By Nina Chestney
LONDON (Reuters) - The first board meeting of the United Nations' Green Climate Fund (GCF) will be held on August 23 to 25, an official at the fund's interim secretariat said on Thursday, five months later than it was originally planned.
The fund is designed to help channel up to $100 billion a year in climate finance by 2020 to help developing countries adapt to climate change.
However, the fund is an empty shell after last year's U.N. climate talks failed to make solid progress on sources of finance and the global economic crisis has left rich nations reluctant to commit cash, prompting fears the money may not emerge in time.
The board's first meeting will be held in Geneva, Switzerland, and will start work on the board's organization and operations and the fund's first workplan.
"We are ready and set to go for the first board meeting on August 23 to 25 in Geneva," Henning Wuester, senior manager at the fund's interim secretariat, told Reuters.
"We hope to have at least one more meeting before Qatar," he added, referring to an additional board meeting which could take place after August but before a major U.N. climate conference in Doha starts on November 26.
Disagreements among regional groups of countries about who should sit on the fund's governing panel delayed the first board meeting from April three times.
The panel will have 24 members and 24 alternatives coming equally from both developing and developed countries.
The meeting was first pushed back until the end of May after European Union countries disagreed over the allocation of seats to its member states.
It was then delayed a second time in May and finally pushed back to the end of August after the fund's interim secretariat awaited nominations from the Asia, Pacific and Latin America and Caribbean regions.
The secretariat finally received the last of those nominations on Wednesday, Wuester said.
There were fears that any further delays to the board's organization could slow the process towards the fund's launch, which is expected in 2013, as well as run the risk of undermining U.N. climate talks in Qatar.
The announcement of the first meeting puts in place the right conditions for countries to start making financial pledges to the fund, said Lies Craeynest, EU economic justice policy advisor at international development charity Oxfam.
However, a second board meeting later this year is the "minimum required" to secure progress towards filling the GCF, she added.
"The real work starts now, and board members should commit to getting the fund up and running as soon as possible. Developed countries should help speed up the process and focus minds by pledging $10-15 billion for the Green Climate Fund over the first three years, at the latest by Doha," she added.
One of the key issues for first meeting will be to select the fund's host country. Germany, Mexico, Namibia, Poland, the Republic of Korea and Switzerland have all made official requests to host the fund.
A decision on the host country will be presented to the Doha meeting at the end of the year, the interim secretariat said in a statement on Thursday.
"We have no preference for any one country - what matters is what (cash pledge) they put on the table," Craeynest said.
"It is logical that the host country should make the first down payment (into the fund) to show belief in the fund and help secure their (host) position," she added.
(Additional reporting by Susanna Twidale; Editing by Alison Birrane)