global records set for the highest temperatures and lowest sea ice coverage observed in any June in 174 years. Closer to home, the highest ever temperatures were recorded in Vietnam and Laos in May, and Thailand in April (Bangkok Post, 2023b) when mercury levels exceeded 44 degrees Celsius. As the climate crisis grows more serious, the only certainty the region has is that these temperature records will continue to reach new highs. With the region expecting to enter an El Niño season, warmer weather, heatwaves and drought will exacerbate forest fires and haze pollution across Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore (Maulia et al., 2023) and introduce new economic shocks to the region’s agriculture-dependent countries (The Economist Intelligence Unit, 2023). It is hardly a future the region is prepared for.
Since 2020, the annual Southeast Asia Climate Outlook Survey Report has been tracking the region’s public perceptions on pertinent issues as the climate crisis develops. The survey covers topics ranging across impacts, solutions and policy strategies. Its findings provide policymakers, businesses and other stakeholders with a barometer of region and country-specific sentiment towards climate action.
The Survey is divided into four sections:
- Section I presents the respondents’ profile including nationality, age, gender, education, affiliation, country and city of residence and source of climate news.
- Section II compares the current climate realities as experienced by respondents and the expectations they hold of different stakeholders in climate action. This section also examines the challenges of Southeast Asia’s climate future and what respondents are willing to do at the individual level for the sake of the climate.
- Section III discusses climate transition issues facing the region including fears of what a transition might bring, the use of coal, support for reduction of fossil fuel subsidies, support for a national carbon tax, potential renewable energy sources, and what ASEAN as a grouping can do to accelerate the transition.
- Section IV explores issues of climate leadership and cooperation in the region, including which country had the best potential to be the region’s climate leader and which countries were deemed more helpful to Southeast Asia’s climate transition.
Climate ambition in the region has grown since the first edition of this Survey in 2020. All ASEAN countries have now communicated their updated Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs or better known as climate pledges) while eight have set net zero targets. Of these, four countries have communicated what is called Long-Term Low Emissions Development Strategies to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to outline their plans to mid-century. But Southeast Asia can scarcely wait for climate policy and cooperation to inch forward as this survey’s results reveal the public’s pragmatic concerns about climate threats as experienced.