A new report says the low-carbon market has shifted from Europe and is now being dominated by the emerging economies of Asia.
The Climate Institute's global climate leadership review analyses 20 indicators to measure a country's carbon competitiveness, with the main focus on investments in clean energy.
It says Australia has slipped in its ranking among G20 countries since the last review from 16th to 17th.
France, Japan, South Korea and the UK were in the top five, with China climbing to third spot from seventh.
The Institute's CEO John Connor says China is rapidly embracing a shift towards a low-carbon economy.
"China has been one of the big improvers here because of its very substantial extra investments in clean energy," he said.
"Not only by cleaning up their own air pollution but because they see this is as a key market for the 21st century.
"They're exporting the value of solar PV panels same as their shoes and that's gone from zero to that in five years".
The report says Australia has increased its overall score, with improvements in transport efficiency and more money spent on infrastructure.