When negotiators from around the world convene next week in Lima, Peru, to sketch out the broad outlines of a climate change pact to be passed next year in Paris, they will find themselves in a country well aware of the phenomenon.

“Peru is one of the countries that are already affected by climate change in a severe way,” said Gustavo Meza-Cuadra, Permanent Representative of Peru to the United Nations.

Meza-Cuadra cited deforestation and forest degradation in the Peruvian Amazon and receding glaciers in the Andes that threaten to affect Lima residents’ access to drinking water and electricity, much of which is generated from hydroelectric power, as examples of the climate impacts already affecting Peru.

His assessment is corroborated by a report issued this week by the World Bank Group: “Turn Down the Heat: Confronting the New Climate Normal.”

Glacial areas of the Peruvian Andes retreated by 20 per cent to 35 per cent between the 1960s and the 2000s, with most of that retreat occurring since 1985, the report says.

“Increasing glacial melt poses a high risk of flooding and severely reduces freshwater resources during crop growing seasons,” it adds. “It can also have negative impacts on hydropower supply.”

Even if the rise in global temperature is halted at 2 degrees Celsius, that level alone could melt as much as 90 per cent of the glaciers in the Andes, resulting in a higher risk of flooding, shortages of fresh water and damage to infrastructure, according to the report.

And the impact goes beyond water: Warm temperatures, flooding and drought are all linked to cholera outbreaks.

A sense of urgency borne of such predictions is expected to underlie the talks at the 20th Conference of the Parties, to be held December 1-12 in Lima.

The conference comes on the heels of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Climate Summit, which was held 23 September in New York, where speeches by more than 100 world leaders helped galvanize international resolve to address the problem in a meaningful way. “It was very important for creating a momentum for the Lima discussions,” Meza-Cuadra said.

The Summit “unleashed a new wave of optimism,” writes Dr. Jim Yong Kim, President of the World Bank Group, in the World Bank report.

But, he adds, “Our reports make clear that time is of the essence.”

According to Peruvian President Ollanta Humala, Peru will lose five per cent of its GDP annually by 2030 and 20 per cent by 2050 if action is not taken.

“These are costs that could be used for social inclusion and to fight poverty,” he said at the Summit. “Therefore, we have to act immediately.”

In 2005, the Kyoto Protocol entered into force mandating a strengthened global response, and it remains the only legally binding instrument on carbon emissions. But a number of countries have dissociated themselves from it, and it is in dire need of an update, according to Meza-Cuadra. “It does not reflect current realities, global economic capacities, growing capacities of emerging countries, huge corporate interests,” he said.

Emissions will not be the only topic in Lima. Adaptation goals are also expected to play a role, but – unlike emissions – they cannot be easily measured, Meza-Cuadra said.

Technology too – particularly the adoption of energy-efficient technologies — will be a topic, he said.

The draft accord – to be taken to Paris for passage in December 2015 — should be applied to all countries, while respecting the principle of common yet differentiated responsibility, he said. It should incorporate voluntary and legally binding commitments and possibly the use of market mechanisms such as carbon pricing, he said.

Its success will hinge on whether the political will exists among world leaders to pay the price of using environmentally damaging goods, according to Meza-Cuadra, for whom the answer is a foregone conclusion, even if the timing is not. “We’re going to have to pay the piper at some point,” he said.

Meza-Cuadra is optimistic about progress. Paying that piper is now considered an investment that will pay dividends rather than a cost that will undercut economic growth, he said.

“The fact is, you will not be able to conduct a business in 20 years’ time unless you start equipping that business to deal with the changes happening around us,” he said. “It is entirely possible to maintain good economic growth while conducting economic affairs that help mitigate and prevent exacerbation of climate change.”

“I firmly believe that individual countries – acting purely in their own national self-interest – are going to see the advantage of going well beyond anything that may be agreed collectively. That’s happening already.”

More thorny issues could emerge when some countries move more quickly than others toward mitigating climate change, he said. “And they look and say, ‘Well, we’re not satisfied that each country is making as much of an effort as it could.”

Those faster-moving countries might initiate retaliatory actions — such as adjusting taxes — and that could complicate international trade, he said.

Any business decision must depend on more than whether it is good to seek short-term profits at the expense of the environment, he said.

“It’s also a question of how are we going to participate in the global community 20 years down the road, when most of that community will be well along the path towards environmental  sustainability,” he said. “Can we afford not to be along that path with the rest of the world?”