HSBC Holdings Plc distanced itself from its asset management unit’s head of responsible investment after the executive criticized the finance industry for worrying too much about the environment.

“Climate change is not a financial risk that we need to worry about,” Stuart Kirk said Thursday in a 15-minute presentation at a Financial Times conference. “There’s always some nut job telling me about the end of the world.”

Kirk, whose role means he is responsible for integrating ESG risks and opportunities across asset classes at HSBC Asset Management, also took aim at former Bank of England Governor Mark Carney and other policy makers for talking up the risk from climate change.

“I completely get that at the end of your central bank career there are still many, many years to fill in,” he said. “You’ve got to say something, you’ve got to fly around the world to conferences, you’ve got to out-hyperbole the next guy. But I feel like it is getting a little bit out of hand.”

Kirk, who didn’t respond to a LinkedIn message seeking comment, said banks were neglecting more pressing problems in order to consider climate risks.

“I work at a bank that is 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 and time again looking at something that is going to happen in 20 or 30 years hence,” he said. “The proportionality is completely out of whack.”

Humanity should be focused on adapting to a changing environment, said Kirk, pointing to the example of Miami: “Who cares if Miami is six meters underwater in 100 years, Amsterdam’s been six meters underwater for ages, and that’s a really nice place. We will cope with it.”

HSBC Response
Nicolas Moreau, chief executive officer of HSBC’s asset management unit, issued a statement disavowing Kirk’s speech. The remarks “do not reflect the views of HSBC Asset Management nor HSBC Group in any way,” he said.

“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 and, like HSBC Asset Management, is committed to achieving net zero by 2050.”

The bank’s Group Chief Sustainability Officer Celine Herweijer said Kirk’s comments are “absolutely not the company’s view,” speaking on the sidelines of an ESG summit in London hosted by Saudi Arabia’s Future Investment Initiative Institute.

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