PARIS - Nations missed a self-imposed deadline to firm up pledges worth $4.7 billion (4.2 billion euros) to the Green Climate Fund (GCF) by Thursday, mustering arrangements for less than $4 billion, the fund said.

This leaves it short of the threshold to start funding projects to curb dangerous climate change, GCF executive director Hela Cheikhrouhou told journalists by teleconference from Songdo, South Korea.  ‘The fund has successfully signed agreements for close to $4 billion from 21 countries, representing 42 percent of the amount ($9.3 billion) pledged at our pledging conference in Berlin’ last November, she said.

The 30-odd funder nations had agreed that 50 percent of the $9.3 billion Berlin pledges should be converted into ‘contribution agreements’, with timetables for payment, by close of business Thursday. ‘The 50 percent figure was necessary to enable the fund to start its programming activities, meaning to commit financial resources to mitigation and adaptation projects and programmes,’ said Cheikhrouhou.

The figure achieved was ‘not sufficient,’ she said, and urged ‘all remaining contributors to turn their pledges into signed agreements at their earliest opportunity.’ Countries that have not signed include the United States, which had pledged $3 billion, Japan ($1.5 billion), Canada ($277 million) and Australia ($187 million), said a GCF document. The fund was created after developed countries agreed at a UN climate summit in Copenhagen in 2009 to mobilise $100 billion annually by 2020 for climate aid to developing countries.

To date, some $10.2 billion has been pledged to the GCF, mandated to serve as the main investment vehicle to fight global warming. Disbursement of the money will help poor nations adopt less-polluting technologies to limit further climate damage, while bolstering their defences against problems that can no longer be avoided. Cheikhrouhou underlined that funding the GCF was also key to creating political goodwill in negotiations meant to conclude in Paris in December with a world pact on curbing Earth-warming greenhouse gas emissions.

‘A fair agreement in Paris must include clear language on the fund’s role in channelling increasing amounts of new climate finance to developing countries,’ she said. ‘Our partners, the developing countries, are looking for this signal.’ Moreover, ‘California and Governor Brown have clearly understood, internalized and articulated the science of climate change,’ said Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

‘Four consecutive years of exceptional drought has brought home the harsh reality of rising global temperatures to the communities and businesses of California,’ added World Bank chief Jim Yong Kim. The 28-nation European Union set the 40 percent by 2030 target last October, ahead of a UN climate change conference scheduled to take place in Paris later this year. The United States, which accounts for 12 percent of global emissions, announced its intention to reduce them by 26-28 percent by 2025 compared with its 2005 level.

In the meanwhile, The United States and Japan will miss a U.N. deadline on Thursday to firm up promises to provide billions of dollars for a new U.N. fund intended to help developing nations tackle global warming, the fund said.

The Green Climate Fund (GCF), which wants to decide on a first set of projects to aid developing nations before a Paris U.N. climate summit in December, said donors had signed deals of almost $4 billion, 42 percent of a total promised in late 2014. The signed deals, which lay out a firm timetable for when promised money will be paid, are below the minimum level set by donors, of 50 percent of the total by April 30, to start full operations by the GCF.

‘A lot of progress has been made,’ Hela Cheikhrouhou, executive director of the Fund, told an online news conference from South Korea on Thursday. ‘The work is not finished,’ she said, urging governments to speed up contributions to help get on track.

Top donors the United States, which promised $3 billion, and Japan, on $1.5 billion, were not among nations that have signed deals, according to a GCF overview. Cheikhrouhou said no new deals were expected later on Thursday. Britain and Germany led by signing deals covering their full amounts of $1.2 billion and $1 billion respectively, followed by Sweden, France, Norway and the Netherlands.

The Fund is intended to help developing nations cut their greenhouse gas emissions by shifting to renewable energies such as solar or wind and help them adapt to changes such as more floods, desertification and rising ocean levels. It has not ruled out funding fossil fuels, if they help towards cleaner energy use. The Fund raised $9.35 billion at a pledging conference in November but new cash promised since then, including by Australia, has raised the pledged total to $10.2 billion.

Separately, Cheikhrouhou told Reuters that the fund was ‘an essential ingredient of a successful agreement’ in Paris. The GCF is meant as one of the main avenues of a 2009 deal to mobilise $100 billion a year in aid to developing nations, from public and private sources, to help combat climate change. Cheikhrouhou said emerging economies needed to invest about $2.5 trillion a year in sectors such as energy, transport, agriculture and industry and an extra $450 billion to ensure they were green.