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Rich nations say they're spending billions to fight climate change. Some money is going to strange places.

Five climate specialists - including university professors, researchers and government officials focused on climate finance - agreed that the projects Reuters identified have little or no direct connection to climate change.

To be sure, decisions to claim borderline projects as climate finance often don't reflect a deliberate attempt to mislead, said Gaia Larsen, director of climate finance access at the World Resources Institute, a non-profit research organization that tracks climate finance.

World leaders acknowledged that damage from climate change is already rapidly outstripping these countries' abilities to cope and began discussing a new climate finance goal that, all told, could amount to trillions of dollars. A SIMEST official said that the agency's work is not focused on climate change and that it is not involved in Italy's climate finance reporting.

Japan conducts emission-reduction calculations for projects, and a foreign ministry team assesses projects before deciding to report them to the U.N. as climate finance, said Hiroshi Onuma, principal deputy director of the climate change division at Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The U.N. Climate Change secretariat, where countries submit their reports, told Reuters its role is to impartially support countries in climate negotiations and implementing climate agreements.

Some climate finance is going to projects primarily focused on economic expansion, and that is not the intention of the funding agreement, said Wayne King, director of climate change for the Cook Islands.

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