Mr Kirk, who is responsible investment chief in HSBC’s asset management division, said in a presentation last week that “there’s always some nut job telling me about the end of the world” and argued that doom-laden climate predictions are sucking up resources and are unlikely to come true.
His comments triggered immediate calls for him to be sacked and HSBC executives quickly distanced themselves from the remarks, even though the presentation had reportedly been agreed with senior managers.
Noel Quinn, the bank’s chief executive, said that the remarks were inconsistent with HSBC’s strategy.
However, there are wider concerns in the City that a fad for “ethical” investment is shutting down debate.
Human rights activists also accused HSBC of hypocrisy for preventing discussion of climate change while refusing to condemn a brutal crackdown on dissent in Hong Kong, where it makes most of its money. Luke de Pulford, human rights activist and coordinator of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China, said: “Eye-watering double standards, and exactly what we have come to expect from HSBC. Happy to freeze the bank accounts of peaceful democracy campaigners while suspending bankers who don’t agree with the climate consensus.”
Simon Cheng, founder of Hongkongers in Britain, said: “If HSBC is so determined to show up the big sense of social responsibility… then it should not be in a harsh way to silence their employees for climate change policy, but set people and their HSBC bank accounts free to stand up to [the] repressive national security law and Chinese totalitarian regime.”