Minister of Finance, Luxembourg
It’s not an easy time to be a minister of finance. The war in Ukraine has contributed to an energy crisis, higher costs of living, and food insecurity around the world. Its long-term effects on the climate crisis remain unclear, but efforts are steered towards shifting investments towards renewable energy sources.
Yuriko Backes, Luxembourg’s current finance minister, sees these challenges as an opportunity to speed up the green energy transition. “As Winston Churchill famously said, ‘Never let a good crisis go to waste,’” she said in a statement during a meeting last October of The Coalition of Finance Ministers for Climate Action.
Backes has served her country in a wide range of roles, locations, and positions. Born in Japan to Luxembourgish parents, she spent a good portion of her childhood years in the city of Kobe, before starting her studies in the UK and Belgium. Since then, Backes’ career has taken her all over the world – including Brussels, New York, and Japan. Returning to Luxembourg, she became sherpa (personal representative in the preparations for international summits) to two prime ministers, and later the Head of the European Commission representation in Luxembourg, before becoming the first woman to take on the position of Marshal of the Grand Ducal Court, providing administrative support to Luxembourg’s royal family. Since January 2022, the career diplomat has served as the Grand Duchy’s first woman minister of finance.
Backes believes in the power of finance to mobilize the capital needed to make an impact on the climate and biodiversity crises, and that Luxembourg’s status as an international financial center makes it well-placed to fulfill this role. The country’s government has spearheaded several initiatives to mobilize public and private funding to fight climate change, such as a joint climate finance platform with the European Investment Bank to de-risk investments in climate funds, and the International Climate Finance Accelerator, which helps emerging fund managers launch climate investment funds.
Despite rising geopolitical tensions and protectionist tendencies, Backes thinks that the world can come together to address common challenges. “I fundamentally believe in the power of multilateral dialogue; that we can find solutions by engaging with others,” she says. “To me, this conviction is a source of hope for the future. The renewed urgency, across governments, to make our economies more resilient and put them on the path towards net zero is the silver lining in the current permacrisis.”
Sustainability, for Backes, “represents more than a buzzword today: it has become existential”. She sees her responsibility to this cause as extending beyond that of her position: as a mother, she wants to leave a world worth living for her children.