BARCELONA, June 18 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Urgent plans to help the world's poorest people become more resilient to extreme weather and rising seas are on hold because of a lack of cash in a U.N. climate fund set up for least developed countries, amid fierce competition for limited aid.
Projects awaiting support include helping government officials in Bangladesh and Rwanda work out how to adapt to the growing impacts of climate change, and keeping health facilities safe from storms and tidal surges in Pacific Island nations.
Other schemes would provide climate risk insurance to small farmers in Burkina Faso, and set up systems to warn Afghans of flash floods and landslides.
The Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF), which backs initiatives to adjust to climate shifts in around 50 poor nations, now has 29 projects that have been cleared but are in need of $215 million to put them into practice.
Government officials and climate experts say no donors offered new money for the fund at an early June council meeting of the Global Environment Facility, which administers the fund.
"We have started implementing very important adaptation programmes and projects ... and we don't want to lose that momentum," Pa Ousman Jarju, Gambia's environment minister, told reporters at U.N. climate talks in Bonn last week.
The LDCF was established in 2001 under the U.N. climate convention to meet the special needs of the poorest countries in preparing and implementing national adaptation programmes.
As of April 2015, the fund had provided nearly $906 million to 49 countries for 161 projects. But its resources have run out.
The LDCF's empty coffers illustrate a wider imbalance in international climate finance.
In the past few years, around four-fifths of the money flowing from governments and development banks has gone to efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions - including through the use of renewable energy - leaving many adaptation projects starved of cash.
Of the $28 billion in climate finance committed in 2014 by six large multilateral development banks, 82 percent was dedicated to emissions mitigation projects, and just 18 percent to adaptation projects, the World Bank said this week.
"As the major channel of funding for adaptation, we are concerned to increase investment in resilience where support is urgently needed now (for) those who are most vulnerable," Rachel Kyte, the World Bank's special envoy for climate change, said in a statement.
When asked about contributing to the LDCF, rich governments point to the proliferation of international climate funds and the need to support the fledgling Green Climate Fund (GCF), also set up under U.N. climate talks, Saleemul Huq, director of the Dhaka-based International Centre for Climate Change, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
The GCF has garnered pledges of just over $10 billion and aims to approve its first set of projects before the U.N. climate conference in Paris late this year. That gathering is tasked with agreeing a new deal to tackle global warming.
Many development experts are hoping the GCF will be able to push more funding to adaptation. Its stated aim is to allocate half its resources for adaptation "over time".
In addition, half its adaptation funding is supposed to go to countries that are most vulnerable to climate impacts.
Meanwhile, existing funds to help those countries, including African nations and small island developing states, continue to struggle for donor support.
The Adaptation Fund - another product of U.N. talks created to help vulnerable communities in developing nations adapt to the negative effects of climate change - is seeking an additional $95 million by the end of the year to reach its fundraising goal of $160 million for 2014 and 2015.
The fund was meant to receive steady income from a levy on carbon trading under the U.N. Clean Development Mechanism.
But after the price of the carbon credits issued by emissions-cutting projects sank to near zero amid oversupply and uncertainty over demand, that revenue stream dried to a trickle, and the fund has had to go cap in hand to donors.
"The fund at the moment cannot plan, cannot programme its resources because of the lack of predictability and sustainability (of its income), so this is something (countries) worry about," Marcia Levaggi, manager of the fund's secretariat, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
The board of the Adaptation Fund is exploring how it might collaborate with the Green Climate Fund in future, Levaggi said.
The Adaptation Fund blazed a trail in having equitable representation of rich and poor nations on its board, and enabling developing states to access its resources directly rather than through international institutions, advances that could be lost if the fund were forced to close, she added. (Reporting by Megan Rowling,; editing by Laurie Goering and Alex Whiting; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit www.trust.org)