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

Q&A with Dr Rhian-Mari Thomas OBE, CEO of Green Finance Institute.

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 Dr Rhian-Mari Thomas OBE, CEO of Green Finance Institute. 

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?

To me it seems simple – I can either use my almost 20 years of banking expertise to address the climate crisis or I can wake up every day and use all my energy and skills to contribute to a catastrophically warming world. Having pivoted my career a few years ago to launch a suite of green financing products and become the first Global Head of Green Banking at Barclays, today is my first day as the CEO of the newly launched Green Finance Institute, with an even more ambitious and impactful mandate (backed by the City of London and the UK Government), to mobilise capital towards decarbonisation and climate resilient real economy outcomes. 

One of my aims in this new role is to help others in financial services to translate the science, the studies and the statements into granular strategies, products and services that are aligned to the zero carbon transition. It can be challenging and requires courage to drive change as an individual, but applying a green lens to all that we do is what it’s going to take so that we are all eventually pursuing a climate resilient path in our respective organisations. 

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

The financial sector has a vital role to play in redirecting the trillions of pounds of capital needed to deliver the net zero emissions economy that will allow future generations to thrive. The good news is that the systemic changes needed in energy generation, transport, agriculture and infrastructure present unprecedented commercial opportunities for those working in financial services. The bad news is if we’re unable to deploy that capital at the pace and scale needed, we face climate breakdown and almost unimaginable consequences.

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

I would introduce a policy to pool various sources of public funding, crowd in private capital and create a Green Bank for London! It would invest to deliver a zero carbon London, creating the jobs and prosperity needed in a climate-changed world. Maybe that’s a bit much to do in a week, but I could make a start…

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

I led a team of extraordinary people to build a green corporate bank, issue the first green bond by a UK bank backed by UK assets, launch the first green mortgage by a high street lender in the UK and contributed to elevating the dialogue regarding green finance at one of the world’s leading commercial banks…but I hope, given the scale of the task we all face, that I’m really only just getting started. Ask me again at next year’s Climate Action Week!  

Read more interviews with Female Leaders in the City here.