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Who is Mark Carney?

This article delves deep into Mark Carney's life, beliefs, and his pivotal role in bridging the worlds of finance and climate action.
Green News
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In a world increasingly focused on sustainability and the economic implications of climate change, Mark Carney stands as a prominent figure, merging expertise in finance and environmental advocacy. A seasoned finance professional, Carney's journey spans esteemed roles at Goldman Sachs, the Bank of Canada, and even as the Governor of the Bank of England. However, his passion for the environment took center stage in the latter part of his career. 

As the UN special envoy for climate action and finance, and through his leadership at the COP26, Carney champions the idea that private markets hold significant potential in the fight against climate change. From advocating for carbon offsetting to emphasizing the importance of measuring emissions, Carney's message is clear: the alignment of private finance with the pursuit of net-zero emissions can be a game-changer in the global effort to combat the climate crisis.


👉This article delves deep into Mark Carney's life, beliefs, and his pivotal role in bridging the worlds of finance and climate action.

Who is Mark Carney?

Childhood and education

Mark Joseph Carney was born on March 16, 1965, in Fort Smith, Canada to Verlie Margaret and Robert Martin Cerney. Along with his three siblings, the Carney family relocated to Edmonton, Alberta when Mark was just six years old. This is where he spent his formative years until he left for the United States. 

There, he attended Harvard University and graduated in 1988 with high honors, holding a bachelor’s degree in economics. Eager to further his studies, Carney pursued postgraduate degrees at the University of Oxford, earning a master's in 1993 and a PhD in 1995.


Mark Carney spent the first thirteen years of his career at Goldman Sachs where he worked in their London, Boston, New York, Tokyo, and Toronto offices. He held various roles throughout this time including co-head of sovereign risk, executive director of emerging debt capital markets, and managing director of investment banking. 

Carney garnered invaluable experience working on South Africa's integration into international bonds post-apartheid and had a significant role during the Russian financial crisis in 1998.

By 2003, he chose to depart from Goldman Sachs and joined the Bank of Canada as its deputy governor. Just a year later, the Department of Finance Canada sought his expertise, appointing him as the senior associate deputy minister. After serving in this dual role and as the G7 deputy for three years, Carney was named Governor of the Bank of Canada in February 2008, coinciding with the onset of the 2007 global financial crisis.

London city financial sector

Role in the global financial crisis

Mark Carney’s actions as Governor of the Bank of Canada have been credited with helping Canada to avoid the worst of the financial crisis. Due to Carney's strategic actions and the implementation of monetary stimulus, Canada began to witness a recovery in output and employment starting in mid-2009. The Canadian economy surpassed its G7 peers, becoming the first to restore both its GDP and employment levels to pre-crisis benchmarks.

Carney’s handling of the 2009 financial crisis earned him the accolades of the Financial Times ‘Fifty Who Will Frame the Way Forward’, and Time Magazine’s ‘2010 Time 100’. In 2011 Reader’s Digest also awarded him the title of ‘Editors Choice for Most Trusted Canadian’. 

International organizations

Mark Carney’s success during the financial crisis and the overall strong performance of the Canadian economy earned Carney the role of Chairman of the Basel-based Financial Stability Board.  

Additionally, Carney held the position of Chairman of the Bank for International Settlements Committee, was a member of the Group of Thirty (comprising international financiers and academics), and served on the Foundation Board of the World Economic Forum.

Governor of the Bank of England

In November 2012, the UK’s Chancellor of the Exchequer announced the appointment of Mark Carney as Governor of the Bank of England - the first non-Brit to be appointed since the bank was first created in 1694. Carney served in the role for a total of seven years, stepping down in 2020. 

Significantly, Carney was at the helm during the pivotal Brexit vote in 2016. He cautioned that departing from the European Union would have adverse effects on the UK economy. Following the decision to exit, he continued in his role as the Governor of the Bank of England to facilitate a seamless transition for the UK.

During this transition period, Carney warned that a no-deal Brexit had the potential to trigger a recession in the UK, worse than the 2008 financial crisis. These views earned him criticism from Brexit supporters who accused him of fear-mongering and abandoning political neutrality.

Westminster London

2020 onwards

After stepping down from the role of Governor of the Bank of England Carney was appointed as the United Nations special envoy for climate action and finance. He was also appointed by the then UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, to the position of advisor for the UK presidency of the COP26 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow. He helped to launch the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero (GFANZ) at the conference and acts as the group’s co-chair. 

In 2020 Carney also stepped up to the role of Vice Chairman at Brookfield Asset Management where he is in charge of the firm's environmental, social, and governance (ESG) and impact fund investment fund strategy. 

Other appointments include the board of fintech company Stripe and chair of the new board of directors for Bloomberg L.P.

What does Mark Carney stand for? 

Mark Carney clearly has an impressive track record, not only has he held some of the most prestigious roles in the finance world, but he’s also viewed as being principled and trustworthy - a rare trait in the world of finance some might say! But what issues and topics make Mark Carney tick? 

  • Wealth inequality - Mark Carney has strongly criticized growing wealth inequality, highlighting the fact that the wealth held by the richest 1% has grown significantly since the 1990s. In fact, the top 1% now hold over half of the world’s wealth!
  • Criticism of the international financial system - Carney has criticized the widespread use of the US dollar in international finance, explaining that it has a destabilizing effect on global markets. He has urged banks to replace the US dollar as the reserve currency. 
  • Climate change - Mark Carney has increasingly taken on a role in the fight against climate change. In addition to his role as UN special envoy and his involvement with COP26, Carney also co-launched the Taskforce on Scaling Voluntary Carbon Markets with the aim of increasing voluntary carbon offsets - something that Carney believes is essential for reducing global carbon emissions. 

👉 To learn more about the impacts of climate change why not take a look at our article which outlines everything you need to know.

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Mark Carney and climate change

Mark Carney has often expressed his longstanding awareness of the climate crisis. While he took personal steps to mitigate emissions, he believed that larger entities, like governments and companies, were effectively addressing the issue. However, it was only when he assumed the role of Governor of the Bank of England that he recognized the gravity of the situation.

The situation concerned him so much that in 2019 Carney issued a letter to the Guardian newspaper warning that the financial system was facing an existential threat from climate change. Central banks had typically avoided the issue, but Carney’s letter placed the issue firmly on the agenda. 

Private finance can fund change

With a distinguished career in finance, Mark Carney believes that climate action can be better achieved when private finance is aligned with the ambition to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions. He believes that investments, new technologies, and alternative business models can help to reduce or even eliminate the threat of global warming, while also creating value at the same time. 

Carney has also previously talked about how companies who work to become part of the climate solution will benefit in the long term, and how those who refuse to modernize in terms of sustainability, will be left behind. People are voting with their money, and both companies and private investment firms need to show that they’re a part of the net zero transition. 

Carney has stated that the financial sector can be a powerful tool for change. While governments plan for the long-term and announce the introduction of regulations and new policies sometimes years in advance, the private sector is able to react faster and adjust to the changing landscape immediately. In this sense, it is able to help provide funding to businesses to develop and evolve in line with sustainability. 

👉 To learn more about sustainable finance check out our article

The dialogue has shifted from viewing climate change as a risk to seeing the opportunity, and really translating that into a single objective, which is to move our economies to net zero as quickly as possible. That’s a tremendously exciting development because what we have now in private finance is a focus on a clear goal – net zero – and finding the opportunities to advance that and to be rewarded by it.
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Measurement of Carbon Emissions

In Carney’s own words: “What gets measured gets managed.” This is why he is a big supporter of making measurement and disclosure mandatory for both companies and investment firms. 

This includes measuring emissions from the entirety of the value chain. In the case of large multinationals, many parts of their supply chain will be in developing countries. Therefore if they are mandated to measure these Scope 3 emissions they have an incentive to invest and reduce emissions in these countries too. 

Carney acknowledges that there have been advances, however, reporting is still limited and incomplete. He has advocated for governments around the world to make the TCFD (Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures) mandatory and to support the International Financial Reporting Standards Foundation’s aim to establish a new International Sustainability Board to produce climate disclosure standards. 

👉 Our article on the TCFD standards article outlines everything you need to know. 

Carbon offsetting

Mark Carney believes that carbon offsetting will play a crucial role in reaching net zero - a market that is largely being driven by corporate ambition. Carbon offsets will help to maximize the amount of time we have left to reduce carbon emissions before breaching the upper-temperature rise target of 1.5 degrees Celsius as set by the Paris Agreement. 

However, Carney has highlighted that any carbon credit system needs to be high-integrity. The current market is underdeveloped, fragmented, and of uneven quality. However, there is significant potential and Carney estimates that the market could be with up to $150 billion a year, with a large portion of projects taking place in emerging and developing economies. 

👉 To learn more about carbon offsets take a look at our article outlines everything you need to know. 

Climate change adaptation

Even if we manage to drastically reduce carbon emissions, the impacts of climate change cannot be completely avoided. This is why adaptation is so important. Mark Carney has previously spoken about how the financing of climate change adaptation in developing countries is not sufficient and how multilateral development banks in particular need to step up. 

The sums that are needed are significant, and so the burden needs to be shared between the public and private sectors. Public finance needs to effectively leverage private finance. 

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Round up

Mark Carney's esteemed career spans from leading positions at Goldman Sachs to his significant tenure as the Governor of the Bank of England. Yet, what resonates in recent years is his strategic alignment of finance with climate action. Leveraging his financial expertise, Carney is fervently advocating for the power of private finance in the battle against climate change. His recent roles, especially as the UN special envoy for climate action and his involvement in the COP26, underline his commitment. 

Carney's formidable expertise, coupled with his outstanding reputation, grants him influence in many of the world's most prestigious institutions. There, he consistently emphasises the crucial role of the private sector in steering the shift to net-zero emissions. Notably, the broader finance community is now beginning to echo and align with these forward-thinking views.

What about Greenly?

At Greenly we can help you to assess your company’s carbon footprint, and then give you the tools you need to cut down on emissions. Why not request a free demo with one of our experts - no obligation or commitment required. 

If reading this article has inspired you to consider your company’s own carbon footprint, Greenly can help. Learn more about Greenly’s carbon management platform here.

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