The women pushing for climate action inside the world’s central banks

March 8, 2024|Written by Moriah Costa, Katy Lee and Ingrid Walker

As in most areas in business and industry, there are startlingly few women in senior positions within the financial sector.

The latest annual report from thinktank the Official Monetary and Financial Institutions Forum (OMFIF) on gender balance shows that at current rates of promoting women in the industry, it will take 140 years to see equal numbers of men and women in senior financial positions. Out of 186 central banks assessed in 2023, only 22 had women occupying the governor’s office, and that number has barely changed in the 10 years since OMFIF began compiling the report.

So it is well worth celebrating the women who have made it to senior positions at central banks, especially those highlighting the role the global financial system can play in addressing the climate crisis. Here are just some of the women making waves at the top of national and international financial institutions.

Fundi Tshazibana

Head and shoulders shor of Fundi Tshazibana
© Sarb

Fundi Tshazibana is deputy governor of the South African Reserve Bank (Sarb), chief executive officer of South Africa’s Prudential Authority, and the newly appointed vice-chair of the Network for Greening the Financial System (NGFS).

Tshazibana previously worked as a deputy director-general at South Africa’s national treasury and senior policy analyst at the national energy regulator of South Africa. She also served as alternate executive director on the International Monetary Fund’s executive board.

Under Tshazibana’s management, the Prudential Authority has substantially advanced its oversight of climate risk, releasing guidance on climate-related disclosures and risk management.

In her career, Tshazibana has often been ahead of the curve on key climate issues. As early as 2012, while working for the energy regulator, she gave a plenary presentation around mitigation policy in carbon-intensive economies at the United Nations University World Institute for Development Economics Research.

In 2014 she chaired a discussion around a just transition, a year before the term was first included in a UN treaty and nine years before South Africa passed its landmark just transition plan.

Tshazibana is also emerging as a significant mover in regional efforts to develop Africa-centred climate solutions, speaking last month at a panel on greening finance in African economies at a central banking climate conference organised by the Central Bank of West African States.

Sabine Mauderer

Head and shoulders shor of Sabine MaudererSabine Mauderer currently makes up one third of Deutsche Bundesbank’s executive board, which she has sat on since 2018. Her areas of responsibility include sustainability, financial stability, markets, data and statistics and compliance.

Mauderer was recently appointed chair of the NGFS, having previously served as vice-chair and chair of the workstream on scaling up green finance.

Mauderer is well placed to influence the direction of green central banking at both national and global levels through her current roles. She has used her platforms at the Bundesbank and the NGFS to push for more coordinated action by central banks on nature-related financial risks, sustainability disclosures and transition planning.

“If central banks do not understand how biodiversity loss [affects] the real economy and thus their mandate, they will find it hard to do their job properly” Mauderer said in her keynote speech at the Bundesbank’s climate-themed annual conference. She also noted that there is an “urgent need” for more research on this topic.

Adapting to climate change is one of the “great tasks and challenges” that lies ahead of the global community, Mauderer has said. The mission to finance an inclusive green transition built on equal partnerships with the global south will “feature prominently” on the new NGFS chief’s agenda.

Chuchi Fonacier

Head and shoulders shot of Chuchi Fonacier

Chuchi Fonacier joined the Bangko Sentral Ng Pilipinas (BSP) as a bank examiner in 1984 and worked her way up to be named deputy governor in 2017. As the representative of the Philippines’ central bank to the NGFS, she plays a key role in aligning the Philippines with international efforts in this arena.

“Climate risks do not only concern the supervisory function but also monetary policy and internal operations of the Bank,” she said in an interview with the NGFS in September. “We know that we need to fast track our work, but at the same time we need to study and learn about the relevant standards and be abreast of the developments in the international arena.”

Alongside other Asian deputy governors, Fonacier took part in an International Monetary Fund seminar on the role of central banks in mitigating climate risks in Bangkok in December. She has spoken of the BSP’s role in setting an example to the entities it supervises in terms of embedding sustainability in its operations, with the central bank issuing its first ever sustainability report last year. The BSP has also carried out studies on the impact of extreme weather and biodiversity loss on the Philippine banking system.

The BSP approved a new sustainable finance taxonomy for banks in February, and Fonacier signalled an ambition to build on this initiative this year. “For 2024, the priority is to further strengthen the sustainability-related information architecture to avoid greenwashing risks and protect the reputation of the Philippine financial system,” she told reporters in January.

Rosanna Costa

Head and shoulders shor of Rosanna Costa
© Rosanna Costa

Under the leadership of Rosanna Costa, its governor since 2022, the Banco Central de Chile has incorporated climate change into its research agenda and five-year planning – and even made climate change the theme of its annual meeting last November.

“Not all central banks have the same mandates or economic tools, but there are several common areas in which our institutions should advance and contribute towards a more sustainable economy,” she said at its opening.

With Chile having pledged to reach carbon neutrality by 2050, the Banco Central is incorporating environmental concerns into its macroeconomic analysis tools, including the effects of physical and transition risks as well as the opportunities presented by the green transition. It is also developing methodologies for measuring Chile’s natural capital and for estimating the carbon footprint of economic activity through use of an input-output model.

Chile is meanwhile an active member of the NGFS, co-chairing the macro-modelling group as part of its monetary policy workstream. And Chile is playing a regional role too, chairing a research network of countries in the Americas on the macroeconomic consequences of environmental change.

Sarah Bloom Raskin

Head and shoulders shor of Sarah Bloom Raskin, speaking at a microphone
© New America

Sarah Bloom Raskin’s push to make climate change a priority at the Federal Reserve may have made her a target of Republicans, causing her to withdraw her nomination to become vice chair of the Fed, but that hasn’t stopped her from talking about the need for a smooth transition.

The former deputy treasury secretary and governor of the Federal Reserve Board is now a climate policy consultant and corporate law professor at Duke University. She was recently part of a UN consultation on how businesses address climate change challenges. Corporations are being held back from limiting their impact on global warming because of policy changes by governments, she told the Financial Times in October.

“It’s hard to plan to invest when a policy context is either patchy, non-existent [or] not well designed,” she said.

During a Senate confirmation hearing in 2022, Raskin said that addressing the risks of climate change is well within the Fed’s mandate, as the central bank needs to be attentive to any kind of risk, weather-related events included.

“The Fed is ignoring clear warning signs about the economic repercussions of the impending climate crisis by taking action that will lead to increases in greenhouse gas emissions at a time when even in the short term, fossil fuels are a terrible investment,” she wrote in a 2020 op-ed in the New York Times.

Sarah Breeden

Head and shoulders shor of Sarah Breeden
© Bank of England

As the deputy governor of the Bank of England (BoE) for financial stability, Sarah Breeden has taken a strong stance on the need for central banks to help ease the transition to a green economy. The BoE’s scenario exercises in 2021 showed that financial firms have a long way to go towards integrating climate change risk into their decision-making, she told risk professionals in April.

“Governments globally have the key role in developing the policy paths and infrastructure that deliver the transition… Central banks and regulators can operate within their objectives to catalyse, complement and amplify those policies,” she said.

Breeden has also spoken on the clear need for the financial sector to help finance a smooth transition and support companies in reducing their emissions. And she’s warned that both the public and private sectors, as well as governments and regulators all need to work together to reach net-zero emissions, instead of focusing on individual actions.

“Anything one firm does to green its own balance sheet will be undermined where those emissions-intensive activities can continue to be financed by alternative sources that will not steward them toward net-zero,” she said in 2022.

Despite the UK government’s backtracking on its green policies and the BoE trimming back its work on climate change, Breeden has been clear that it’s still a big focus of the central bank.

“It is still clear that it is our responsibility to ensure we understand what climate change and the transition to net zero means for our objectives,” she told Environmental Finance in January.

This page was last updated March 8, 2024

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