HSBC suspends banker who played down 'unsubstantiated, shrill' climate warnings

Chief executive distances company from comments by Stuart Kirk at London conference

A banker was suspended from HSBC in the UK pending an investigation after his remarks on climate change prompted a rebuke from the company's chief executive, Noel Quinn. EPA
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British financial company HSBC has distanced itself from comments by a senior banker in which he played down fears over climate change as “unsubstantiated, shrill, partisan, self-serving, apocalyptic warnings”.

Stuart Kirk was suspended from HSBC pending an investigation, the Financial Times reported, after his remarks prompted a rebuke from the company's chief executive, Noel Quinn.

Mr Kirk had addressed a conference called Moral Money with a presentation entitled “Why investors need not worry about climate risk”, in which he told the audience there was “always some nutjob telling me about the end of the world”.

“Who cares if Miami is six metres underwater in 100 years? Amsterdam has been six metres underwater for ages and that’s a really nice place,” he told the London event.

Mr Kirk was appointed as the head of HSBC’s responsible investing unit in July 2021, a role that involves looking at the risks to investments posed by environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues.

HSBC had in March said it would cut funding for the fossil fuel industry as part of a package of tougher climate commitments.

Britain promised at last year's Cop26 summit to overhaul its flagship financial sector to give bankers an incentive to put their money in green initiatives.

Mr Quinn said in a post on LinkedIn that Mr Kirk's comments did not reflect the views of HSBC, which he said was “absolutely committed to a net zero future”.

“I do not agree — at all — with the remarks. I want HSBC to be a leader in supporting our clients, the finance sector and others through the massive transformation that’s needed to build a better future,” he said.

“We have a lot of work to do, and I am determined that our team won’t be distracted by last week’s comments.”

Updated: May 24, 2022, 3:05 AM