The landmark U.S.-China climate deal—coupled with nearly $10 billion in pledges to the Green Climate Fund that aims to help developing countries deal with a changing climate—are going to give an energy boost to international climate talks in Lima, Peru (COP 20), starting December 1. That should put climate negotiators in a position to make progress toward a global climate agreement at a meeting in Paris in 2015. In Lima, countries will both have to reach decisions on a few key issues and narrow down the options for the negotiating text of the agreement itself.

Here are five things that need to happen at the Lima negotiations for them to be considered a success:

1. Set guidelines for what countries will include in their climate action plans for after 2020.

Early next year, countries will start submitting to the UNFCCC their domestic climate action plans (known as “intended nationally determined contributions” in the negotiations) for the period after 2020. However, they have yet to agree on what information to include in these initial plans. Negotiators at Lima should ensure adequate information is available to the public and other countries to understand their plans and compare proposals. Countries vary in levels of development, vulnerability to climate impacts and emissions they release. WRI developed the CAIT Equity Explorer to help countries take these and other equity considerations into account as they develop their post-2020 climate plans.

Because many developing countries are vulnerable to climate impacts that are occurring now and have already started adapting to those changed conditions, some want climate change adaptation included in proposed national contributions. Whether as part of the national contributions or addressed separately, a number of countries have expressed a clear desire to focus attention on national adaptation efforts.

2. Establish a process to assess country plans for action.

Countries should decide on a way to assess one another’s contributions so they can be enhanced before next December’s Paris meeting. Additionally, countries and the public will be keen to understand how the contributions stack up to limit global temperature rise to under 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F), a threshold scientists say should not be crossed if we are to avoid the worst impacts of a changing climate.

Possible ways to encourage assessment include:

  • A UNFCCC secretariat synthesis report on how far proposed contributions would go to achieving the 2 degree C goal;
  • Expert workshops and public dialogue among countries about the action plans; and
  • An online bulletin board showcasing all countries’ action plans to allow comments from the general public and responses from governments.

3. Narrow down the negotiating text and ensure the agreement has staying power.

In Lima, countries need to narrow down the options for the core components of the 2015 agreement, including mitigation, adaptation, finance, technology, capacity-building and transparency. But the deal to be finalized in Paris next year must also work out a longer-term process for climate action. At Lima, countries will need to consider how to regularly check on progress and increase ambition for curbing emissions, building resilience, and mobilizing finance.

In addition to these “cycles,” many countries want to set long-term goals in the 2015 agreement, such as a long-term goal to phase out GHG emissions by mid-century. There also seems to be growing support for including a global adaptation goal.

4. Agree on a clear roadmap to mobilize climate action funds.

Funds to help developing countries ramp up renewable energy and become more resilient to climate impacts are critically important. Recent pledges to the Green Climate Fund, which is primed to become the main global fund for providing climate change finance, have gotten this off to a good start. More progress toward a total of $10 billion for the Fund is expected by the end of the Lima talks.

Negotiators in Lima must also make progress on the outline for finance in the 2015 agreement, including development of a clear roadmap for fulfilling the commitment made in Copenhagen in 2009 to mobilize $100 billion in climate finance annually from public and private sources. They will also need to agree on enhanced transparency about the source of these funds and how they will be distributed.

5. Advance near-term climate action.

While the 2015 agreement will focus on climate actions after 2020, additional action must take place before that to avoid the most extreme consequences of climate change. Countries have an important opportunity in Lima to chart more ambitious action. At recent negotiations in Bonn, a series of meetings on key mitigation opportunities showed how countries can shift to low-carbon economies. To take the next step, countries need to decide how to put those opportunities into practice, and to create more ambitious short-term climate action plans.

Lima can also offer businesses and subnational governments a way to showcase their initiatives for action before 2020, building on commitments highlighted at the UN Climate Summit in New York in September 2014.

Lima is a major milestone on the path to Paris and the 2015 climate agreement. By narrowing down the options for the agreement and setting the rules of the road for putting forward and evaluating national contributions over the next year, this can be the global climate conference that puts us on the way to an effective, robust, and ambitious agreement.