The thoughts that count - the best of global thought leadership (August 2022)

What will the public services we use look like in the future? The Serco Institute’s monthly digest – The Thoughts That Count – pulls together some of the best thinking on public services policy from across the world.

Public services, policy & government reform

Reform of Government: What do we want from the next Prime Minister? – Policy Exchange (UK)

Policy Exchange calls for the next Prime Minister to embark on a comprehensive package of government reforms, to avoid their Government being stymied by the UK’s bureaucratic administrative procedures and structures.

Rishi Sunak or Liz Truss will inherit a difficult Brexit in-tray – Institute for Government (UK)

While the cost of living has in recent weeks dominated the race for Prime Minister, this note also sets out some of the Brexit issues which the next premier will have to face. These include: the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill, and the ensuing damage it is causing to relations with Brussels; a focus on realising Brexit opportunities rather than dealing with problems; and ongoing issues surrounding the rights of EU nationals who settled in the UK prior to the end of free movement.

Innovation Nation: Reforming the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy – Adam Smith Institute (UK)

This discussion paper proposes several reforms for the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), including restricting public research and development funding to UK National Interest Research Projects. The paper’s recommendations would amount to a headcount reduction of 12,704, nearly 40% of the current total.

Levelling up transcends politics for the greater good – Centre for Cities (UK)

In this blog, the Centre for Cities calls for the next Prime Minister to make levelling up the principal domestic focus of their premiership, commit to implementing the provisions of the levelling up white paper, and appoint an experienced and highly capable Levelling Up Secretary.

Can public services improve their productivity without new funding? – The Bennett Institute for Public Policy (UK)

The Bennett Institute for Public Policy argues that productivity growth in the public sector is essential to improving service delivery – productivity growth is calculated to have been the biggest contributor to growth in public sector output between 2010 and 2019. However, more growth is needed. This report makes a number of recommendations to ensure productivity growth in the public sector continues to rise.

State Shifting? – Bright Blue (UK)

Bright Blue explores the future of the state and presents ideas on how to make it more ‘intelligent, resilient and modern’. Among its contributors, leader of the Liberal Democrats Sir Ed Davey MP is interviewed.

Economy, inflation & national finances

The long squeeze: rising inflation and the current government spending package – Institute for Fiscal Studies (UK)

In this analysis of the long-term cost of living squeeze, the IFS reveals that even with the support package announced by the Government in May 2022, the deterioration in economic conditions since then means all income brackets will experience higher rates of inflation. This will not be even across income groups, with the poorest quintile expected to see an inflation rate of nearly 18%, compared to 11% for the richest quintile. As such, this paper lays out several policy options for the Government to increase its support to households: while the £24 billion package unveiled in May would have covered three-quarters of the then-projected increase in energy costs, to maintain this level of support would require an additional £12 billion.

Slower for longer – Resolution Foundation (UK)

This report lays out the scale of the economic crisis facing the UK as predicted by the Bank of England. The British economy is now expected to enter recession in late 2022, enter six consecutive quarters of contraction and not recover its pre-pandemic size by mid-2025. Furthermore, inflation is projected to peak at 13.3% in October 2022, remain high for longer, and bring about the largest fall in households’ real disposable income on record (a decline of 3.7%) in 2022/23. Unemployment will also rise by 900,000 people, which the Bank sees as sufficient to keep inflation from becoming entrenched.

The inflation squeeze on public services – Institute for Fiscal Studies (UK)

The IFS finds that, given current and predicted levels of inflation, the real-terms rise to public service funding announced in the October 2021 Spending Review falls from 3.3% to 1.9% per year. To top up spending for public services, the next Prime Minister would have to allocate £8 billion to public services in 2022/23 and over £18 billion over the next two fiscal years (2023/24 and 2024/25).

Profit share: Exploring data on profits in the Australian economy – Australia Institute (Australia)

Amid recent debates surrounding the role of profits, wages and costs driving inflation, the Business Council of Australia has made claims that profit shares in Australia are at a 20-year low. The Australia Institute disputes this, arguing in this paper that, according to data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), the profit share of Australia’s GDP is actually rising.

Scotland’s underlying public finances are improving as oil and gas revenues rise – but long-term challenges remain – Institute for Fiscal Studies (UK)

Scotland’s underlying fiscal position recovered more strongly in 2021/22 than the UK as a whole: Scotland’s estimated budget deficit fell from 22.7% of GDP in 2020/21 to 12.3% in 2021/22, a fall of just over 10 percentage points, compared to eight points for the UK. Much of this is driven by rising North Sea oil and gas output and revenues. This IFS analysis sets out how Scotland’s public finances appear to have rebounded more strongly since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The COVID Pandemic and the Federal Budget – Brookings Institution (US)

This review of how the Covid pandemic impacted US public finances shows the enormous effect on short-term federal budget dynamics, but notes that the long-term effects appear to be likely to be quite small. They outline how despite spending policies being substantial, they were also temporary, and lower interest rates have helped ease the burden for a government with debt equal to almost 100% of GDP. In conclusion, they note that “although the long-term fiscal outlook has not been particularly damaged by the recent turn of events, it remains unsustainable and will eventually require Federal action”.

Cost of living

Cutting back to keep warm – Resolution Foundation (UK)

This new paper by the Resolution Foundation finds that lower-income households in the UK will have to reduce spending by three times as much as their higher-income peers once the energy price cap rises to an estimated £4,266 in January 2023, up from the £2,800 or so predicted earlier in 2022. Furthermore, families living in energy-inefficient homes will pay £231 more in monthly bills than those living in homes meeting the Government’s efficiency target of EPC C.

Addressing rising energy bills – Institute for Government (UK)

This IfG paper lays out some policy options for the UK Government to deal with rising energy bills, finding that the £33 billion support package announced in May would have helped to offset 90% of the higher bills based on predictions at the time; currently, they would only offset 60% of bill increases for this financial year. Pledges made by Prime Ministerial candidates Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss will furthermore only offset 10-20% of the increases since May. Furthermore, with energy prices projected to remain high for next year, the IfG finds that offsetting the same proportion of bills for 2023 would cost £70 billion.

National policies to shield consumers from rising energy prices – Bruegel (Europe)

This dataset by Bruegel provides an overview of the policies being pursued by national governments in the EU to shield their citizens from rising energy prices. Overall, the proportion of GDP allocated by EU countries towards shielding households and businesses from increasing energy costs ranges from over 3.7% in Greece to 0.1% in Denmark.

Freezing the energy price cap could fight inflation and support households – IPPR (UK)

This blog post by IPPR argues that the use of ‘fiscal price caps’, or setting an upper limit on the price of energy subsidised by fiscal policy, could reduce inflation and prevent it from becoming embedded in the British economy. Holding the energy price cap at its present level would, IPPR contends, reduce inflation by 3.9 percentage points and have it peak at 9.2% instead of 13%, as currently predicted by the Bank of England. This could protect households and contribute significantly to the UK’s macroeconomic stability.

Splitting the energy bill – New Economics Foundation (UK)

The windfall tax, or energy profits levy, announced in May 2022 imposed a 25-percentage-point increase on the tax paid by North Sea oil and gas producers and was estimated to bring in £5 billion. With energy bills estimated to rise to £4,266 by January 2023, however, the crisis has deepened to such an extent as to warrant a strengthened windfall tax (to 45%) and closing the loopholes from the levy’s initial iteration. 

Energy poverty looms as cost of living increases: Data behind the difficulties – Eurofound (Europe)

In spring 2022, 53% of respondents in Eurofound’s fifth Covid-19 e-survey reported having difficulties making ends meet, up from 45% in 2021 and 47% at the start of the pandemic. This article delves into the data from the e-survey highlighting how the cost of living is beginning to bite across the continent as the average inflation rate across the 27 EU countries rose to 8% in March 2022.

Raising pay for everyone Trade Unions Congress (UK)

British workers are suffering the longest, harshest wage squeeze in modern history, earning £88 a month less in real terms than in 2008. This TUC report aims to create a framework ‘to get pay rising’ across the board and return to normal wage growth, underpinned by a proposal to increase the minimum wage to £15 an hour.

Healthcare

Health and Social Care: What do we want from the next Prime Minister? – Policy Exchange (UK)

This paper is the first instalment in a series of policy manifestos from Policy Exchange, setting out recommendations for the next Prime Minister once he or she takes office in early September. These include: new targets to ensure patients continue to have accelerated access to A&E, primary care and elective treatment; scaling up of virtual wards to free up hospital beds and avoid bottlenecks; and reform pensions rules which are encouraging doctors to reduce sessions or retire early.

Where does the buck stop? – The King’s Fund (UK)

Following the passage of the Health and Care Act 2022, this explainer note by the King’s Fund traces accountability in England’s health and care system. It sets out changes made by the Health and Care Act 2022 regarding the role of NHS England, as well as how public health reforms in 2021 affected the health and care landscape in England.

Factors associated with staff retention in the NHS acute sector – Institute for Fiscal Studies (UK)

This IFS report analyses which characteristics are most associated with whether individual staff members opt to leave the NHS acute sector. It finds that: leaving rates vary considerably between different trusts and regions (with London, the South and the South East of England having the highest leaving rates for nurses, midwives and healthcare assistants, or HCAs); female staff are most likely to leave in their mid-30s, with men more likely to leave from 55 onward; and staff members who had taken a recent sickness absence were more likely to leave than those who had not.

The health and care system is in crisis: what should (and shouldn’t) be done? – The King’s Fund (UK)

In this blog post, the King’s Fund sets out some of the problems facing the NHS and social care sector, including unprecedented backlogs and waiting times, falling public satisfaction with the health service, and an increasingly acute labour shortage. It also presents some solutions, including alleviating the social care worker shortage by increasing pay, and developing a proper workforce plan as NHS England and Health Education England are scheduled to release later in 2022.

Pulling teeth: why have successive governments failed dentistry? – Nuffield Trust (UK)

After the BBC reported this month that nine in 10 NHS dental practices are not accepting new adult patients for NHS treatment, the Nuffield Trust is exploring how decades of neglect and a short-term approach mean dentists are increasingly abandoning the NHS to work in the private sector and that the dentistry field suffers from an acute labour shortage.

Customized Care for Complex Conditions in Medicare Advantage – American Enterprise Institute (US)

This report claims that people often make bad choices when it comes to deciding Medicare Advantage plan products or choose traditional fee-for-service Medicare. This report examines tweaks to the Medicare Advantage Chronic Condition Special Needs Plans (C-SNPs) to help achieve better outcomes through simplifying the process of choosing products and services for patients.

Tackling America’s Fundamental Health Care Problem – Cato Institute (US)

In this report, Cato argue that the tax benefit to employer‐​sponsored health insurance is the fundamental cause of issues with the US healthcare market. It argues that it removes choice for individuals, hurts labour mobility and means that healthcare providers are often not properly answerable to the people they are treating. They argue that the best reform would be to simply end the tax exclusion altogether by eliminating the underlying taxes on payroll and income. They also propose several more modest alternatives, including a broad tax reform to end distortionary exemptions across the board.

3.7 Million People Would Gain Health Coverage in 2023 If the Remaining 12 States Were to Expand Medicaid Eligibility – Urban Institute (US)

Under the Affordable Care Act, states have the option to expand Medicaid eligibility to nonelderly people with incomes up to 138% of the federal poverty level. 12 states have chosen not to do so. This research says if these dozen states changed their position, 3.7 million fewer people would be uninsured. They also argue that expanding Medicaid can have a positive impact on state budgets.

Impact of Telephone Triage on Access to Primary Care for People Living with Multiple Long-Term Health Conditions: Rapid Evaluation – RAND Corporation (US)

This detailed and technical report offers a review of telephone triage affects access to primary care differently for people living with multiple long-term health conditions than for other patients, using data provided by GPs in England. The research broadly concludes that telephone triage does not disadvantage patients with multiple conditions when they are trying to access GP services.

Canadian Health Care's Digital Future: Voices of Key Leaders - Public Policy Forum (Canada)

This write-up of two round-table forums examines how technology is and can be used in the Canadian healthcare sector. Key themes include how the Covid-19 pandemic shone a light on the gaps between citizen expectations and outcomes, industry-government collaboration and the need to use technology more effectively to improve patient outcomes.

Social care

A short-term drive on international recruitment is no quick fix for social care – Health Foundation (UK)

Almost one in 10 posts in the UK’s social care sector stand empty. The end of free movement has complicated the recruitment of social care workers from Europe, while low pay is a disincentive for people to join and remain in the social care workforce. As such, the Health Foundation calls upon the Government to adopt a long-term plan to tackle the severe and growing problems faced by the social care field.

Odds stacked against it: how social care struggles to compete with supermarkets on pay – The King’s Fund (UK)

Around 50% of social care workers in the UK earn within 30p of the national living wage (£9.50 an hour); as of June 2022, nine of the 10 largest supermarkets pay more than this. With the social care sector facing a pay and labour crisis, the King’s Fund calls for a long-term strategy with better pay progression and career pathways to help retain staff.

A National Care Service will mean big changes and challenges for Scottish council funding – Institute for Fiscal Studies (UK)

With Holyrood ministers seeking to transfer adult and children’s social care services from local authorities to a new National Care Service, the IFS explores what this means for the responsibilities of Scottish councils and the implications for their funding.

Covid-19

Deaths from Covid-19: how are they counted and what do they show? – The King’s Fund (UK)

The King’s Fund analyses the latest statistics on Covid-19 deaths from the beginning of the pandemic in 2020 through to the end of July 2022. Key findings: 180,000 people have died from Covid-19 in England and Wales, or 139,000 excess deaths; Covid-19 brought about the largest fall in life expectancy in England since the Second World War (1.3 years for men, 1 year for women); the UK experienced one of the highest Covid mortality rates among high-income countries, with only Spain and Italy seeing higher rates of excess mortality.

The continuing impact of Covid-19 on health and inequalities – Health Foundation (UK)

In this report, the Health Foundation finds that, thanks to the vaccination programme, deaths from Covid-19 in the UK are significantly below what they were during the first year of the pandemic, although vaccination uptake remains low among people from deprived areas and ethnic minority backgrounds. While the furlough scheme prevented mass unemployment, long-term health problems are keeping some people out of work, while the Government has not acted on resolving the education gaps that have developed as a result of the pandemic.

Education

The exam question – Institute for Government (UK)

Published days before GCSE results were released, this IfG paper calls not for an overhaul of England’s education system, but for a period of ‘incremental improvements’ over time, as opposed to ‘periods of stasis followed by highly disruptive change’.

The Johnson legacy: education UK in a Changing Europe (UK)

In 2018, illiteracy is estimated to have cost the UK £80 billion, and the chasm between the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ has been significantly widened by the Covid-19 pandemic. The Johnson Government’s spending increases to the Department for Education are, in light of high inflation, also unlikely to allow it to recoup the previous decade’s losses. This article recommends greater resources, greater ingenuity, and a greater emphasis on helping those left behind by Covid catch up in order to move the UK’s education system forward.

Justice

Criminal Justice: Reforming the Ministry of Justice – Adam Smith Institute (UK)

This paper, an instalment in the Adam Smith Institute’s series on reforming the Civil Service, makes recommendations for how the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) can be reformed to avoid inefficiencies and provide better value for taxpayers’ money. These include: following through with Blair-era reforms such as separating the role of Lord Chancellor from that of Justice Secretary; moving gradually towards the Scandinavian criminal justice model, with inmates becoming trainees for their return to law-abiding society; and privatising or transferring away some of the MoJ’s functions. Altogether, these reforms would reduce the civil servant headcount by over 87,000.

Reunification of probation services – Institute for Government (UK)

This report examines the Ministry of Justice’s preparations for the reunification of probation services, for which the MoJ resumed responsibility in June 2021. The paper finds that: the programme team successfully delivered the transition against a tight deadline; experienced senior leaders successfully avoided the mistakes of past transitions; but innovations by smaller providers were lost in the transition; and the MoJ’s approach to procurement was complex, making it difficult for smaller providers to qualify.

Crime & Policing: What do we want from the next Prime Minister? – Policy Exchange (UK)

Ahead of the new Prime Minister taking office on September 6, Policy Exchange is publishing a report setting out 11 policy recommendations for the new Government to tackle violent crime and secure targeted investment for the policing sector.

Solitary Confinement in US Prisons – Urban Institute (US)

This review of existing studies found that an overwhelming amount of research proves that solitary confinement is “psychologically and physiologically damaging and has negative outcomes". The Urban Institute argues that “carceral agencies should end their use of solitary confinement if they wish to improve the health and safety of those in prisons and the general public”.

A Los Angeles Supportive Housing Program Interrupted the Cycle Between Jail and Homelessness and Largely Paid for Itself – RAND Corporation (US)

“In Los Angeles County, the Just in Reach Pay for Success project provided permanent supportive housing for more than 300 people diverted from county jail, achieving a one-year housing stability rate of 82 percent. RAND researchers found that savings generated by the program compensated for a large portion of its costs, providing policymakers with evidence on one way to improve the lives of unhoused people and their communities.”

Immigration

Making skilled migration better, not just bigger, should be the priority at the Jobs Summit – Grattan Institute (Australia)

Ahead of the Jobs and Skills Summit meeting in early September, the Grattan Institute is calling for Australia’s skilled migration system to be made not just bigger, but better, through a series of migration reform policies. This would mean refining the allocation system for permanent visas, abolishing the Business Investment and Innovation Program and reallocating those visa places to immigration routes for skilled workers. Australia should also target visas towards high-earning individuals rather than those working in certain occupations.

The Statue of Liberty Plan: A Progressive Vision for Migration in the Age of Climate Change - Roosevelt Institute (US)

Climate change has already forced people across the globe to leave their homes to seek safety and sustainable livelihoods, and the pace of climate migration will continue to accelerate as the climate warms. This paper sets out the ‘Statue of Liberty Plan’ for US immigration in the face of the rapid environmental change which would “make the US the most welcoming country on earth for migrants and refugees”.

As the H-2B visa program grows, the need for reforms that protect workers is greater than ever – Economic Policy Institute (US)

This report from the EPI calls for reforms of the temporary visa programme H-2B, which allows foreign workers to come to the US to fill labour shortages in seasonal jobs. Although growing in number, the EPI claims that it is being exploited by some employers and therefore deserves a review by the US Government.

Defence & national security

Conference Report: RUSI Sea Power Conference 2022 – RUSI (UK)

This is a write-up for the 2022 RUSI Sea Power Conference, which focused on high-intensity naval warfare. This reflects in part the heightened possibility of highly resourced intensive warfighting, for which many states are ill-prepared.

The I2U2 needs muscle. Cairo and Riyadh can help – Middle East Institute

Following the summit of the I2U2 grouping (Israel; India; the UAE; and the United States) during US President Joe Biden’s visit to Israel, this article suggests that the grouping could benefit from the inclusion of Egypt and Saudi Arabia to contribute significant regional diplomatic and military capabilities and clout to the group.

Emerging Technology Beyond 2035: Scenario-Based Technology Assessment for Future Military Contingencies – RAND Corporation (US)

This detailed paper seeks to answer three key questions: Firstly, what are the most-impactful drivers of the future that are outside the control of Army decisionmakers? Secondly, how might emerging technologies help the Army succeed in key missions and promote American interests? And finally, to what extent do existing Army modernization priorities align with the operational requirements articulated in the scenarios?

Leveraging diversity for military effectiveness: Diversity, inclusion and belonging in the UK and US Armed Forces – RAND Corporation (US & UK)

The study finds that there are significant opportunities for leveraging workforce diversity to enhance military effectiveness across a wide spectrum of Defence activity in both the UK and US. The researchers claim that “these opportunities cumulatively position diversity as a strategic enabler for the UK and US Armed Forces”.

Supporting the Royal Australian Navy's Campaign Plan for Robotics and Autonomous Systems: Enhancing Innovation – RAND Corporation (US)

Two years ago, the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) released the Robotics, Autonomous Systems and Artificial Intelligence (RAS-AI) Strategy 2040. This review of the RAN’s strategy  argue that to innovate with RAS-AI systems most effectively, the RAN needs to ensure that leadership and guidance are provided from the highest levels to enable development of an innovation ecosystem that proactively engages academia and industry, including non-traditional stakeholders.

Improving the Department of the Army's Marketing for Recruitment, Hiring, and Retention of Civilians in Critical Occupations – RAND Corporation (US)

The US Army needs to improve how it attracts people to take up positions within its civilian workforce, this study finds. This includes increasing the Army’s brand appeal to civilian and better marketing to increase awareness of job opportunities.

Capability, capacity, and risk in the sustainment of Air Force weapon systems – Brookings Institution (US)

This technical paper examines developments since 2010 in US Air Force weapons systems and what is needed to sustain their relative capabilities. It finds that improvements have been made, but changes are needed to adequately address the pacing threat of China and acute threats of Russia and others.

Decisionmaking at the Speed of the Digital Era - Center for Strategic and International Studies (US)

At present, the Department of Defense underutilizes publicly available data and the software development community to build tools that enable faster modelling, hypothesis testing, and variability analysis than traditional wargaming or modelling alone, this paper argues. CSIS argues that there is a need for the development of a simple software tool to stress test a hypothetical People’s Republic of China (PRC) surprise attack against US facilities in the Indo-Pacific.

Ukraine & Russia

Can Russia Continue to Fight a Long War? – RUSI (UK)

Six months into the war in Ukraine, RUSI evaluates whether Russia can continue to fight a long war. While Russia does maintain the political capacity to continue waging war, it is less clear whether it can sustain the material capacity to generate artillery shells and other equipment necessary to do so. Whether Russia is given breathing space to conserve existing assets may determine whether it is able to maintain its combat capability, given its limited ability to replace human and material assets at scale furthermore means.

Russia Can Still Be Defeated, But Time Is Short – Hudson Institute (US)

“Putin will begin to entertain compromises acceptable to the West only when he comes to believe that failure to do so will lead inevitably to catastrophic losses for Russia,” the Hudson Institute claim in this short report. They say that the “bad news is that the military balance on the ground right now will not lead him to such a conclusion”. Swift action by NATO can change this balance, so they claim.

Transforming European Defense - Center for Strategic and International Studies (US)

This report from a US think tank calls for European nations to “fully leverage the European Union, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and other multilateral formats to overcome fragmentation and avoid a piecemeal approach to defense”.

The EU, NATO and European Security in a Time of War – Centre on European Reform (Europe)

With Russia posing an expansionist threat to European security, it is clear both the EU and NATO will have a role in deterring Russian aggression while maintaining Europe’s ability to respond to other threats. This paper calls on NATO, the EU and European governments to look at increasing peacetime stocks of weapons; commit to increasing defence spending; coordinate efforts to strengthen European military strength; ensure European defence markets are open to each other; and standardise equipment to allow for arms to be used across Europe.

Energy, climate change & net zero

What is COP27? – Chatham House (UK)

This explainer outlines COP27, the annual climate conference held this year in Sharm-el-Sheikh, Egypt, and its significance. At COP26 in Glasgow the previous year, countries agreed to revise their nationally determined contributions (NDCs) to bring their emissions reductions plans in line with the 2015 Paris agreement.

Carbon Conundrum: How to save climate change policy from government failure – Institute for Economic Affairs (UK)

In analysing the UK and the EU’s net zero policies and subsidies for renewable energy, the IEA finds that green energy policies are not working as efficiently as they could be. The IEA recommends that a system which taxed energy sources according to the damage caused by their emissions would be more cost-efficient and more effective in bringing about carbon reduction. Additionally, this piece argues that a carbon tax should be used to reduce the tax burden in other areas rather than adding to the tax burden itself.

Submission: Climate Change & Consequential Amendments Bills 2022 Australia Institute (Australia)

With this submission, the Australia Institute offers comment on the Climate Change Bill and the Consequential Amendments Bill. While welcoming the Bills’ commitment to a 43% emissions reduction target by 2030, the Australia Institute warns that unfettered fossil fuel expansion is incompatible both with meeting this target and with reaching net zero by 2050.

Green hydrogen as a substitute to Russian gas – could Latin America be an energy partner to Europe? – Heinrich Böll Stiftung (Germany)

Russia’s war in Ukraine means Europe is looking to secure energy supplies from elsewhere. Given the potential of green hydrogen as an important new fuel, Latin American countries such as Chile are well-poised to be energy exporters to Europe. This article explores the hydrogen and renewables market in Latin America and the scope for green hydrogen to form part of the free trade agreement currently being negotiated between the EU and Mercosur (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay).

The Johnson legacy: net zero and the environment – UK in a Changing Europe (UK)

In an assessment of Boris Johnson’s record on the environment as Prime Minister, this article finds that much of the progress was ‘exciting’ and ‘headline-grabbing’; however, on other areas, such as energy efficiency in homes, environmental regulation and reducing meat consumption, Johnson’s record was more lacking.

Keeping the Nuclear Option Open – KAPSARC (Saudi Arabia)

This paper argues that, if nuclear energy’s share in electricity generation is not increased, it will be very difficult for world governments to meet their ambitions of reaching net zero by mid-century. KAPSARC makes the case here that nuclear energy can deliver climate benefits without incurring significant security, safety and energy costs.

European natural gas imports Bruegel (Europe)

Bruegel has just published a dataset on natural gas import flows and storage in Europe, in the wake of a tight natural gas market and the resultant increases in energy prices. Areas covered include total imports of natural gas into Europe; major sources of natural gas; a comparison of natural gas imports from Russia, Algeria, Norway and other sources; and weekly levels of gas storage in the EU.

First Mover Moment – McKell Institute (Australia)

Australia’s newly elected Labor Government has committed the country to a 43% reduction in emissions on 2005 levels by 2030 and to reaching net zero emissions by 2050. This report explores some of the opportunities that have opened up for Australia, namely for the country to become a world leader in hydrogen exports by the 2030s, and what steps Australia should take now in order to pave the way for it to seize hydrogen export opportunities in the coming decades.

Can GCC Fill the Global Energy Vacuum? – Emirates Policy Center (UAE)

This blog post explores the possibility for the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council to step up and become the alternative energy sources European governments are seeking in the wake of the Russian war in Ukraine, with the UAE President and the Saudi Crown Prince having visited France and Greece in recent months. This includes exports of nuclear energy, liquefied natural gas (LNG), oil and hydrogen.

ESG: Myths and Realities - Fraser Institute (Canada)

This series of essays by the Fraser Institute looks to examine how ESG is shaping investment in Canada and beyond. They seek to explore its merits as well as criticisms, including how it may create the wrong incentives for business.

Transport & infrastructure

‘Look, no hands!’: autonomous vehicles and regulatory divergence after Brexit – UK in a Changing Europe

This article explores the scope for the UK’s regulatory landscape concerning autonomous vehicles, or AVs, from that of the EU, which only adopted a legal framework governing AVs this year. It concludes that on technical and safety rules and data protection, the UK is unlikely to diverge significantly from the EU on AV regulation.

Fuelling efficiency – Australia Institute (Australia)

Australia is increasingly falling behind the rest of the global light vehicle market: in 2018, the average carbon dioxide (CO2) intensity for new vehicles was 169.8 gCO2/km in Australia, compared to 129.9 in the US, 120.4 in Europe and 114.6 in Japan. By introducing fleet fuel efficiency standards, this paper argues, Australia could reduce transport emissions and the country’s dependence on foreign oil imports; save motorists money on fuel; and increase the availability of electric vehicle models.

The Grattan truck plan: practical policies for cleaner freight – Grattan Institute (Australia)

14% of Australia’s truck fleet is pre-1996, and these trucks emit 60 times the particulate matter of a new truck, and eight times the poisonous nitrogen oxides. As such, the Grattan Institute is calling for old trucks to be banned from Sydney and Melbourne to reduce Australians’ exposure to dangerous air pollution, which kills hundreds of Australians every year. Furthermore, the Grattan Institute recommends that the Australian Government impose binding sales targets for zero-emission trucks, starting at 2% in 2024 and gradually growing to encompass most new sales by 2040.

Addressing Infrastructure Inequality – McKell Institute (Australia)

Among the states of Australia, Victoria is the only one which has the reduction of disadvantage as a core objective in its infrastructure strategy. This report explores infrastructure inequality in Melbourne, identifying key geographies with disparate access to infrastructure, and links these findings to a March 2022 report by the McKell Institute, Funding the Infrastructure of Tomorrow, which presents solutions on reducing the gap in access to infrastructure services.

Employment & the workplace

Out Sick Without Pay – Urban Institute (US)

Workplace absences track Covid infections in the US and fewer than half of reported absences (42%) were paid. This research by the Urban Institute sheds light on the current state of affairs in relation to work and calls for steps to be taken to reduce it. In particular, it identifies how women, as well as black and Hispanic workers, suffer most when it comes to a lack of paid leave.

President Biden’s first 18 months: Assessing the Biden administration’s record for workers - Economic Policy Institute (US)

With the US midterms approaching, the Economic Policy Institute seek to “review the Biden administration’s record of pro-worker actions over the last 18 months”.

Better Childcare – Policy Exchange (UK)

To combat the UK’s childcare costs, which are among the highest in the developed world and a contributing factor to the cost of living pressures in Britain, this paper calls for several reforms of the childcare market, including: an expansion of the childminder profession; a more generous Child Benefit in the early years; and ‘smarter’ regulation of the childcare sector.

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