A new report published by the University of Manchester’s policy engagement unit, Policy@Manchester, highlights the United Kingdom’s vulnerability to global events and its over-reliance on other countries for essential resources. Titled “On Resilience,” the 40-page document examines various policy recommendations to strengthen national resilience and mitigate risks associated with geopolitical dynamics.

Professor Matthew Paterson, an expert in International Politics, emphasises the significance of geopolitical dynamics in shaping the future of energy, as evidenced by the ongoing war in Ukraine. In his contribution to the report, Professor Paterson proposes several policy measures aimed at maintaining the UK Government’s transition to net zero while minimising geopolitical risks. One key recommendation is to reduce energy demand and decrease dependence on natural gas, which has been vividly highlighted by the conflict in Ukraine. He suggests decarbonising housing through the use of heat pumps and electric cooking, as well as promoting a shift from private car use to public transport, accompanied by increased investment in road transport electrification to mitigate exposure to oil price volatility. Professor Paterson also advocates for accelerating domestic renewable electricity generation, emphasising the untapped potential of onshore wind and solar power, which have been hindered by regulatory barriers.

Addressing water risks faced by the domestic agricultural sector, Senior Lecturer Timothy Foster advises the UK to learn from countries with water scarcity pressures. Drawing on international research, he highlights the benefits of flexible abstraction rules, water-sharing arrangements, and trading systems in enhancing farmers’ ability to manage drought risks and adapt to changing climate conditions. Dr. Foster emphasises the urgent need for robust improvements in infrastructure and support for data collection and monitoring of agricultural water use, which he describes as chronically underfunded and poorly prioritised. Furthermore, he calls for greater investment in water storage infrastructure, including on-farm and larger-scale multi-use reservoirs, as well as the restoration of natural wetlands as nature-based solutions.

The report also addresses other policy challenges, including the potential roles of artificial intelligence (AI) and smart technology in mitigating risks to food production, the growing threat of antimicrobial resistance, and sustainable approaches to meeting the UK’s critical metal requirements without causing unnecessary environmental damage.

Lord Howell of Guildford, former Energy Secretary and the only Minister to have served in the Heath, Thatcher, and Cameron governments, provides a foreword to “On Resilience.” He praises the report as a thoughtful and balanced collection of essays on the complex and contentious subject of future energy supplies and their relationship with climate change. Lord Howell, who is also a past President of the British Institute of Energy Economists, emphasises the need for balance, realism, and shrewd analysis in addressing the dilemmas and obstacles ahead. He commends the wise and expert essayists from the University of Manchester for their contribution.

“On Resilience” is now available for reading on the Policy@Manchester website https://www.policy.manchester.ac.uk/publications/on-resilience/