Mark Carney is already on to the next crisis
He’s banging the drum as UN special envoy on climate change
You left your job as the governor of the Bank of England the same week that the World Health Organization declared a global pandemic. Was that good timing, or terrible?
You know, it’s funny—I started my role as the governor of the Bank of Canada in February 2008, just as the financial crisis broke out. When I was in England, there was Brexit and then Covid, and the whole time the climate crisis was brewing. So crisis mode has sort of been the norm.
You’re now at the UN as special envoy on climate action and finance—a job that pays an honorarium of $1. Clearly you didn’t take it for the money.
I’m still waiting for that dollar, by the way. I took that position and an advisory role helping the U.K.’s prime minister figure out the finance industry’s part in achieving the Paris Agreement targets. For both jobs, I was gearing up for the big climate summit in Glasgow in November 2020, but that got pushed a year because of Covid.
What did the pandemic mean for you personally?
It meant that I flew home from the U.K. and went straight into lockdown in Toronto. I was going to learn to bake sourdough. Instead I wrote a book. I took all of these experiences and key themes from the past decade or so and put them down in writing.
And what did you come up with?
One of the major points in the book is about how financial value can change based on what society values. During the pandemic, we’ve placed more value on our collective health. When it comes to the climate crisis, the same is true. Once we set a clear objective that reflects our values, we can stabilize the climate and organize the economy around that goal. For a long time, climate consciousness and boosting the economy were considered mutually exclusive. Not anymore. Some 130 countries, including Canada, have committed to the goals set out in the Paris Agreement, which are based on the laws of climate physics. And if a Swedish teenager can figure that out, big finance should be able to do the same.
You’d think so.
Companies are finally seeing this existential risk as a huge commercial opportunity, and the financial community’s role is to fund the companies that are going to be on the right side of climate history.
Is it difficult to get buy-in from power brokers who think the system has served them just fine so far?
There was some aggression not that long ago, but those same people now know they have to become renewable power brokers or else they won’t be power brokers anymore.
You mentioned Greta Thunberg. How big a role has she played in causing that larger political and financial shift?
She has been huge, along with the millions of people who marched alongside her. The financial world is paying a lot of attention to her, and to them.
Have you done any marching yourself?
No. I was a public figure during the climate marches. In general, I don’t tend to march. I do know Greta though.
You have four teenage daughters. They must be impressed.
They are passionate about the issue, but I’m not sure if anything I do is that impressive to them.
What did you miss most about home while living in London?
The culture and the ease with which I fit in here, from the music to the sports to the outdoors to the humour.
Aren’t the Brits pretty funny?
They are. I’ll miss the British press.
I assume you kept an eye on Canada while abroad. How would you rate our federal leadership this past year?
Wow, would you look at the time? I’m kidding. I think our leaders have been good in identifying the big issues, both short term and long.
There has been speculation about your political future. And laying out one’s views in a book is often a precursor to a big announcement…
Right. And you know, I’ve been waiting a long time for Toronto Life to come to me with this question.
That isn’t quite a denial.
My book is intended to stand on its own, so no, it’s not a means to an end.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.