Starting today, approximately 40,000 people are meeting in Paris for a historic two-week United Nations 2015 climate change conference. Negotiators and heads of government will come together for what’s formally known as the 21st Conference of Parties (COP21) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). This year’s conference however, holds even more significance. It is predicted that the biggest international agreement on reducing global greenhouse gas emissions will be reached, helping to slow the effects of climate change. There is a lot of optimism and momentum riding on this year’s summit, and we’ll be outlining them in this article, along with some of the key aspects of the deal.

The what and why of the Climate Summit

Hosted and chaired by France, governments of more than 190 countries will gather at this year’s summit to discuss a new global agreement on 2015 climate change, which will be applicable to all. The aim is to keep global warming below 2°C.

As Fiona Harvey writes in the Guardian, “Scientists have warned that if greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, we will pass the threshold beyond which global warming becomes catastrophic and irreversible. That threshold is estimated as a temperature rise of 2C above pre-industrial levels, and on current emissions trajectories we are heading for a rise of about 5C. That may not sound like much, but the temperature difference between today’s world and the last ice age was about 5C, so seemingly small changes in temperature can mean big differences for the Earth.”

2014 was a record high for average temperatures and it was announced that 2015 is likely to be the hottest on record. It’s undeniable that global temperatures have been rising, and will only continue to if we don’t make some fundamental changes.

This year’s 2015 climate change conference is important because what is likely to be agreed in Paris will be the start of those changes. The EU will cut its emissions by 40% by 2030 and the US by 26% to 28% by 2025. Nations responsible for 90% of global emissions, both developing countries as well as developed ones, have come up with targets that determine their contribution. This is known as Indented Nationally Determined Contributions or INDCs. It has been suggested that these targets will be enough to hold the world to approximately 2.7C or 3C of warming, which although not enough to meet the 2C threshold, can be rectified throughout the years due to a system of a review of the emissions targets every five years. You can learn more about the action plans to reach the 2°C objective here.

Why are people so optimistic this time?

Instead of focusing on a top-down approach as done in the past, this year, the agreement will work towards a bottom-up approach. As explained above, this is called INDC, and it is where governments create their own plans on how they will cut greenhouse gas emissions based on their own country’s political and economic factors. You can also read more about each country’s targets here. In addition, there is a legal framework that will verify whether countries follow through on their commitments and that they provide climate financing for poor countries. There is hope that this method will be more attainable due to its flexibility.

Who should take the responsibility?

Although this agreement is based on each country coming up with their own specific plans, some of the biggest emitters such as the US, China, and India will be taking a great deal of responsibility going forward. Developing countries believe that developed ones have released the highest percentage of greenhouse gases, and should take the lead. Developed nations on the other hand point out that emerging economies are responsible for two-thirds of daily emissions and a long-term solution cannot occur without action from them.

This year’s 2015 climate change conference will focus on all countries coming together to sign a global agreement. However, the question of responsibility is one that should extend this article and this summit. We all have an obligation and commitment to protect our home, and this starts with becoming more educated and raising awareness about issues such as climate change.

Let’s play an active role in helping save our planet. It’s the least we can do.