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


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.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3


  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.



Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade


Gross national income


Official development assistance


Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development


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


United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change


  1. Abbott, K. W., & Snidal, D. (2010). International regulation without international government: Improving IO performance through orchestration. Review of International Organizations, 5(3), 315–344.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Australia. (2007). Australia’s overseas aid program 2007–08: Statement by the Honourable Alexander Downer MP, Minister for Foreign Affairs.

  3. Australia. (2008). Budget: Australia’s international development assistance program 2008–09.

  4. Australia. (2009). Environment annual thematic performance report 2007–08. Canberra: AusAID.

    Google Scholar 

  5. Australia. (2014). Portfolio budget statements 2014–15: Foreign Affairs and Trade portfolio.

  6. Australian Bureau of Statistics (2012). Environmental views and behaviour, 2011–12.

  7. Ayers, J. M., & Huq, S. (2009). Supporting adaptation to climate change: What role for Official Development Assistance? Development Policy Review, 27(6), 675–692.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Bailer, S., & Weiler, F. (2015). A political economy of positions in climate change negotiations: Economic, structural, domestic, and strategic explanations. Review of International Organizations, 10(1), 43–66.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Bamsey, H., & Rowley, K. (2015). Australia and climate change negotiations: At the table, or on the menu? Sydney: Lowy Institute for International Affairs. http://www.lowyinstitute.org/files/australia-and-climate-change-negotiations_1.pdf. Accessed 14 April 2016.

  10. Barnett, J., & Campbell, J. (2010). Climate change and small island states: Power, knowledge, and the South Pacific. London: Earthscan.

    Google Scholar 

  11. Beeson, M., & McDonald, M. (2013). The politics of climate change in Australia. Australian Journal of Politics and History, 59(3), 331–348.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Bernauer, T., Kalbhenn, A., Koubi, V., & Spilker, G. (2010). A comparison of international and domestic sources of global governance dynamics. British Journal of Political Science, 40(3), 509–538.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Bernstein, S., & Cashore, B. (2012). Complex global governance and domestic policies: Four pathways of influence. International Affairs, 88(3), 585–604.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Bird, N., & Brown, J. (2010). International climate finance: Principles for European support to developing countries. European Development Co-operation to 2020 Working paper No. 6. Bonn: European Association of Development Research and Training Institutes (EADI).http://www.edc2020.eu/fileadmin/publications/EDC_2020_Working_Paper_No_6.pdf. Accessed 14 April 2016.

  15. Bishop, J., & Ciobo, S. (2015). Australia to lead Green Climate Fund board. Media release, 6 Nov 2015.

  16. Bowen, A. (2011). Raising climate finance to support developing country action: Some economic considerations. Climate Policy, 11(3), 1020–1036.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Brulle, R., Carmichael, J., & Jenkins, J. C. (2012). Shifting public opinion on climate change: An empirical assessment of factors influencing concern over climate change in the U.S., 2002–2010. Climatic Change, 114(2), 169–188.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Burck, J., Marten, F., Bals, C. (2015). The climate change performance index: Results 2015. Bonn: Germanwatch. http://germanwatch.org/en/download/10407.pdf. Accessed 14 April 2016.

  19. Burgmann, V., & Baer, H. (2012). Climate politics and the climate movement in Australia. Melbourne: Melbourne University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  20. Byrnes, R., & Lawrence, P. (2015). Can “soft law” solve “hard problems”? Justice, legal form and the Durban-mandated climate negotiations. University of Tasmania Law Review, 34(1), 34–67.

    Google Scholar 

  21. Chong, A., & Gradstein, M. (2008). What determines foreign aid? The donors’ perspective. Journal of Development Economics, 87(1), 1–13.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Chubb, P. (2014). Power failure: The inside story of climate politics under Rudd and Gillard. Collingwood: Black Inc.

    Google Scholar 

  23. Climate Institute. (2015). Climate of the nation 2015: Australian attitudes on climate change. Sydney: Climate Institute. http://www.climateinstitute.org.au/verve/_resources/Climate_of_the_Nation_web_final.pdf. Accessed 14 April 2016.

  24. Davies, R. (2014). A nice backflip on climate change financing: Australian funding for the Global Environment Facility. DevPolicy Blog, 5 June 2014, http://devpolicy.org/a-nice-backflip-on-climate-change-financing-australian-funding-for-the-global-environment-facility-20140605/. Accessed 14 April 2016.

  25. Davies, R. (2015). The Indonesia–Australia Forest Carbon Partnership: A murder mystery. CGD Policy Paper 60. Washington, D.C.: Center for Global Development. http://www.cgdev.org/publication/indonesia-australia-forest-carbon-partnership-murder-mystery. Accessed 14 April 2016.

  26. Drezner, D. W. (Ed.). (2003). Locating the proper authorities: The interaction of domestic and international institutions. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

    Google Scholar 

  27. Elliott, L. (2011). Plus ça change? The coalition, labor and the challenges of environmental foreign policy. In J. Cotton & J. Ravenhill (Eds.), Middle power dreaming: Australia in world affairs 2006–2010 (pp. 208–223). Melbourne: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  28. Fankhauser, S., Gennaioli, C., & Collins, M. (2014). Domestic dynamics and international influence: What explains the passage of climate change legislation? Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment Working Paper No. 156. London: Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment. http://www.lse.ac.uk/GranthamInstitute/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/Wp156-Domestic-dynamics-and-international-influence-what-explains-the-passage-of-climate-change-legislation.pdf. Accessed 14 April 2016.

  29. Fielding, K. S., Head, B. W., Laffan, W., Western, M., & Hoegh-Guldberg, O. (2012). Australian politicians’ beliefs about climate change: Political partisanship and political ideology. Environmental Politics, 21(5), 712–733.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. Finnemore, M., & Sikkink, K. (1998). International norm dynamics and political change. International Organization, 52(4), 887–917.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. Fuchs, A., Dreher, A., & Nunnenkamp, P. (2014). Determinants of donor generosity: A survey of the aid budget literature. World Development, 56, 172–199.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Fukuda-Parr, S., & Hulme, D. (2011). International norm dynamics and the “end of poverty”: Understanding the Millennium Development Goals. Global Governance, 17(1), 17–36.

    Google Scholar 

  33. Gampfer, R., Bernauer, T., & Kachi, A. (2014). Obtaining public support for north-south climate funding: Evidence from conjoint experiments in donor countries. Global Environmental Change, 29, 118–126.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  34. Garmann, S. (2014). Do government ideology and fragmentation matter for reducing CO2-emissions? Empirical evidence from OECD countries. Ecological Economics, 105, 1–10. doi:10.1016/j.ecolecon.2014.05.011.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. Garnaut, R. (2013). Dog days: Australia after the boom. Collingwood: Black Inc.

    Google Scholar 

  36. Halimanjaya, A., & Papyrakis, E. (2015). Donor characteristics and the allocation of aid to climate mitigation finance. Climate Change Economics, 6(3), 1–25.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  37. Hannam, P. (2014). Red faces for Tony Abbott on Green Climate Fund. Sydney Morning Herald, (17 November 2014). http://www.smh.com.au/environment/climate-change/red-faces-for-tony-abbott-on-green-climate-fund-20141117-11oca7.html. Accessed 14 April 2016.

  38. Harrison, K., & Sundstrom, L. M. (2007). The comparative politics of climate change. Global Environmental Politics, 7(4), 1–18.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  39. Hasham, N. (2015). Heat turned up on Malcolm Turnbull’s domestic climate policies as world pledges to act. Sydney Morning Herald (14 December 2015). http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/heat-turned-up-on-malcolm-turnbulls-domestic-climate-policies-as-world-pledges-to-act-20151213-glmbv1.html. Accessed 14 April 2016.

  40. Heinrich, T., Kobayashi, Y., & Bryant, K. A. (2016). Public opinion and foreign aid cuts in economic crises. World Development, 77, 66–79.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  41. Hicks, R. L., Parks, B. C., Roberts, J. T., & Tierney, M. J. (2008). Greening aid: Understanding the environmental impact of development assistance. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  42. Hof, A. F., den Elzen, M. G. J., & Mendoza Beltran, A. (2011). Predictability, equitability and adequacy of post-2012 international climate financing proposals. Environmental Science and Policy, 14(6), 615–627.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  43. Howes, S., & Pryke, J. (2014). Biggest aid cuts ever produce our least generous aid budget ever. DevPolicy Blog, 15 December 2014, http://devpolicy.org/biggest-aid-cuts-ever-produce-our-least-generous-aid-budget-ever-20141215-2/. Accessed 14 April 2016.

  44. Hudson, J., & Mosley, P. (2008). Aid volatility, policy and development. World Development, 36(10), 2082–2102.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  45. Jotzo, F., Pickering, J., & Wood, P. J. (2011). Fulfilling Australia’s international climate finance commitments: Which sources of financing are promising and how much could they raise? Centre for Climate Economics and Policy (CCEP) Working Paper 1115. Canberra: The Australian National University. http://ideas.repec.org/p/een/ccepwp/1115.html. Accessed 14 April 2016.

  46. King, G., Keohane, R. O., & Verba, S. (1994). Designing social inquiry: Scientific inference in qualitative research. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  47. Leviston, Z., Price, J., Malkin, S., & McCrea, R. (2014). Fourth annual survey of Australian attitudes to climate change: Interim report. Perth: CSIRO. https://publications.csiro.au/rpr/download?pid=csiro:EP1312080&dsid=DS2. Accessed 14 April 2016.

  48. McCright, A. M., & Dunlap, R. E. (2011). The politicization of climate change and polarization in the American public’s views of global warming, 2001–2010. Sociological Quarterly, 52(2), 155–194.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  49. Morton, A. (2010). Coalition growing cooler towards climate policy. Sydney Morning Herald (21 July 2010). http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-opinion/coalition-growing-cooler-towards-climate-policy-20100720-10jlc.html. Accessed 14 April 2016.

  50. Nakhooda, S., Watson, C., & Barnard, S. (2015). Climate finance pledges at COP21. https://www.odi.org/opinion/10196-infographic-climate-finance-pledges-cop21-paris. Accessed 14 April 2016.

  51. Neumayer, E. (2004). The environment, left-wing political orientation and ecological economics. Ecological Economics, 51(3–4), 167–175.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  52. OECD. (2015). OECD.Stat. http://stats.oecd.org. Accessed 14 April 2016.

  53. Oliver, A. (2015). The Lowy Institute poll 2015. Sydney: Lowy Institute for International Policy. http://www.lowyinstitute.org/files/final_2015_lowy_institute_poll.pdf. Accessed 14 April 2016.

  54. Pickering, J., Jotzo, F., & Wood, P. J. (2015a). Sharing the global climate finance effort fairly with limited coordination. Global Environmental Politics, 15(4), 39–62.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  55. Pickering, J., Skovgaard, J., Kim, S., Roberts, J. T., Rossati, D., Stadelmann, M., et al. (2015b). Acting on climate finance pledges: Inter-agency dynamics and relationships with aid in contributor states. World Development, 68, 149–162. doi:10.1016/j.worlddev.2014.10.033.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  56. Readfearn, G. (2013). How rich countries dodged the climate change blame game in Warsaw. The Guardian (25 November 2013). http://www.theguardian.com/environment/planet-oz/2013/nov/25/climate-change-warsaw-rich-countries-blame-paris-deal. Accessed 14 April 2016.

  57. Rübbelke, D. T. G. (2011). International support of climate change policies in developing countries: Strategic, moral and fairness aspects. Ecological Economics, 70(8), 1470–1480. doi:10.1016/j.ecolecon.2011.03.007.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  58. Saul, B., Sherwood, S., McAdam, J., Stephens, T., & Slezak, J. (2012). Climate change and Australia: Warming to the global challenge. Annandale: The Federation Press.

    Google Scholar 

  59. Stern, N. (2007). The economics of climate change: The Stern review. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  60. Taylor, L. (2014a). G20 leaders force Australia to back down on climate change language. The Guardian (16 November 2014). http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/nov/16/g20-leaders-australia-back-down-climate-change-language. Accessed 14 April 2016.

  61. Taylor, L. (2014b). Green Climate Fund will get $200 m from Australia after Tony Abbott’s about-turn. The Guardian (10 December 2014). http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/dec/10/green-climate-fund-200m-australia-tony-abbott-about-turn. Accessed 14 April 2016.

  62. Tingley, D. (2010). Donors and domestic politics: Political influences on foreign aid effort. The Quarterly Review of Economics and Finance, 50(1), 40–49. doi:10.1016/j.qref.2009.10.003.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  63. Tranter, B. (2013). The great divide: Political candidate and voter polarisation over global warming in Australia. Australian Journal of Politics & History, 59(3), 397–413. doi:10.1111/ajph.12023.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  64. Turnbull, M. (2015). 2015 United Nations climate change conference. https://www.pm.gov.au/media/2015-11-30/2015-united-nations-climate-change-conference. Accessed 14 April 2016.

  65. UNFCCC. (2009). Copenhagen Accord. Document number FCCC/CP/2009/11/Add.1.

  66. UNFCCC. (2015). Adoption of the Paris Agreement. Document number FCCC/CP/2015/L.9/Rev.1.

  67. UNFCCC Standing Committee on Finance. (2014). 2014 biennial assessment and overview of climate finance flows report. Bonn: UNFCCC.

    Google Scholar 

  68. van Asselt, H., & Zelli, F. (2014). Connect the dots: Managing the fragmentation of global climate governance. Environmental Economics and Policy Studies, 16(2), 137–155. doi:10.1007/s10018-013-0060-z.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  69. Westphal, M., Ballesteros, A., Morgan, J., Canfin, P. (2015). Getting to $100 billion: Climate finance scenarios and projections to 2020. Washington, D.C.: World Resources Institute. https://www.wri.org/sites/default/files/getting-to-100-billion-final.pdf. Accessed 14 April 2016.

Download references


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).

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Jonathan Pickering.

Additional information

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

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

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

Download citation


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