By Richard Ingham, AFP

LIMA–Rich countries have pledged more than US$10 billion in climate aid for poor economies, a psychological threshold at U.N. global warming talks in Lima, according to a tally compiled by AFP Tuesday.

Finance is a touchy issue at the negotiations, where developing countries �X led by China �X want wealthy economies to spell out their promised support as a sign of good faith in negotiations to forge a global climate pact by December 2015. The US$10 billion level was exceeded when Australia promised AU$200 million (US$165 million) and Belgium 51.6 million euros at a ministerial meeting in the Peruvian capital. The pledges are for the brand-new Green Climate Fund (GCF), the main vehicle for channelling financial aid to poor nations. Rich countries undertook in 2009 to muster at least US$100 billion per year, from all sources, from 2020. The money will be used to help shore up the defenses of climate-vulnerable countries and help them reduce their carbon emissions. ��These contributions should build trust in the negotiations and propel action to a global agreement,�� said Athena Ballesteros of the World Resources Institute (WRI), a U.S. think tank.

GCF executive director Hela Cheikhrouhou praised the nearly two dozen countries that have promised cash. ��The time has come to bring real scale to climate finance,�� she said. ��Now we need urgency, conviction and scale.�� Australia said its funding would be allocated over four years. The pledge follows the United States contributing US$3 billion, Japan up to US$1.5 billion and France and Germany a billion dollars each to the U.N. fund. One of the world’s wealthiest countries, Australia has come under fire from green groups for its use of coal-fired power and its per-capita carbon pollution �X among the highest in the world. Kelly Dent, Oxfam Australia climate policy adviser, said Canberra’s pledge was an important first step, though it ��falls short of its fair share.�� Call for specifics At a three-hour ministerial session on climate finance, developing countries agreed Tuesday that pledges so far were good news, but they needed to be more predictable.

The Association of Small Island States (AOSIS) called for ��robust information�� on public aid on an annual basis, and a ��common reporting format.�� ��Before we leave Lima, we need that assurance,�� it said. Chinese top negotiator Xie Zhenhua said pre-2020 pledges so far were ��a positive signal, which should be fully acknowledged as good news … but there is still a big gap.��