HSBC is under pressure to fire a senior banker in charge of responsible investing after a speech in which he described warnings about the climate crisis as “unsubstantiated” and “shrill”, made light of major flooding risks, and complained about having to spend time “looking at something that’s going to happen in 20 o 30 anni".
The bank has since been forced to denounce comments made by Stuart Kirk at a London conference on Thursday, after he gave a speech entitled “why investors need not worry about climate risk”, which appeared to discredit efforts to raise the alarm over global heating.
“I feel like it’s getting a little bit out of hand, the constantl reminder that we are doomed,” Kirk told attendees at the FT’s Moral Money conference, where he also presented slides that said: “Unsubstantiated, shrill, partisan, self-serving, apocalyptic warnings are ALWAYS wrong.”
“Human beings have been fantastic at adapting to change, adapting to climate emergencies, and we will continue to do so. Who cares if Miami is six metres underwater in 100 anni? Amsterdam has been six metres underwater for ages and that’s a really nice place.”
Kirk’s comments come despite growing concerns over record-breaking heatwaves in countries such as India, which have become much more likely due to global heating, and resulted in deaths, crop losses, and water and power shortages. Other recent analyses showed devastating floods in Sud Africa e Europa, heatwaves in North America e il storms in south-east Africa have been supercharged by the climate crisis.
Kirk, a former editor of the Financial Times’ Lex column, also bemoaned the resource that he said HSBC was allocating to assessing climate risks.
"[Nel] 25 years in the finance industry, there’s always some nutjob telling me about the end of the world … But what bothers me about this one, is the amount of work these people make me do, the amount of regulation coming down the pipes, the number of people in my team and at HSBC dealing with financial risks from climate change,” the banker said.
Kirk, who has been HSBC’s Asset Management’s head of responsible investing for 11 mesi, added that those risks were “heresy”.
“I work at a bank that’s being attacked by crypto. We’ve got regulators in the US trying to stop us. We’ve got the China problem. We’ve got a housing crisis looming. We’ve got interest rates going up. We’ve got inflation coming down the pipes and I’m being told to spend time … looking at something that’s going to happen in 20 o 30 anni. ma non sempre ci serve bene, the proportionality is completely out of whack.”
Activists are urging HSBC to sack the banker. “HSBC should be asking Mr Kirk to resign: his comments are inexcusable and completely neglect the impacts of the climate crisis being felt by the global south right now,” Beau O’Sullivan, senior campaigner on the Bank on our Future campaign, disse.
“Sadly, he’s probably not the only bad apple within HSBC given its record of funding climate destruction.”
An HSBC spokesperson refused to comment on whether Kirk had been disciplined or whether he might be at risk of losing his job as a result of the presentation, explaining that they would not comment on individual employees. The spokesperson also refused to confirm whether anyone else at the bank had seen or signed off on his speech or slides ahead of the event.
HSBC Asset Management’s chief executive, Nicolas Moreau, said in a statement that Kirk’s remarks “do not reflect the views of HSBC Asset Management nor HSBC Group in any way”, and reiterated the bank’s commitment to reach net zero emissions by 2050.
“HSBC regards climate change as one of the most serious emergencies facing the planet, and is committed to supporting its customers in their transition to net zero and a sustainable future.”
Kirk was contacted for comment.