LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The board of the fledgling U.N. Green Climate Fund has disappointed some developing countries, as well as climate finance campaigners, by failing to set a date for raising funds from wealthy governments, during the board’s meeting in Paris this week.
A decision on filling the fund - which remains empty apart from money for its own administration - asks its secretariat to "make arrangements with all interested contributors for the initial resource mobilisation process" no later than three months after the board approves a list of "essential requirements" for it to operate.
Those are due to be settled at two meetings in 2014, tentatively scheduled for February and late May.
This means significant pledges are unlikely to be made before next September, and leaves wriggle room for delay if things don't go according to plan, climate finance experts said.
"We are disappointed with the outcome, because a clear timetable is needed now for resources to be pledged and delivered," said Oscar Reyes, a fellow with the climate policy programme at the U.S.-based Institute for Policy Studies. "We were asking for certainty and we got legalese," he told Thomson Reuters Foundation from Paris.
Civil society observers at the meeting said some developing countries, including Brazil and the Philippines, had wanted actual dates for pledging to be set, but the United States and Australia would not agree to this.
The fund is expected to channel a large proportion of the $100 billion a year rich countries have promised to mobilise by 2020 to help vulnerable developing nations adapt to more extreme weather and rising seas in a warmer world, and to put their economies on a low-emission path. That is why there is such a high level of interest globally in how the Green Climate Fund (GCF) is set up and run.
Mohamed Nasr, an Egyptian diplomat who is advising his country's GCF board member, said the process of designing the fund is missing a sense of urgency, but progress is being made, albeit more slowly than developing nations would like.
Many of those states had initially wanted to see money pledged in parallel with the fund's policies and procedures being worked out, but rich countries made it clear they were not prepared to do that.
"The main issue (for us) is that we are still missing clarity on the scale of the fund. Developing countries have been asking what exactly are we trying to establish here," Nasr noted. Some donor governments have given verbal assurances this week that they are willing to put substantial amounts into the GCF, but there is nothing in writing, he added.
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Environment and development groups are following the meetings of the 24-member board carefully, because decisions made now will determine whether and how the GCF's resources will be targeted to benefit the poorest people who are already suffering the impacts of climate change.
Climate justice activists have been calling for funding to be split equally between measures to help countries adapt, and support for them to curb their greenhouse gas emissions. But this has not been stipulated in any decisions so far.
"There remains a danger that the allocation of money for adaptation will lag significantly behind that for mitigation, which has been the case for climate finance writ large," Karen Orenstein, an international policy analyst with Friends of the Earth U.S., said via Skype from the meeting in Paris.
There were some more positive developments for those lobbying for the GCF to prioritise the needs of poorer nations. For example, the board agreed a plan to help vulnerable developing countries prepare to submit and implement projects financed by the GCF, and requested the fund's secretariat "mobilise resources" for that purpose.
"#GCF Board approves quite good decision on readiness and preparatory support, including asking for early $$$. Best outcome so far I'd say," tweeted Brandon Wu, a senior policy analyst with ActionAid USA, from the meeting on Thursday.
Others pointed to a decision to push forward with work on adopting a "gender-sensitive" approach in the fund's policies and operations - something women's groups in particular have been calling for, and which is already laid down in the GCF's governing instrument.
And the board agreed to reconsider next year its decision not to webcast its proceedings, according to Wu, in response to criticism from NGO watchers who have pushed hard for greater transparency.
Yet these encouraging moves failed to assuage the bigger concern over when donors will start putting real money on the table, observers said.
If the GCF doesn't keep to its plan leading to a first round of pledges, "it will have a direct impact on the negotiations for the 2015 global climate agreement," Nasr said. "The real test will be in the middle of next year," he added.
Reyes of the Institute for Policy Studies warned that this week’s decision to put off seeking donations until after fund rules are fixed "opens up the potential for further delays in a fund that has already been delayed".
"This could spread malaise. If countries don't pledge by the middle of next year, it would damage the (climate) negotiations," he emphasised.