HSBC presses to fire banker who discredited climate crisis warnings

HSBC is under pressure to fire a senior banker in charge of responsible investment after a speech in which it described the climate crisis warnings as “baseless” and “shrill”, downplaying the risks of major floods, and complaining about wasting time. Looking at something that will happen in 20 or 30 years”.

The bank has since had to denounce comments made by Stuart Kirk at a conference in London on Thursday, titled “why investors don’t have to worry about climate risk”, which discredited efforts to raise the global warming alert.

“I feel like it’s getting a little out of control, a constant reminder of our end,” Kirk told attendees at the FT’s Moral Money conference, and also presented these slides: “False, shrill, partisan, self-serving, apocalyptic warnings are ALWAYS false.”

“People are great at adapting to change, adapting to climate emergencies, and we will continue to do so. Who cares if Miami has been under six meters of water in 100 years? Amsterdam has been under six meters of water for years and it’s a really beautiful place.”

Kirk’s comments came amid growing concerns over record-breaking heatwaves in countries like India, which have become much more likely due to global warming, causing deaths, crop losses and water and power outages. Other recent analyzes showed that devastating floods in South Africa and Europe, heatwaves in North America and storms in southeast Africa were overloaded by the climate crisis.

Kirk, former editor of the Financial Times’ Lex column, also lamented the resource that HSBC says it dedicates to assessing climate risks.

“[In] For 25 years in the financial industry, there’s always been some nutcase telling me about the end of the world… But what bothers me about this is the amount of work these people have made me do, the amount of editing that comes down the pipes, the number of them. “The number of people on my team and at HSBC dealing with financial risks from climate change.”

Kirk, who has been the responsible investment head of HSBC Asset Management for 11 months, added that these risks are “perversion”.

“I work at a bank that was hacked by crypto. There are regulators in the US trying to stop us. We have a China problem. There is an impending housing crisis. We raised interest rates. There’s inflation going down the pipes, and I’ve been told to spend time … looking at something that will happen in 20 or 30 years. Therefore, proportionality is completely unbalanced. ”

Activists are calling on HSBC to sack the banker. “HSBC should ask Mr. Kirk to step down: his comments are inexcusable and completely neglect the effects of the climate crisis currently being felt by the global south,” said Beau O’Sullivan, senior campaigner for the Bank on Our Future campaign.

“Unfortunately, it’s probably not the only bad apple in HSBC, given its track record of financing climate destruction.”

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An HSBC spokesperson declined to comment on whether Kirk had received disciplinary action or was at risk of losing his job as a result of the presentation, and said they would not comment on individual employees. The spokesperson also declined to confirm whether anyone at the bank had seen the speech or slides he made before the event.

Nicolas Moreau, CEO of HSBC Asset Management, said in a statement that Kirk’s comments “do not in any way reflect the views of HSBC Asset Management or HSBC Group” and reiterated the bank’s commitment to achieving net zero emissions by 2050.

“HSBC sees climate change as one of the most serious emergencies facing the planet and is committed to supporting its clients in their transition to net zero and a sustainable future.”

Kirk was contacted for comment.