Climate Opinion Poll: Asians demand climate deal, want Obama to lead

Feature story - September 17, 2009
People in developing Asia pin their hopes for a new global climate treaty mainly on one man: Barack Obama. According to a new poll, 53% of Asians believe an agreement at the Copenhagen Climate Summit in December depends on leadership by the US President, followed by Indonesia’s President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (15%) and India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (14%) who are seen as crucial leaders especially by their own constituencies.

A contingent of Greenpeace volunteers leads the second leg of the Chang(e) Caravan along a road near Khao Yai National Park, 200 kilometers North of Bangkok. The Chang(e) Caravan, launched last September 12, is a procession of community folk and Greenpeace volunteers that aims to raise awareness on climate change impacts and solutions.

The August 2009 poll was conducted by Synovate, one of the world's leading market researchers, and commissioned by WWF, Greenpeace South East Asia and 350.org to support the TckTckTck.org, an alliance of major international NGOs. It shows that people in China, India, Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand give their leaders a strong mandate for climate action at the UN General Assembly in New York and at the G20 Summit in Pittsburgh later this month.

Those polled believe that countries with the biggest leadership potential are also among the most difficult to get into any agreement in Copenhagen, surprisingly highlighting China above all others (43%), an advocate of developing country interests as a member of the G77 group. Other countries seen as challenging are the US (38%), India (33%), Japan (25%), Russia (24%), South Africa (20%), Brazil (18%), UK (17%), Germany (16%), Mexico (15%), France (14%) and Canada (10%).

"The strong demand for governments to work for a fair, ambitious, and binding treaty in Copenhagen is driven by a clear understanding that climate change is an immediate crisis, not a problem for the future."

"People in developing Asia think a few countries can make all the difference", said Kim Carstensen, Leader of WWF's Global Climate Initiative. "If the US, China and India live up to the huge leadership potential Asians see in them, Copenhagen can deliver a global deal that protects the world from runaway climate change, especially poor and vulnerable nations like those in Asia."

"Getting a deal is important, so this is not the time to be obstructionist."

Asians express a strong desire for action from all major players and urge North and South to stand united for a global solution. While 73% agree that rich developed countries must lead the world in the fight against climate change, "because they are historically responsible for most greenhouse gas emissions and at the same time most capable of reducing them", 68% say that major developing countries must join the effort, "because their rapidly increasing emissions are adding more to the current state of pollution and they must switch from a dirty to a clean development model".

First and foremost, however, people in the countries polled want their own governments to act, with 79% saying: "Regardless of what other countries do and their historical responsibility, I want my government to take action and show leadership to reduce the risk from climate change for my country."

"The poll results reflect the collective aspirations and wisdom of urban Asians, sending a strong signal to leaders of the developed world, especially President Obama, to cooperate with the developing countries for fair and appropriate contributions towards global emission reduction targets", said Shailendra Yashwant, Campaigns Director at Greenpeace South East Asia. "The special session of the UN General Assembly in New York on 22 September is an opportunity for world leaders to act on the mandate offered by their citizens and take decisive action to stop deforestation as the first and foremost mitigation action."

59% want their governments to engage positively in Copenhagen this December, but not offer a blank check. They feel that getting a deal is important, but it must be a fair one, safeguarding their individual country's right to develop.

29% go even further and urge their governments to be flexible and compromise. They agree with the statement: "Getting a deal is important, so this is not the time to be obstructionist. I really want my country to be a leader and think we can afford to give a bit more". Only 12% of Asians believe that any deal would be a bad deal, so their governments should not sign up.

"The poll results reflect the collective aspirations and wisdom of urban Asians."

"The strong demand for governments to work for a fair, ambitious, and binding treaty in Copenhagen is driven by a clear understanding that climate change is an immediate crisis, not a problem for the future," said Jamie Henn, East Asia Coordinator at 350.org. "The poll shows that people are worried about the impacts of climate change, but they also know that the solutions are out there."

With respect to dangerous impacts from climate change as projected by scientists, Asians are most worried about water shortages (32%) and worsening health conditions (31%), followed by plant and animal extinction (20%) and food shortages (17%) - a clear reflection of the impacts hitting vulnerable developing countries in Asia already.

Stopping deforestation is the top priority for Asians when it comes to reducing emissions: 39% say this is the main solution for a stable climate. 28% think actions need to be taken first within the energy sector, e.g. increasing the uptake of renewable energy, implementing energy efficiency standards and shifting to less polluting modes of transport. 17% say that changes in lifestyle and consumption patterns should take priority, and for 16% actions within the agricultural sector are the top solution.

"The poll shows that people are worried about the impacts of climate change, but they also know that the solutions are out there."

The poll was released ahead of the Major Economies Forum in Washington (17-18 Sept), the Ban-ki Moon Leaders Summit on Climate Change and the UN General Assembly in New York (21-22 Sept) , and the G20 Summit in Pittsburgh (24-25 Sept). UN climate talks will resume in Bangkok on 28 September, and progress in Bangkok will largely depend on outcomes of the meetings in the US.

● A regional summary report with case studies for China, India, Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand including graphs with regional and country data can be found at: http://www.panda.org/climate/press ● A total of 6063 people in China (including Hong Kong), India, Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand were polled at different dates in August 2009. ● The share of male and female participants in the poll was almost even, varying between 47% and 53% per group depending on the country. ● Those polled were between the ages of 15 and 64, with a majority having either secondary education levels or graduated from a university. ● The margin of error is 1.3% for a sample size of 6000, at 95 percent confidence interval. About Tcktcktck The Tcktcktck campaign brings together an unprecedented alliance of faith groups, NGOs, trade unions and individuals at this crucial time to call for a new international treaty that will save the planet from the dangerous effects caused by climate change. As world leaders prepare to strike a climate deal in Copenhagen in December, Tcktcktck will harness the voices of the people to demand an ambitious, fair and binding new international agreement that reflects the latest science. Time is running out. You can show your support by going to http://www.tcktcktck.org and joining the campaign.

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