PARIS -- Rich countries gathered Thursday in France to discuss replenishing an international fund that is meant to help poor nations tackle climate change, but which is falling short of its targets because the U.S. has stopped contributing.
The two-day meeting in Paris aims to replenish the Green Climate Fund, which has spent much of the $7 billion it received from governments in the past five years.
Governments agreed at a U.N. climate summit in 2015 to raise $100 billion each year by 2020 to help developing countries reduce their emissions and cope with the inevitable impacts of global warming, such as sea level rise and droughts. While the South Korea-based Green Climate Fund is only part of that effort, officials had hoped it would collect at least $10 billion in the first round and $15 billion by next year.
U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to withhold $2 billion of the $3 billion pledged by his predecessor, Barack Obama, has contributed to a shortfall at the Green Climate Fund that other countries have struggled to fill.
Host France, Britain, Germany and several other European countries recently said they'll double their first contributions to the fund and officials say total pledges so far add up to about $7.5 billion
Environmental campaigners have welcomed those pledges and some from countries that aren't required to pay, but they fear others - such as Australia - might follow the U.S.'s lead and stop donating.
"The Australian government has already indicated that it intends to contribute no more to the Green Climate Fund," said Jan Kowalzig, a policy adviser at aid group Oxfam Germany.
"We can only hope that they come to their senses," he added.
The meeting takes place a little over a month before the U.N.'s annual climate conference, which will be held in Santiago, Chile, this year. Without the U.S. to lead international efforts, campaigners say a concerted effort by other countries is needed to keep up momentum on combating climate change
"The outcome of this replenishment conference will have a great influence on the mood of the discussion (in Santiago)," said Lucile Dufour of the group Climate Action Network France.