OSLO A promise by Japan on Sunday to give up to $1.5 billion to a U.N. fund to help poor nations cope with global warming puts the fund within sight of a $10 billion goal and brightens prospects for a U.N. climate pact next year.
Japan's pledge, at the G20 meeting of world leaders in Australia, raises the total promised to the Green Climate Fund (GCF) to $7.5 billion, including up to $3 billion by U.S. President Barack Obama on Saturday.
The Seoul-based GCF Secretariat in a statement hailed the pledges as a turning point before a first donors' conference in Berlin on Thursday. The United Nations has set an informal target of raising $10 billion this year.
The cash, to help emerging economies curb their greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to changes such as heatwaves, mudslides and rising sea levels, is widely seen as vital to unlock a U.N. climate deal meant to be agreed in late 2015 in Paris.
"These pledges bring us a giant step closer reaching a global climate agreement in Paris," said Athena Ballesteros of the World Resources Institute think-tank.
Hela Cheikhrouhou, executive director of the GCF, said she hoped the U.S. and Japanese pledges and an unexpected G20 focus on climate change would translate into further significant contributions by other countries.
Nations including Britain, Italy, Canada and Australia have yet to announce pledges. Among other big donors, Germany and France have previously each promised about $1 billion for a first round of funds for the GCF, lasting four years.
The GCF is a major part of a plan agreed in 2009 to raise financial flows to help developing nations tackle climate change, from public and private sources, to $100 billion a year by 2020.
G20 leaders put a spotlight on climate change despite efforts by host Australia to focus more narrowly on economic growth. [ID:nL3N0T44NX]
Christiania Figueres, head of the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat, welcomed the U.S. and Japanese pledges and other recent action on climate change, saying they had triggered a positive atmosphere for the Berlin meeting.
Last week, the United States and China set goals for curbing climate change, brightening prospects for Paris even though their promises, including Beijing's plan for a undefined peak in greenhouse gas emissions by around 2030, were vague.
(Editing by David Holmes)