UN green climate fund, meant to aid poor, holds first talks

GENEVA Thu Aug 23, 2012 6:35pm IST

Wilted corn crops are seen in a drought-stricken field in Drenje, eastern Croatia August 21, 2012. REUTERS/Antonio Bronic

Wilted corn crops are seen in a drought-stricken field in Drenje, eastern Croatia August 21, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Antonio Bronic

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GENEVA (Reuters) - Leaders of a U.N. green fund meant to channel billions of dollars to help developing economies cope with climate change met for the first time on Thursday after months of delays.

The 24-strong board began 3-day talks in Geneva, trying to decide where the fund will be based and other details, officials said. Ways to extract planned new aid from the anaemic economies of rich countries will be left for later meetings.

Developed nations agreed in 2009 to raise climate aid, now about $10 billion a year, to an annual $100 billion from 2020 to help developing countries curb greenhouse gas emissions and cope with floods, droughts, heatwaves and rising sea levels.

Once up and running, the Green Climate Fund is meant to manage rising aid flows. Candidates to host the fund's headquarters are Germany, Mexico, Namibia, Poland, South Korea and Switzerland.

"The Green Climate Fund can be an important tool in the world's common work to prevent climate change," Norwegian Deputy Finance Minister Kjetil Lund, a member of the board, said in a statement on Thursday.

He said developing nations needed aid to spur greener growth that also enables them to cut greenhouse gas emissions, mainly from burning fossil fuels. The fund is part of a wider effort to work out a United Nations deal to combat climate change.

The board's first meeting was delayed by five months because Asian and Latin American nations took longer than expected to agree on their board members.

"The most important thing is selecting the host country," Omar El-Arini, a member of the board from Egypt, said of the Geneva talks. He said that the board was due to report back on the sitting to a U.N. meeting in Doha in late November.

"I don't think there will be any serious discussion of the $100 billion," he added in a phone briefing earlier this week.

Brandon Wu, of anti-poverty campaigners ActionAid USA, noted that U.S. farmers were struggling with drought. But the effects of similar weather "are even more severe in developing countries where there is no crop insurance, no safety nets," he said.

"People living in poverty will suffer most," he said.

The board started its work by electing two co-chairs, Zaheer Fakir of South Africa and Ewen McDonald of Australia, the fund said in a statement.

(Reporting by Alister Doyle in Oslo; Editing by Ruth Pitchford)

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