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Under the non-binding Copenhagen Accord agreed at a U.N. summit in December 2009, donors agreed that money to give a quick push to efforts to slow climate change from 2010-12 would have a "balanced allocation between adaptation and mitigation."
But only 11 to 16 percent of the money promised so far will go to adaptation actions such as building sea walls and promoting new farming practices, according to the report by the London-based International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED).
Just $3 billion of the $30 billion pledged for 2010 to 2012 has been clearly allocated to adaptation projects in the world's poorest countries, and some of the commitments are in the form of loans rather than grants, the report said.
It said this estimate was "very rough and perhaps low," partly because of a lack of information from donors.
"The big promises for adaptation funding made at Copenhagen are not being met," said David Ciplet, a researcher at Brown University in the United States and one of the report's authors.
"Adaptation is absolutely crucial for the billions of people who face the rising intensity of climate disasters," he said.
Mitigation projects have won funds largely because efforts to reduce emissions are generally bigger, older and better established, said J. Timmons Roberts, director of the Center for Environmental Studies at Brown University and another of the report's authors.
By contrast, many adaptation efforts are small, local and new. Changing that mix to ensure that adaptation programmes receive a larger share of funding is crucial, the report said.
It is also hard to find out whether funds pledged to climate change are new or recycled from other aid commitments, said the report's authors, who called for an independent registry of climate change-related projects under the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change.
The Copenhagen Accord promised that the fast-start funds totaling $30 billion from 2010-12 would be "new and additional" but gave no clear definition.
"Industrialized nations seem to think they can get away with an 'anything goes' approach, where whatever they describe as 'adaptation funding' counts," said Roberts.
The report's findings suggest that vulnerable countries like Bangladesh -- where millions of people could be displaced by rising sea levels, worsening storm surges and other climate-related problems -- may not get the aid they need.
"Government support is very limited. The government tries its best but there are so many people and people really suffer," said Muhammed Chowdhury, a Bangladesh climate negotiator.
As the low-lying South Asian country celebrates the Muslim festival of Eid this week, tens of thousands of people displaced by Cyclone Aila in 2009 and Cyclone Sidr in 2007 are still living in roadside shacks, waiting for protective embankments to be rebuilt so they can return home, he said.
Editing by Alister Doyle and Tim Pearce