A Guardian report on the 5th October examines the predictions of a chapter in the current IMF half yearly World Economic Outlook report. It  has a chapter titled Near-Term Macroeconomic Impact of Decarbonization Policies. The chapter models the cost of delaying the tackling of climate change until ‘conditions are right’ and current global inflation has lowered; an IMF blog about it is titled.. ‘Further Delaying Climate Policies Will Hurt Economic Growth…The transition to a greener future has a price—but the longer countries wait to make the shift, the larger the costs’. 

The blog argues that concerns about current cost have been perceived to be more real than the nebulous future threat of climate change, causing decades long procrastination …’despite overwhelming evidence that any short-term costs will be dwarfed by the long-term benefits (with respect to output, financial stability, health) of arresting climate change (October 2020 World Economic Outlook; IPCC 2022).  

The current crisis has heightened the fear that climate mitigation would just raise inflation further and led to the claim that we need to double down on fossil fuels for energy security (as in the UK). Concurrently a Global Energy Monitor report states that…

New oil and gas development in the North Sea could produce up to 984 megatonnes of CO2 equivalent and contribute to the United Kingdom exceeding its carbon budget for 2023-2037 by a factor of two.

The IMF’s modelling uses the revenue from gradually rising greenhouse gas taxes returned in part to households to drive the transition….

To assess the short-term impact of transitioning to renewables, we developed a model that splits countries into four regions—China, the euro area, the United States, and a block representing the rest of the world. We assume that each region introduces budget-neutral policies that include greenhouse gas taxes, which are increased gradually to achieve a 25 percent reduction in emissions by 2030, combined with transfers to households, subsidies to low-emitting technologies, and labor tax cuts.

It argues that the policy, if started now would have a modest decline in GDP and rise in inflation, slowing global economic growth by 0.15 to 0.25% and rising inflation by 0.1 to 0.45; but if delayed until 2027 with the rationale of waiting until inflation is down the effect on the global economy would be worse….

Is it reasonable to wait—as some have proposed—until inflation is down before implementing climate mitigation policies? We ran a scenario delaying implementation until 2027 that still achieves the same reduction in cumulative emissions in the long term. The delayed package is phased in more rapidly and requires a higher greenhouse gas tax, since a steeper decline in emissions is necessary to offset the accumulation of emissions from 2023 to 2026.

The results are striking. Even in the most favorable circumstances when monetary policy is credible and the transition to decarbonized electricity is rapid, the output-inflation trade-off would rise significantly; GDP would have to drop by 1.5 percent below baseline over four years to drive inflation back to target. Delay beyond 2027 would require an even more rushed transition in which inflation can be contained only at significant cost to real GDP. The longer we wait, the worse the trade-off.

The take home message? ….if the right measures are implemented immediately and phased in gradually over the next eight years, the costs will remain manageable and are dwarfed by the innumerable long-term costs of inaction.