The thoughts that count - the best of global thought leadership (June 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, public policy & levelling up

How metro mayors can help level up England – Institute for Government (UK)

The Institute for Government calls for the UK Government to devolve fuller powers and greater spending flexibility to metro mayors so that they may help level up England, as existing devolution arrangements restrict mayors’ ability to improve local social and economic wellbeing. Recommended moves include: devolving powers over skills, transport and green infrastructure; giving metro mayors long-term, flexible funding; giving metro mayors the right to request powers which have been devolved elsewhere in England; and a commitment from the Government not to reverse or amend devolution without local consent.

The state of the European Union – UK in a Changing Europe (UK)

This comprehensive report assesses the state of the EU, its institutions, its member states and the challenges it faces. These include how current crises, such as the war in Ukraine, have provoked a rethink in some EU countries about the role and value of the Union; the drive towards European collective defence and a re-evaluation of Europe’s reliance on the US; how the EU will confront and meet challenges such as climate change; and potential areas for rupture between EU countries, such as over integration or over dialogue with Russia.

Homeworking and the high street – Centre for Cities (UK)

According to data from spring 2022, UK office workers have only sluggishly returned to high streets during the Covid-19 pandemic, meaning nearly 70% of the remaining missing revenues compared to pre-Covid spending levels is due to reduced footfall on high streets on weekdays. This is not necessarily a bad thing, the Centre for Cities argues: rather, job creation can be encouraged by making city centres better places to work and do business, and helping city centres adapt and reconfigure to changes in demand.

The trailblazer devolution deals will widen disparities between mayors – Centre for Cities (UK)

The Centre for Cities finds that spending per capita is much higher in the Greater London Authority (GLA) and Greater Manchester due to these regions’ greater devolved power over policing and other areas relative to other combined authorities. However, the Centre argues that devolution should move at the pace of the fastest in the short term, allowing regions such as Greater Manchester to charge ahead and become trendsetters, before aiming to even out these inequalities in devolution in the long term.

Government Department Strategies Index Handbook – McGuinness Institute (New Zealand)

Government Department Strategies (GDSs) are documents prepared and published by New Zealand Government Departments. They are designed to “enable citizens to read, reflect, support, and ideally engage in public policy issues, ultimately to improve outcomes for society.” There are a total of 221 operational GDSs listed in this Index, which seeks to identify key themes, encourage a more collaborative approach and drive citizen engagement with Departments. Their recommendations include a call for the House of Representatives to consider how to better identify and communicate government priorities to both the public service and the wider public.

Brexit

The Big Brexit – Resolution Foundation (UK)

Published on the eve of the sixth anniversary of the UK's vote to leave the EU, this report constitutes the most comprehensive assessment to date of the impact of Brexit. Key findings include: 18 months after the Trade and Cooperation Agreement came into effect, the share of UK goods exports to the EU remains unchanged; UK trade openness fell eight percentage points between 2019 and 2021; over the next decade, UK productivity will be 1.3% lower and real annual wages will fall by £470 per person relative to if Brexit had not happened; and trade barriers will increase more in the agricultural and services sectors.

What Can We Know about the Cost of Brexit So Far? – Centre for European Reform (Europe)

The Centre for European Reform finds in this policy brief that the UK’s GDP is 5.2% smaller than it would have been if Brexit had not happened. Investment is 13.7% lower than it would have been, and goods trade 13.6% lower. Moreover, between the 2016 referendum and the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, the UK’s GDP was already an estimated 2.9% lower than it would have been without Brexit.

The economics of Brexit: What have we learned? – UK in a Changing Europe (UK)

18 months after the UK and the EU began trading on the terms of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA), academic researchers have taken stock on the TCA’s economic impact. They find that the TCA’s introduction resulted in a 25% drop in the UK’s imports from the EU relative to the rest of the world. They conclude that the UK has become a ‘less open’ economy, that the TCA has reduced UK trade in both directions, and increased prices for some products.

Economy, inflation & the cost of living

Prices and profits after the pandemic – IPPR (UK)

This joint IPPR and Common Wealth report finds that, contrary to arguments that wage restraint is needed to control inflation, surging profits by some companies (such as those in the oil and gas industry) may be contributing to price rises and as such profit restraint may also be required.

The implications for public debt of high inflation and monetary tightening – Bruegel (Europe)

Bruegel analyses why the IMF and European Commission have revised public debt ratio forecasts downward across multiple countries, and what impact high inflation and the rise in interest rates by the Federal Reserve, the Bank of England and, soon, the European Central Bank will have on public debt ratios around the world.

Between a Rock and a Hard Place – New Economics Foundation (UK)

In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic’s economic fallout and a rising cost of living crisis, NEF makes the case for a tiered monetary policy framework, in use in the eurozone and Japan. The report estimates that such an approach could save the UK Government £10-15 billion in income transfers to the banking sector by March 2023, and £25-57 billion by March 2025.

Wages, Prices and the Federal Election – The Australia Institute (Australia)

This examination of voter motivations in the recent Australian federal election focuses on people’s views of whether wages should keep up with prices. Researchers at the Australia Institute found that 83% of the public support the idea that wages should at least keep up with prices and that this opinion was shared broadly across the political spectrum. They argue that it is likely that this debate over wages and prices worked to the advantage of the recently elected Labor Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.

Income outcomes – Resolution Foundation (UK)

This briefing note analyses how average incomes between different parts of the UK have changed since 1997, finding that income gaps at the local authority are level are substantial and persistent. Furthermore, places which have seen an increase in people’s earnings relative to the UK average are not necessarily those which have seen employment rates also rise; there are growing disparities when it comes to often-overlooked sources of income, such as self-employment and investments; and income from non-labour market sources (e.g. benefits, pensions, investments) is far more important in some areas than in others.

Over 10 million households will struggle to meet the cost of living next April – New Economics Foundation (UK)

While welcoming the Chancellor’s more targeted support package to aid with the cost of living announced in May, this NEF analysis finds that it does not go far enough for the poorest quarter of British households, who will need 1.5 times more support than what they have been offered. While 8.9 million households could not afford essential items on their incomes in April 2021, by April 2023 this is estimated by NEF to rise to 10.5 million, and even with state support 9.9 million households will struggle to meet the cost of living in October 2022. To mitigate against this, NEF calls for the Government to scrap policies such as the two-child limit and the benefit cap, and in the long term provide a living income by linking benefits to the cost of living and enrolling everyone on the universal credit system.

IFS response to Scottish Resource Spending Review – Institute for Fiscal Studies (UK)

The IFS analysis of the Scottish Government’s Resource Spending Review, setting out Holyrood’s plans for day-to-day spending over the next four years, finds that the review amounts in essence to a cut in spending in a wide range of public service areas. Budgets for local government, police, universities, prisons and more will fall by 8% in real terms. Health spending, however, will increase by 2.6% in real terms, while social security payments will rise by 48%, with the arrival of a new Scottish benefits system to replace UK-wide DWP benefits.

The role of the G7 in mobilizing for a global recovery – Chatham House (UK)

Despite the impressive initial commitments made at the June 2021 G7 summit, Chatham House finds that meaningful actions by the G7 to shore up the world’s economic recovery from Covid-19, plug the global infrastructure gap and counter Chinese influence in the developing world have failed to materialise. This paper, the first in a series, outlines current global challenges before making recommendations to achieve the ‘better world’ envisaged by the G7 in June 2021.  

Which cities will receive the most support from the Chancellor’s cost of living package? – Centre for Cities (UK)

This analysis of the UK Chancellor’s £15 billion package to support British households face the rising cost of living shows that the cities and big towns slated to receive the most support from the package are located in the North, the Midlands, and in Wales. Residents of Britain’s 62 biggest cities and towns will receive £8.5 billion in support. However, cities with larger populations dependent on these payments (such as Blackpool, where over half of the population over 16 receives state benefits or pensions) also face higher demand for energy, due to having less efficient housing stock and being more reliant on cars rather than public transport, and so are more vulnerable to energy price rises.

Government must act on business investment to avoid recession – CBI Economic Forecast – CBI (UK)

The CBI has downgraded its GDP growth forecast significantly from 5.1% to 3.7% in 2022 and from 3.0% to 1.0% in 2023. High inflation is the chief cause of weaker growth, with a historic squeeze on household incomes causing lower consumer spending and weakening GDP growth. With Britain at real risk of dipping into recession, the CBI calls on the Government to act, with recommendations to ‘build momentum behind business investment’; boost confidence by resolving the Northern Ireland Protocol impasse and brokering a deal between rail companies and unions; and act on labour shortages by creating a new shortage occupations list.

Employment & labour

More flexibility is key to boosting labour market supply across the UK – Centre for Progressive Policy (UK)

With the UK facing a record number of vacancies, due to a fall in EU labour, young people staying in education and mass resignation as people readjust their priorities in the wake of the pandemic, CPP argues that introducing more flexible working practices could help boost labour supply. Based on polling, CPP finds that in the North East and North West, over half of people with caring responsibilities would work longer hours if they had access to flexible working, with nearly one in four people nationwide agreeing they would increase their hours with the option of greater flexible working. As such, CPP calls on the Government to ensure that 70% of non-emergency roles are advertised as flexible by 2025 and to obligate all employers to consider flexible working arrangements for prospective employees.

Minimum wages in 2022: Annual review – Eurofound (Europe)

Minimum wages increased substantially in nominal terms in Europe between 1 January 2021 and 1 January 2022, but in real terms, minimum wage workers in 15 of the 21 EU member states with a statutory minimum wage saw a decline in their pay. Eurofound furthermore estimates that minimum wages will remain stagnant in real terms in all EU countries in 2022, and without further intervention minimum wage earners will incur significant losses in purchasing power.

Not working – Resolution Foundation (UK)

This report explores how youth worklessness has changed since the 1990s, and a troubling increase of economic inactivity among young people due to sickness or disability, including mental health problems. With the prospect of rising youth worklessness rates from 2024, the report recommends that policymakers make best efforts to engage ‘hard to reach’ economically inactive young people, invest in employment support for workless young people, and look at integrating employment support with psychological support.

Jobs monitor – the impact of the pandemic on BME employment – Trades Union Congress (UK)

While overall unemployment figures have returned to pre-pandemic levels, this is not true for black and minority ethnic (BME) workers, who faced higher unemployment before Covid-19 and now face a slower recovery: the gap in unemployment rates between white and BME workers is the widest it has been since 2008. However, while unemployment has risen among BME Britons, so has employment, due to an increase in the number of economically active BME people.

Bridging the Cost Gap: Three Labor Policies to Close the Wage Gap Between Saudi and Foreign Labor – Middle East Institute

Since the launch of Vision 2030 six years ago, Saudi Arabia has made considerable progress in reducing the labour-cost gap between national and foreign workers in the private sector. While the total unemployment rate has declined recently among Saudi nationals, it remains high at 11%. Drawing on evidence from Bahrain’s experience with labour market reform, the Middle East Institute argues that this unemployment rate can be significantly reduced through policies designed to bridge the cost gap between citizens and foreign labour in the private sector.

European social dialogue work programme 2022-2024 – BusinessEurope (Europe)

BusinessEurope analyses the 2022-24 European work programme which has the aim of strengthening social dialogue in labour markets at the European and national levels. The programme consists of: telework and establishing the right to disconnect; the green transition; youth unemployment; work-related privacy; improving skills matching in Europe; and capacity building.

A stronger social partnership – Trades Union Congress (UK)

This blog by the Wales TUC analyses the impacts of the Social Partnership and Public Procurement Bill unveiled by the Welsh Government. The Bill will create, the TUC argues, a stronger social partnership between unions and government by bringing unions into the decision-making process and obligating public bodies to engage with unions on wellbeing objectives.

The role of global value chains and advanced digital production-driven technological specialisation – European Trade Union Institute (Europe)

This paper uses a micro-level database of workers from 22 European countries to analyse how global value chains (GVCs) and advanced digital production (ADP) technologies affect working conditions in Europe. It reveals that the link between GVC involvement and working conditions hinges on the job’s technological content, and that in jobs with high software and robot use, job quality deteriorates as GVC involvement increases.

Housing

The Right to Own – Centre for Policy Studies (UK)

This CPS paper welcomes the UK Government’s decision to reintroduce Right to Buy, and presents counterarguments to some of the criticisms often directed at Right to Buy, contending that social housing waiting lists fell when the policy was most popular and that Britain retains the fourth-highest stock of social housing in Europe. However, the CPS urges the Government to go still further, by establishing a Right to Own, under which claimants would obtain mortgages worth 60% of the value of their home to be paid off in instalments rising at the same rate as social rents.

Health

Was the NHS overwhelmed last winter? – The Nuffield Trust (UK)

The Nuffield Trust has analysed the NHS’ performance over the winter of 2021/22 to see if the health service truly was close to collapse as many warned it was. The think tank concludes that the capacity of the NHS to recover from periods of intense demand has been reached, and performance levels indicate widespread instances where NHS services have been overwhelmed and unable to meet emergency care needs.

Sustainable healthcare: Practical steps to build back better in the English NHS – IPPR (UK)

The IPPR and Future Health Research have identified key lessons for NHS England from the Covid-19 pandemic and five areas where it can build back better. These include: rethinking investment; narrowing inequalities; ending the postcode innovation lottery; connecting the health service through data and integration; and building a sustainable workforce.

Reality check: Dispelling the myths around the benefits of drug price controls – Macdonald-Laurier Institute (Canada)

This paper argues that Canada’s Patented Medicine Prices Review Board (PMPRB) should be completely dismantled. The PMPRB is a regulatory and reporting body which aims to ensure ‘that the prices of patented medication charged by manufacturers of patented drugs are not excessive.’ The MLI argues that “its relevance has been greatly reduced by large-scale price negotiations and its utility has been largely superseded by modern pharmaceutical science. Yet one of the PMPRB’s most damaging effects is to enforce drug price controls, which is a topic that warrants a broader analysis and is the focus of this paper.” This research examines 12 “myths” that circulate in support of drug price controls.

Getting the best out of remote consulting in general practice – practical challenges and policy opportunities – The Nuffield Trust (UK)

This new report by the Nuffield Trust examines the opportunities, challenges and risks associated with the widespread shift to remote consulting in general practice brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic. It concludes that while remote health services can be convenient and help to monitor certain diseases, an overreliance on them will mean vital diagnoses are missed, health inequalities are exacerbated and GP workloads increase.

Integrated care systems: What do they look like? – Health Foundation (UK)

This long-read explains the introduction of integrated care systems (ICSs), the biggest overhaul of the NHS in a decade which will from July 2022 see England divided into 42 area-based ICSs covering 500,000-3 million people each. The ICSs will have before them a mammoth undertaking, facing chronic and worsening staff shortages, widening health inequalities, backlogs and strained health and care services. But different ICSs will face different needs, as pressures on services, health needs and resources vary widely between different parts of England. The Health Foundation calls for a differentiated policy towards each ICS based on its population’s needs and what health outcomes can be achieved in that area.

How do waiting times for NHS planned care vary across England? – The Nuffield Trust (UK)

This blog post delves into how the Covid-19 pandemic has impacted the elective care waiting list in England, which grew by 40% from 4.4 million to 6.2 million between February 2020 and February 2022. However, this has not been felt equally across England, with some of the nation’s 42 integrated care systems (ICSs) facing a much greater challenge than others in eliminating their backlogs.

What are health inequalities? – The King's Fund (UK)

The King’s Fund provides an explainer, detailing health inequalities, which the think tank identifies as ‘avoidable, unfair and systematic differences in health between different groups of people’.

Social & aged care

What is Scotland’s new National Care Service? – The Nuffield Trust (UK)

The Scottish Government has published landmark legislation to reform social care, which will shift responsibility for care services from local authorities to a new body within the Scottish Government, the National Care Service (NCS), which will set standards and commission priorities for delivery by new local care boards. The Nuffield Trust explains what the NCS is tasked with doing, the questions it will have to grapple with and whether Scotland’s new path in social care reform signifies an exemplar for the rest of the UK.

Duty of Care: Aged care sector in crisis – CEDA (Australia)

CEDA had previously forecast that there would be a need for an additional 17,000 direct care workers in Australia each year over the coming decade. Less than a year later, this annual shortfall has doubled “due to a combination of challenging circumstances and a lack of action.” CEDA estimates that Australia should now expect an annual shortfall of 30-35,000 direct care workers. 

Fair cost of care: What is it and will it fix the problems in the social care provider market? – The Nuffield Trust (UK)

The Nuffield Trust explains the fair cost of care policy, which is intended to address the issue of councils paying fees which are inadequate to cover costs, giving rise to a system where people who fund their own care (self-funders) routinely pay higher fees for care than councils pay for people eligible for public funding. The policy will allow self-funders to access the same rates that councils pay care providers from October 2023 onward.

Covid-19

The Impact of the Covid-19 Pandemic on Global GDP Growth – American Enterprise Institute (USA)

This paper describes one of the first attempts to gauge the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic on the global trajectory of real GDP over the course of 2020 and 2021. Importantly, changes in the stringency of the lockdown measures taken by governments to restrict the spread of the virus were an important influence on GDP.

Right Where You Left Me? – Resolution Foundation (UK)

This report finds that Covid-19 has only had a minimal impact on spatial inequalities, but that it is not clear that remote working is facilitating levelling up and there is a risk it could create housing affordability problems in low-income parts of the country.

Covid-19 in the workplace: Employer’s responsibility to ensure a safe workplace – Eurofound (Europe)

On 18 May 2022, the EU recognised Covid-19 as an occupational disease in jobs with close physical contact, meaning workers who contract Covid at work may be entitled to certain rights, including compensation. This article analyses the measures taken in 2021 at workplaces across the EU countries and Norway to prevent the spread of Covid and safeguard health and safety in the workplace.

China’s Zero-Covid: What Should the West Do? – Center for Strategic and International Studies (USA)

As the summer unfolds, what major lessons can be gleaned from China’s Zero-Covid battle against the Omicron variant, a struggle that the World Health Organization (WHO) has openly and repeatedly described as “unsustainable”? What do the shocks of the spring foretell for China’s future? Has a moment arrived for the United States and the West to test whether a health security détente is feasible? If so, what specifically should be done?

Covid and Our Constitution: How A Pandemic Affected Our Body Politic and Culture – Maxim Institute (New Zealand)

Maxim Institute Research Fellow Alex Penk has looked at all of the “300 regulations, over 20 court cases, and two reviews of proposed legislation” that were brought about in New Zealand through the last two years of the Covid pandemic. This paper celebrates what New Zealand got right, but also shows where the country must do better, including: Less use of ‘urgency’ in passing legislation; and a demand that leaders show empathy for all, especially minorities, in order to strengthen social cohesion.

As Covid Deaths Have Declined, Disparities for Latinos Have Narrowed – Public Policy Institute of California (USA)

Despite continuing surges in Covid cases, death rates have fallen considerably as California’s vaccination rate has climbed. And now that the CDC has recommended vaccines for young children, virtually all Californians can soon get vaccinated. As vaccines have become widely available, some – but not all – of the troubling disparities in Covid-related death rates that we saw earlier in the pandemic have narrowed.

Defence & national security

The NATO Strategic Concept and Protection of Civilians – RUSI (UK)

Ahead of NATO’s annual summit, taking place this year in Madrid, RUSI called for NATO leaders to prioritise strengthening the alliance’s approach to civilian protection. This paper calls for the soon-to-be-adopted Strategic Concept to restate a strong commitment to the protection of civilians, apply this across NATO’s activities, and provide a strong mandate of implementation for NATO countries and institutions to act on.

US-Saudi relations bend but don’t break – Middle East Institute

Former senior CIA Official Douglas London writes about the relationship between the US and Saudi Arabia ahead of a potential meeting between Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) and President Joe Biden next month. Running through the issues that could derail the relationship, London argues that fundamentally, neither the US nor Saudi Arabia can afford for the relationship to go awry.

Latest Ukraine Package: More Artillery and the Beginnings of a New Navy – Center for Strategic and International Studies (USA)

The recently announced 13th US aid package to Ukraine ($450 million in total) continues to strengthen Ukrainian artillery since artillery has become the dominant combat arm in the recent fighting and provides 18 coastal and riverine patrol boats to start rebuilding the devastated Ukrainian navy. This package builds on the 12th aid package announced just a week ago. However, the patrol boats’ limited capabilities and a lack of conventional munitions for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) reduce the package’s impact.

Changing the Canadian Armed Forces’ Culture Through Training – Centre for International and Defence Policy Queen's University (Canada)

The Canadian Armed Forces’ (CAF) Operation HONOUR was a mission aimed at preventing and addressing sexual misconduct within its ranks. This paper argues it was unsuccessful in bringing about the kind of culture change that is required to eradicate sexual misconduct in the CAF. The authors claim that it also missed an opportunity to adopt an inclusive and intersectional lens when tackling sexual misconduct, to account for rank, race, age, element, trade, gender, and sexual identity, etc. They recommend that the follow-on to Operation HONOUR should leverage the current training system, as it provides career-long entry points for culture change.

NATO must now transform old missions into new strategy – Chatham House (UK)

This Chatham House blog piece calls for NATO to adopt a global and a European containment strategy, bolster NATO’s defences, and shore up defences in Poland, Romania and the Baltic states. The Western alliance will, Chatham House argues, furthermore need to make difficult choices about whether to permanently station troops in eastern Europe, and about Germany’s expanding role in the alliance.

Biden’s trip to Saudi Arabia is a chance to end the war in Yemen – Brookings Institution (USA)

"When U.S. President Joe Biden visits Saudi Arabia next month, he has an opportunity to advance his goal of ending the war in Yemen. Biden said early in his administration that ending the war is a top priority, a major and correct policy shift from his predecessors. In Jeddah he can press Saudi King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman to do more by lifting the remainder of the blockade of northern Yemen and making the truce permanent."

Biden must rally against a Russia-led UN ‘cybercrime treaty’ – American Enterprise Institute (USA)

This Op-Ed discusses the negotiations that have begun in the United Nations to draft a new cybercrime treaty. Interestingly, this global law enforcement initiative is championed by Moscow and supported by Beijing and so the author looks a little closer at what is behind this support and how US President Joe Biden should respond.

Energy, net zero & climate change

Net zero jobs – Resolution Foundation (UK)

The Resolution Foundation explores what effects the net zero transition is likely to have on the British labour market, by setting out ‘green’ and ‘brown’ jobs most likely to experience change and profiling the workers most likely to be employed in these jobs. It finds that men are more likely than women to be employed in both ‘green’ and ‘brown’ jobs; white workers are more likely to be found in ‘green’ jobs; ‘green’ jobs are more concentrated in higher-skilled and higher-paid occupational groups, as well as in regions such as London and the South East; and transitioning out of ‘brown’ jobs will likely need extra effort from firms, the state and workers.

How can the European Union adapt to climate change? – Bruegel (Europe)

As climate change’s harmful effects continue to worsen, Bruegel argues that Europe will need to adapt even while cutting emissions. This the EU should do by: adopting a governance framework of ‘intensive cooperation’ to establish binding adaptation plans; an EU-level insurance scheme against damages from climate change; and increasing ex-ante adaptation funding by targeting funds for EU regional and agricultural policies specifically for adaptation in vulnerable regions.

Green, Digital and Competitive – Lisbon Council (Europe)

The Lisbon Council’s new policy brief investigates how the 22 million small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the EU are handling the ‘twin transition’, the European Commission’s programme to go digital and go green. Using data from Eurostat and other official sources, this Index ranks the 27 EU countries based on Digital Transition, Green Transition and SME Competitiveness, and argues that Europe will need to succeed on all three if it is to lead a global green energy revolution.

Nuclear energy plans contain a ticking time bomb for our bills – Institute of Economic Affairs (UK)

The IEA warns that current Government plans to fund new nuclear energy will create incentives for nuclear power companies to overcharge customers, and transfer the capital risk of project failure from nuclear developers to the public. This, the IEA argues, will lead only to ‘waste, inefficiency and higher bills’.

Shifting the focus from energy subsidies to reducing energy dependence – Eurofound (Europe)

In the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and soaring energy prices, EU governments seeking to limit these price rises’ impact on households have introduced energy subsidies and VAT reductions for electricity, gas and fuel. However, Eurofound contends that these constitute a short-term solution. In the longer term, the EU should shift from energy subsidies to investing in reducing households’ energy consumption and dependence on externally sourced energy, in line with the EU’s climate policy and geopolitical interests.

Green peace: How Europe’s climate policy can survive the war in Ukraine – European Council on Foreign Relations (Europe)

This report argues that European governments should ramp up their efforts to build clean, sustainable energy security, and address the climate challenge as a matter of EU energy sovereignty. If they continue to operate at a national level, Europeans will be locked into carbon dependency and unable to benefit from economies of scale. To achieve this change of mindset, strong thought leadership is needed, and France is in a good position to build bridges between different groups of member states.

Energy policy: the EU at a crossroads – UK in a Changing Europe (UK)

This blog post examines the politics behind the EU’s sometimes hesitant approach towards imposing sanctions on Russian energy and the history of the EU’s energy dependence on Russia. Some member states have resisted certain sanctions, and transition periods remain in place until the second half of 2022 in some areas. UK in a Changing Europe argues that the focus should be not only on replacing Russian energy sources, but on reducing energy consumption overall in such a way as to make Russian energy obsolete.

ESG

Investing in Net-Zero Emission Ambitions: Global ESG Frameworks and CCUS Projects – King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center (Saudi Arabia)

The researchers behind this paper claim that the lack of a globally recognised environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) taxonomy and disclosure standards hinders efforts to scale up the necessary finance in the areas on which it seeks to focus, especially in the case of carbon capture investments. They argue that establishing more holistic global ESG guidelines, including more explicit guidance on the reporting of carbon capture-related activities, can accelerate the global sustainable energy transition.

Transport

Electric vehicle switch is a test of the government’s net zero approach – Institute for Government (UK)

Electric vehicles (EVs) appear to be taking off in the UK: 40% of British drivers say their next car will be electric, and EVs accounted for 11.6% of cars sold in the UK in 2021 and over 15% in the first quarter of 2022. However, growth in charging infrastructure is lagging beyond sales, standing at only half as quickly as EV sales in 2020 and 2021 and concentrated in certain parts of the country. Furthermore, the EV transition has largely benefited the well-off so far, with those who can afford large upfront costs and access charging points accounting for a disproportionate share of EV sales – over a third of EVs are in London and the South East. These problems must be resolved if the EV transition is to continue smoothly.

Street shift – The future of Low-Traffic Neighbourhoods – Centre for London (UK)

This report examines Londoners’ attitudes towards low-traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs) and why these have been divisive. Based on these results, the paper proposes new ways to help make London’s streets healthier, safer and greener, concluding that LTNs are effective but just one part of a broader solution to reduce private car use and create healthier streets.

The future of the automotive sector – European Trade Union Institute (Europe)

The European Trade Union Institute examines Europe’s potential as a hub of lithium-ion battery cell production, which will be vital in the transition to electric vehicles (EVs). The paper touches on locations for battery cell production plants, compares Europe to competitors, and explores how Europe can increase its share in global production of battery cells.

With US Traffic Fatalities Rising, What Would it Take to Save Lives? – Urban Institute (USA)

This article seeks to identify ways to save lives by comparing changes in traffic fatalities in the US over the past few decades with those in France, whose per capita death rates were similar as recently as the 1990s. ‘The French Government’s investment in better enforcement against speeding, reductions in speed limits, and creation of safer walking routes, such as in pedestrianized city centers, have successfully reduced traffic deaths there far more quickly than stateside, saving thousands of lives. American states and cities can look to the French example for approaches to improving road safety.’

Digital & tech

Strengthening privacy in the Online Safety Bill – Demos (UK)

This briefing by Demos sets out why privacy and anonymity will need to be strengthened in the UK Government's Online Safety Bill if users and their right to free expression are to truly be protected. This can be done by strengthening rights protections and reducing incentives for platforms to meet their safety duties through systems which fail to protect the privacy of their users.

An Unsafe Bill: How the Online Safety Bill threatens free speech, innovation and privacy – Institute of Economic Affairs (UK)

This IEA report warns that the UK Online Safety Bill will threaten online freedom of expression, innovation and privacy. Through creating unprecedented powers for the Culture Secretary and Ofcom to regulate and limit ‘legal but harmful’ content and speech, allowing for platforms to access users’ identities and monitor their usage, and imposing ‘byzantine’ regulatory costs on all businesses which will disproportionately impact start-ups and SMEs, the IEA argues that all three qualities of online life in Britain are at risk.  

Banking on access: Ensuring access to banking in the digital age – Social Market Foundation (UK)

The Covid-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on digital banking, with 38% of current account holders in the UK saying they use online banking much more now – however, 7% remain unable to access digital banking. To help ensure equitable access, the SMF calls for: a ‘digital preparedness’ commission, to ensure the UK is adequately prepared to navigate the technological changes of the next few decades; expanding ‘banking hubs’ so people can use a single shared access point to pay money into any bank account; and a taskforce with the banking industry, UK authorities and relevant civil society groups to review the British population’s banking needs.

Justice

Future-proofing justice: Making the civil and criminal courts world-leading by 2030 – Social Market Foundation (UK)

Many people, particularly those with low-value ‘civil legal problems’, are unable to access justice in England and  Wales, according to this report. As such, the SMF makes recommendations for justice reforms to: be future-facing and evidence-based; build upon proven approaches; and incorporate the right technologies which can help drive the transformation of the two court systems.

Youth Prison Reform in the Covid era? – Urban Institute (USA)

This brief and associated fact sheet summarize how three states – Maryland, Massachusetts, and New Jersey – reduced incarceration during the Covid-19 pandemic and invested in community supports and services for youth and families.

Weak Gun Laws Are Hurting Police Officers– Center for American Progress (USA)

This fact sheet both provides data that point to the prominent role of firearms in police officer fatalities and argues for "stronger, common sense" gun laws.

The United States Must Address its Gun Trafficking Crisis – Center for American Progress (USA)

According to this article, gun trafficking fuels crime and undermines state and local efforts to mitigate violence; the Biden administration has taken important steps that must be complemented by Congressional and state-level policies, it argues.

Immigration & asylum

Post-Brexit EU-UK cooperation on migration and asylum: How to live together, apart – European Policy Centre (Europe)

The UK’s departure from the EU has left a vacuum which undermines the interests of both Britain and Europe in dealing with migration and asylum matters. There no longer exists a binding framework facilitating transfers of migrants between the UK and EU, there is no cooperation agreement on the matter of asylum, and relations have soured over the Northern Ireland Protocol, reducing the potential for such an agreement. The EPC calls for Britain and Brussels to set aside their differences and pursue a cooperation framework on migration and asylum matters, by working to rebuild trust; define a broader and more ambitious partnership; reopening safe and legal channels from the EU to the UK; and finding equitable solutions for returning third-country nationals from the UK to the EU.

Immigrants Reduce Unionization in the United States – Cato Institute (USA)

In this article the author asserts that the common arguments used to advocate against increased legal immigration in the US have a limited evidential basis. These include negative effects on local wages, increased crime, lack of social assimilation, and a reduction in the long run economic growth. He then comments on the effect immigrants have on unionisation in the country.

Education

Why we must transform our education systems, now – Brookings Institution (USA)

In light of the UN reporting that as many as 222 million school-aged children impacted by crisis require urgent educational support, this thought piece outlines the reasons why we need to transform our education systems worldwide and how to start.

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