Here’s the letter written to Noel Quinn, HSBC’s CEO, about Stuart Kirk’s presentation called “Why investors need not worry about climate risk”. In the talk he said “There’s always some nut job telling me about the end of the world”, “Climate change is not a financial risk that we need to worry about” and “Who cares if Miami is six metres underwater in 100 years?”. This letter addresses those comments and HSBC’s on going funding of giant fossil fuel companies.

* If you’re an HSBC employee, have your say on Stuart Kirk in the HSBC confidential staff survey HERE

Here’s the letter:


To Noel Quinn – CEO of HSBC,

Like many people, we are appalled to read the comments of Stuart Kirk, Global Head of Responsible Investment at HSBC GAM, who is now on suspension pending an investigation. In light of this, we are writing to you with three demands.

Firstly, we request the immediate termination of Stuart Kirk’s employment. HSBC should have a zero tolerance policy on any views that deny the impacts of – or delay action on – climate change. His views are ill informed and misleading. There should not be a place for them in any financial institution claiming to be taking sustainability seriously.

Several senior members of staff are now distancing themselves and the bank from Kirk’s views, and yet it is reported that the contents and theme of the presentation were agreed internally, with the title of the session agreed two months prior. This is a red flag and suggests that Mr Kirk’s views are evidence of a diminished climate ambition and regressive attitude among senior staff, rather than an exception.

So as a second demand, please can you explain the process by which this presentation was agreed, and the reasoning by which it was deemed ok to present, given the claims within it.

There is plenty of further evidence to suggest that Mr Kirk’s views are shared by a wider community of senior HSBC staff:

  • HSBC remains the 13th largest funder of fossil fuels in the world and is not setting science aligned targets to reduce this.
  • HSBC remains Europe’s top funder of the expansion of the oil and gas sector, even after the IEA clearly stated that there can be no new oil and gas fields to stay under 1.5C.
  • It was revealed that HSBC lobbied the Net-Zero Banking Alliance last year to delay and dilute climate rules for the alliance.
  • HSBC is currently facing potential penalties by the Advertising Standards Authority for greenwashing.
  • HSBC is continuing to pretend that it can assist fossil fuel companies like Saudi Aramco “transition”, despite its CEO claiming that they ‘would pump the last barrel of oil.’
  • HSBC still doesn’t have a science-aligned coal exclusion policy. It is still not acting to align with best practices, starting with a full exclusion of funding for coal developers.

Signatories of this letter will be closely watching the publication of your upcoming oil and gas policy by the end of the year. Ultimately, you will be judged by the quality of your actions on climate, not on your words or commitments. So the third demand is for you to publish a policy that must include the following criteria:

  1. HSBC must end all project financing support for new fossil fuel projects that were granted a licence from 2021, as per the IEA’s NZE scenario
  2. HSBC must ensure that its corporate financing does not contribute to the building of new coal infrastructure or the opening of new oil and gas fields, which is neither in line with HSBC’s commitment to transition nor the IEA NZE scenario.
  3. In addition to the commitment to ‘phase down’ financing of fossil fuels in line with 1.5, HSBC must set clear short, medium and long term goals to reduce its annual emissions

We look forward to your response,

Areeba Hamid, Programme Director, Bank on our Future

Johan Frijns, Director, BankTrack

Chuck Baclagon, Regional Finance Campaigner, Asia

Simon Youel, Head of Policy and Advocacy, Positive Money UK

Louise Hazan, Co-Founder, Tipping Point

Robbie Gillett, Director, Adfree Cities

Adam Scott, Executive Director, Shift: Action for Pension Wealth & Planet Health

Pennie Opal Plant, Co-founder, Movement Rights

Andri Prasetiyo, Researcher, Trend Asia