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Sydney — In a year when Covid-19 has dominated the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) agenda, the organisation’s quiet rethinking of climate change in its latest World Economic Outlook (WEO) report didn’t make much of a splash outside the Twitter feeds of development economics wonks. While the rest of the climate and energy world was poring over a different WEO — the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) World Energy Outlook — the IMF’s comprehensive assessment of what the energy transition will mean for economies was relatively overlooked.

For decades, the need to cut emissions has been dogged by questions that essentially boil down to: how much will it cost, and is it worth it? Unlike the IEA’s analysis, which excludes the impacts of climate change altogether, the IMF’s role requires it to grapple with the implications for economies of acting compared to not acting on global warming. The standard models addressing these tend to have limitations — many of them ably critiqued b...

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