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A senior HSBC banker has claimed that the financial risks of climate change are being exaggerated, in a warning against long-term thinking, although the bank quickly disassociated itself from his comments.

Stuart Kirk, HSBC’s global head of responsible investment, was speaking at a conference hosted by the Financial Times in London on Tuesday when he complained that warning about climate change are being overplayed.

He wrote, on a slide in the presentation he was giving: “Unsubstantiated, shrill, partisan, self-serving, apocalyptic warnings are ALWAYS wrong”, taking issue with the warnings being sent out by central banks and global authorities like the United Nations for what he described as a lack of proportionality when compared to more near-term concerns.

“We’ve got inflation coming down the pipes and I’m being told to spend time and time again looking at something that’s going to happen in 20 or 30 years, the proportionality is completely out of whack,” he said.

His comments immediately came in for criticism, forcing HSBC Asset Management’s CEO, Nicolas Moreau, to respond that they did not represent the company’s views. A spokesperson for Mr Moreau told Reuters: “HSBC regards climate change as one of the most serious emergencies facing the planet.”

Around €600 billion are managed by HSBC Asset Management, according to the company website.

Jeanne Martin, campaign manager at responsible investment NGO Share Action, tweeted: “This should raise red flags to any clients of HSBC that care about net-zero.”

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