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Australian climate finance falling far short of our fair share, getting worse

A new report highlights the shortfall in developed countries climate finance, including noting Australia as a particular laggard. It estimates the Australian Government is contributing about 8 per cent of what our global fair share commitment should be for the years 2020-2025.

Antonio Guterres, the UN Secretary General, has warned developed nations they must deliver on climate finance for a successful outcome from the UN Climate Conference in Glagow (COP26) in November. 

The UN Secretary General, speaking at High-Level Dialogue on Climate Action in the Americas, hosted by the Government of Argentina , said developed nations must deliver on the solidarity agenda. He told the Dialogue: 

“developed nations must deliver on the solidarity agenda. That means support to developing countries on vaccines, debt and liquidity, as well as climate finance. We need a credible plan for delivering on the $ 100 billion dollar commitment made over a decade ago. We need it well ahead of Glasgow, to restore trust.” he said.

In 2009 at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP15) in Copenhagen Australia committed with other developed nations to raising US $100 billion climate finance per year from 2020 to developing countries to assist the transition and global decarbonistion.

Of the 23 developed countries responsible for providing international climate finance, only Germany, Norway and Sweden have been paying their fair share of the annual $100 billion goal. All other countries are falling short.

Australia, Canada, Greece, New Zealand, Portugal and the United States (US) all contributed less than 20% of their fair share of international climate finance. 

Australia has committed AU$1.5 billion (US$1.1 billion) for climate finance for 2021–2025, which means it will be funding only 8 per cent of its fair share over the next five years, according to the study.

The research was prepared in response to requests from the COP26 team in the United Kingdom Cabinet Office, donor governments and civil society organisations looking to secure and benchmark new commitments before COP26 in Glasgow. The working paper was funded by the Zurich Flood Resilience Alliance.

According to decision 1/CP.21 reached in Paris in 2015, and reiterated in decision 14/CMA.1 agreed at Katowice in 2018, the $100 billion a year target also serves as the annual floor for international climate finance to 2025, when the new goal will be adopted.

As the original commitment in 2009 and the decisions in 2015 and 2018 did not include any methodology, this research used three metrics for apportioning climate finance responsibility. These are Gross National Income (GNI), Cumulative CO2 emissions (1990–2019), and population. A subsequent composite indicator was calculated based on the three metrics to determine a Fair share based on a composite index ($ billions).

Australia’s Gross National Income (2020) was $1,331 trillion producing a 2.9 percent share.

Australia’s Cumulative CO2 emissions (1990–2019) was 10.9 Gt CO2 producing a 3.3 percent share.

Australia’s population (2020) was 25.7 million producing a 2.7 per cent share.

Australia’s Fair share based on a composite index  was calculated to be $2.948 billions.

Australia actually contributed Bilateral and multilateral, public climate finance (2017–2018 average), according to OECD data,  $0.477 billion. This amounted to just 16 percent progress towards providing a fair share of climate finance.

Australia, Canada and Italy are noted as significant laggards, all paying less than a quarter of their fair share.

Under Progress towards fair share the report noted for Australia:

“Australia should be contributing $2.7–3.7 billion a year depending on which metric is used to attribute fair share. In 2017–2018, it provided an annual average of $477 million, or 16% of its fair share measured against the composite index. Almost all of Australia’s bilateral climate finance was provided as grants. Looking forward, Australia has committed AU$1.5 billion ($1.1 billion) for climate finance for 2021–2025 (Government of Australia, 2020), which means it will be funding only 8% of its fair share over the next five years.”

It is clearly time that Australia increased its share of climate finance, and rejoined the Green Climate Fund. 

Under the Abbott government  Australia decided to support the Green Climate fund, committing A$200 million in 2014 and co-chairing its board for much of its early stages. Australia being on the board had some advantages in a say in allocating project funding for the Pacific region and was a vocal advocate for robust decision making and transparency. 

In October 2018 Prime Minister Scott Morrison  announced over talkback radio that Australia would not “tip money into that big climate fund”. Australia lost its board seat at the end of 2019.(2) Australia stopped all payments to the Green Climate Fund in early 2019 and received a Fossil of the Day award for this action at COP25 in Madrid.

Australia is not pulling its weight, is indeed a major laggard with addressing climate finance. If we want to be taken as a serious diplomatic actor we should at minimum be contributing our global fair share.


(1) Colenbrander, S., Cao, Y., Pettinotti, L. and Quevedo, A. (2021) A fair share of climate finance? Apportioning responsibility for the $100 billion climate finance goal. ODI Working Paper. London: ODI ( ).

(2) Jonathan Pickering, Paul Mitchell, (November 30, 2020), After Biden’s win, Australia needs to recommit to the UN Green Climate Fund, DEVPolicy Blog, 


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