U.N. green climate fund, aiding poor, to pick HQ in 2012

OSLO Sat Aug 25, 2012 12:54pm EDT

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OSLO (Reuters) - Leaders of a fledgling U.N. green fund agreed at a first meeting on Saturday to pick a headquarters this year as part of a plan to oversee billions of dollars in aid to help developing nations fight global warming.

The three-day meeting in Geneva heard pitches from the six countries -- Germany, Mexico, Namibia, Poland, South Korea and Switzerland -- that want to host the Green Climate Fund, the main U.N. body due to manage $100 billion in aid from 2020.

"This first meeting was a very productive start," Ewen McDonald of Australia, a co-chair of the Fund, said in a statement at the end of the talks among the 24 board members working on details of how the fund will operate.

The board aims to select the host country at a next meeting, set for October 18-20 in South Korea. The choice would then have to be endorsed by environment ministers at U.N. climate talks in Doha in late November and early December.

"It is early days," Kjetil Lund, deputy Norwegian finance minister and a board member, told Reuters. "We have to get the right set-up first."

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.

The long-term goal of the fund is to "transform the livelihoods of people responding to the impacts of climate change," Zaheer Fakir of South Africa, the other co-chair, said in a statement.

There was no discussion yet of the far more controversial issue of how to raise $100 billion from public and private sources. The fund is now empty and the economies of many developed nations are struggling.

The target of $100 billion "is on the radar screen, in the backdrop," Henning Wuester, head of the interim secretariat of the fund, told Reuters.

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.

Focused only on practical details, the Geneva talks avoided stirring up deep mistrust between rich and poor nations about sharing out the burden of fighting global warming that has been a constant stumbling block at U.N. climate negotiations.

"The atmosphere was cordial," said Karen Orenstein of Friends of the Earth USA. But she complained that civil society observers were not allowed into the board room and limited to watching a webcast from a room nearby.

(Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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