Men on a Mission: Navigating the Complexities of Climate Change

Posted by on May 22, 2015

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Key Lesson:  Whether you’re herding cats or negotiating a global climate change deal, remembering your higher purpose can help you stay focused on the task at hand.

Daniel Reifsnyder and Ahmed Djoghlaf have a lot in common. They have followed similar personal and professional paths, both are passionate about the need to address climate change, and both are well-respected diplomats. Together, they chair the United Nations working group tasked with bringing about a meaningful global agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The task, according to them, is like “taking 196 cats and trying to get them all to move in the same direction.”

As representatives from the industrialized world (Reifsnyder is from the U.S.) and the developing world (Djoghlaf hails from Algeria), they serve as an example of how to bridge the gap between those typically opposing camps in the climate change debate.  “An interesting thing happens when you are elected to one of these positions,” Reifsnyder recently told NPR. “You kind of are expected to — and you do, I think — kind of rise above your group. You cease to become an advocate. You become a broker.” Djoghlaf puts it this way:  “It’s like you have a co-pilot, not a pilot. So if you don’t get along, the plane can collapse, and you can have a crash.”

Still, it’s hard work with long hours and constant travel, and both men acknowledge that the commitment has taken a toll on their personal lives. On balance, though, they believe in the importance of their mission and they continue to forge ahead:  “We have only one planet, you know. We have to protect it.”

Daniel Reifsnyder and Ahmed Djoghlaf are our Grounded Leaders of the Week for their dedicated pursuit of a global climate change agreement — and for bringing a sense of higher purpose to the negotiating table.