LIMA, Peru, December 1, 2014 (AMG) — The 20th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP) and the 10th session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties (CMP) to the Kyoto Protocol will be held from December 1 to 12 in Lima, Peru.

Why this matters: The litmus test of success in Lima, according to Christina Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, would be a “clear draft of the universal climate agreement, a shared determination by all to deliver significant national contributions to build a low carbon resilient future, initial capitalisation of the Green Climate Fund, and the mobilisation of a broad coalition of actors turning potential into reality on the ground, without delay.”

See also: Understanding climate change in the Caribbean context

Member nations hope to lay the groundwork for a legally binding agreement to be finalized in Paris in 2015.

Reason for optimism: Unlike recent conferences, an aura of optimism surrounds the Lima gathering, predicated on pledges by the United States and China to curb emissions starting in 2020.

The European Union also pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent from 1990 levels by 2030. These actions are necessary to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius – the maximum temperature increase which science suggests would avert critical climate change events – but it requires all states to band together to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

See also: What CARICOM leaders pushed for at the UN Climate Summit

Small island states in particular face the dangers of rapidly rising sea levels. The Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), which includes many Caribbean nations, met earlier this month to discuss the priorities at Lima. The AOSIS ministers argue that limiting warming is not only dependent on long-term reductions, but also on a focus on clean energy policies and near-term emissions reductions. The ministers released a statement calling on “top emitters and the world to ensure this rare opportunity is not lost.”

Jamaica’s climate change minister echoed the urgency for a global agreement, stressing that small islands are dependent on coastal zones for tourism revenue. Indeed, to better protect their valuable coastlines, small island states are hoping for an agreement that limits warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, but are willing to accept the 2 degree mark.

Paris ambitions: With a goal of an international agreement in Paris next year, the Lima conference will try to lay the groundwork. It should clarify what countries need to include in Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), which will be put forth in the first quarter of 2015.

Countries will also discuss how to maintain and increase cooperation on climate change action by all parties. Building on the current momentum around the world is imperative to limiting future warming and providing methods for institutional incorporation of climate and energy policy. The next two weeks will be a litmus test of whether the world is finally ready to embrace emissions reductions.

Lima COP-20: Is the world finally ready to embrace emission reductions?

Alison Singer

Alison Singer has been writing about environmental issues for years, and has a particular interest in climate change. She lives in Washington, D.C., where she works for the US Government and writes for a variety of organizations.

Category: Sustainability