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London Climate Action Week: Spotlight on Female Leaders in the City

Q&A with Sarah Breeden, Executive Director for UK Deposit Takers Supervision, Bank of England.

To celebrate the 1st London Climate Action Week, CDSB is profiling a select number of female leaders in the City who we consider to be at the forefront of taking action on climate change and related issues. In this Q&A we sit down with Sarah Breeden, Executive Director for UK Deposit Takers Supervision, Bank of England.

1. What inspired you to embrace climate change in your current role? What advice would you give to those looking to pursue a similar path in their organisation?

Climate change is without doubt the defining challenge of our generation. I care a lot about this issue on a personal level, but it matters to me hugely on a professional level too - since climate change creates financial risks that lie squarely in our central bank mandates for safe and sound financial firms and financial stability. I know that my experience - of climate change being directly relevant to my employer’s mandate and objectives - is not unusual. So go find that link, and then use it to start ensuring we all play our part in delivering an early and orderly transition to a zero carbon economy.  

2. Why are climate and ESG factors so important for those working in your sector today?

Managing the financial risks from climate change really does require action today.  The carbon that is released today is creating financial risks that will materialise many years from now. And so climate change represents the tragedy of the horizon: once it becomes a clear and present danger, it may already be too late to act. It is therefore incumbent upon all of us - across the real economy and the financial system, in the public sector and in the private sector, domestically and internationally – to stretch our horizons and to act now.  

3. If you were in charge of London for a week, what climate friendly policy would you put in place?

The Bank of England is already doing a lot to ensure the financiers in the City of London are playing their part in supporting the transition to a carbon neutral economy.  So I would do something in the real economy that helps us all realise how simple actions we take now can support the transition.  Perhaps asking all restaurants to go meat-free for a week to make people aware of the carbon impact of their meat consumption.  I’m a convinced vegetarian for that reason.

4. What do you consider to be your biggest achievement to date?

I find it incredible how much has been achieved since I started working on this issue just a few years ago. Climate change is no longer niche in the financial system, it’s mainstream.   And internationally, we are now one of many (not a few) central bank voices calling for action.  Our work has been an important contributor to that change - we were the first regulator to set expectations for how firms should manage the financial risks from climate change, we have played a leading role internationally on these issues, and we are currently designing a system-wide stress test on climate change – it’s hard to choose!

Perhaps we need to think more about what we value as individuals, and redefine our purpose in our corporate lives.

Read more interviews from Female Leaders in the City.