OSLO A plan by almost 200 countries to step up efforts to fight climate change is set to miss a March deadline for starting work on a green fund to help developing nations, delegates said on Wednesday.
Groups of Asian, and Latin American and Caribbean countries have yet to decide who will gain early influence in designing the "Green Climate Fund" by attending 40-nation U.N.-led talks due in Mexico City on March 14 and 15.
The fund, under which aid flows are meant to reach $100 billion a year by 2020, was agreed by governments in December as part of a deal that the United Nations said reignited "a beacon of hope" for tackling global warming.
John Ashe of Antigua and Barbuda, who represents the Latin American and Caribbean group where 14 countries are vying for seven seats in the fund planning committee, said it looked unlikely the matter could be resolved by mid-month.
"Proceeding with the meeting would be a tall order" if all nominees were not in place, he told Reuters. The Asian group has said it will be unable to pick its seven delegates before April.
"It may be difficult to have the meeting," Artur-Runge Metzger, head of the European Commission delegation, told Reuters. Europe's eight delegates had been decided.
The last U.N. talks in Cancun, Mexico, agreed in December to set up the fund as part of a package including steps to protect tropical forests and to limit any rise in temperatures to below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial times.
Among the few firm deadlines set in the Cancun Agreements was that a "transitional committee" should meet by the end of March 2011 to start designing the fund.
HEATWAVES, DROUGHTS, FLOODS
Rising aid is meant to help developing nations curb their greenhouse gas emissions by shifting from fossil fuels toward renewable energies and to help them adapt to the impacts of heatwaves, droughts, floods, storms and rising sea levels.
Many countries want to ensure that interests are represented, even at preliminary talks. OPEC states in the Asian group, for instance, want compensation for a loss of oil revenues if the world shifts to wind or solar energy.
The organization of the March talks was criticized on February 27 by cabinet ministers from major emerging countries China, India, Brazil and South Africa after talks in New Delhi.
"The decision to convene a meeting of the transitional committee, even before many regional groups of countries have nominated their members, was premature," a joint statement said.
They also said the committee should "take guidance from" the main U.N. climate forum of all countries, which is not due to meet until April 3 to 8 in Bangkok.
Runge-Metzger said that statement also dimmed chances for the meeting in March. He said one option was to downgrade the Mexican talks to an informal session, open to all countries.
Ashe said a delay was not necessarily a setback. "If a meeting is not held in March, additional meetings could be held in coming months," he said.
Among continents that have decided delegates, Africa has picked seven from 21 candidates -- Egypt, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Morocco, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Gabon and South Africa.
The head of the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat, Christiana Figueres, said in Japan on Tuesday that "governments must now implement quickly what they agreed in Cancun."
The Secretariat has published a "progress tracker" for Cancun -- the list of transitional committee members is blank.
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(Editing by Andrew Dobbie)