Energy & Environment

HSBC CEO disavows executive’s remarks about coping with Miami being underwater

HSBC’s CEO disavowed comments made by a senior executive of the bank in which he compared the financial threat of climate change to anxiety over Y2K and said people could “cope with” Miami being underwater. 

At a Financial Times conference over the weekend, Stuart Kirk, head of responsible investing for HSBC’s asset management division, delivered a presentation entitled “Why investors need not worry about climate risk.”

In the presentation, Kirk dismissed warnings of the financial risks of climate change as the latest in a series of “nut job[s] telling me about the end of the world.”  

Kirk went on to compare such warnings to proponents of returning to the gold standard and those who warned the year 2000 could lead to widespread computer meltdowns by machines that did not recognize the digits “00” to represent the year. Numerous international governments tasked the public and private sector with preparing to avoid such a scenario for years leading up to the date. 

Kirk expressed confidence that the populace would learn to deal with the impact of climate change, saying “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 meters underwater in 100 years? Amsterdam has been six meters underwater for ages, and that’s a really nice place. We will cope with it.” 

The banker decried what he said was the disproportionate amount spent on mitigating the effects of climate change rather than adaptation. 

In a LinkedIn post Saturday, CEO Noel Quinn wrote that “I do not agree – at all – with the remarks made at last week’s FT Moral Money Summit. They are inconsistent with HSBC’s strategy and do not reflect the views of the senior leadership of HSBC or HSBC Asset Management.” He did not name Kirk in the post. 

The Financial Times reported Sunday that Kirk has been suspended in the wake of the comments. The Hill has reached out to HSBC for comment. 

Although HSBC is headquartered in the United Kingdom, the remarks come as the Securities and Exchange Commission has proposed a rule requiring publicly-traded companies to disclose their greenhouse gas emissions, while the White House Office of Management and Budget warned of the “immense” fiscal risks associated with climate change in an April risk assessment. 

Tags Amsterdam Climate change HSBC Miami

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