What drives national support for multilateral climate finance? International and domestic influences on Australia’s shifting stance

Abstract

The fulfilment of wealthy countries’ commitment to mobilise $100 billion a year in climate finance by 2020 will hinge on maintaining domestic political support in contributor countries. Predictability in flows of climate finance is likely to enhance the overall stability of the climate finance system and the broader climate regime. However, at present it remains unclear how the 2020 target will be achieved and little is known about what drives fluctuations in support among contributor countries. This article explores domestic and international factors that may explain fluctuations in national support through a case study of Australia’s climate finance from 2007 to 2015. Drawing on documentary analysis and interviews with officials and stakeholders, the paper tracks two domestic factors that may influence support for climate finance—the government’s political orientation and public concern about climate change—and two international factors—commitment to multilateral agreements and international peer pressure. While some accounts view climate policy choices as being driven primarily by domestic factors, we find that the government’s political orientation on domestic climate policy and aid explains some but not all variations in Australia’s stance on climate finance. International peer group effects have moderated the positions of two governments that were otherwise reluctant to act on climate change. National policy reforms combined with improved multilateral oversight and more established replenishment cycles could bolster support in contributor countries and thereby strengthen the capacity of the climate finance system.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Adequacy may be understood as the extent to which funding flows reflect prior international commitments or developing countries’ financing needs (Hof et al. 2011). We define predictability as whether “funding is known and secure over a multi-year funding cycle” (Bird and Brown 2010, p. 7).

  2. 2.

    Currencies are expressed in Australian dollars (A$) unless otherwise indicated.

  3. 3.

    The spike in 2010 is largely due to frontloaded expenditure of fast-start finance pledges by Japan and France.

Abbreviations

DFAT:

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

GNI:

Gross national income

ODA:

Official development assistance

OECD:

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development

REDD+:

Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries, and the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries

UNFCCC:

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

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Acknowledgements

We are grateful for helpful feedback from participants at the Lund Climate Finance Workshop, the 2015 Australian Political Studies Association Conference and the 2016 Australasian Aid Conference, where earlier versions of this paper were presented. In particular we appreciated written comments from Carola Betzold, Pieter Pauw, Jakob Skovgaard and two anonymous reviewers. We also appreciate the generosity of former colleagues and other interviewees in shedding light on the issues addressed in our paper. This research was supported under the Australian Research Council’s Laureate Fellowship funding scheme (project number FL140100154).

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Correspondence to Jonathan Pickering.

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An erratum to this article is available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10784-017-9353-1.

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Pickering, J., Mitchell, P. What drives national support for multilateral climate finance? International and domestic influences on Australia’s shifting stance. Int Environ Agreements 17, 107–125 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10784-016-9346-5

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Keywords

  • Climate finance
  • Climate change
  • Green Climate Fund
  • Fragmentation
  • Peer group effects
  • Australia