Christiana Figueres, the Executive Secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, is no stranger to tough negotiations—she led the climate talks in Paris last year that ultimately produced a long-sought-after agreement to combat global warming.
At Tuesday evening’s TIME 100 Gala, where she was among the honorees, Figueres shared her negotiating tips with TIME.
“Listen,” she said after walking the red carpet. “Respect differences. That’s very important. Sometimes we tend to gloss over differences.”
A record 175 world leaders signed the Paris Agreement at the U.N. last week on Earth Day, finalizing the agreement Figueres had hammered out in Paris.
She said her passion for environmental issues began when she was a young mother in Costa Rica and saw the golden toad go extinct.
“I saw a species literally disappear in my lifetime,” she said. “We don’t become mothers to hand over something that is diminishing to our children.”