Systemic environmental risk analysis for threats to UK recovery from COVID-19

Lead Research Organisation: University of Reading
Department Name: Sch of Biological Sciences


UK Recovery from COVID-19 needs to balance the needs of the economy, societal cohesion and health. The Environment is not currently explicit in some framings of national recovery, yet there are a number of major risks involving it that can impact economy, societal cohesion and health over a relatively short timeframe (e.g. <24 months). Our team, combining academics embedded in government (Defra) and a leading research centre for evaluating complexity (CECAN), will develop systems analyses to appraise these risks. We will provide knowledge to inform urgent policy to mitigate these risks and recommend monitoring processes that track system dynamics based on key 'watchpoints' to trigger mitigation actions. Furthermore, we will identify uncertainty levels and critical evidence gaps for targeting research. To achieve this, we will use digital workshops with international academic experts and UK government officials to develop causal loop diagrams that map system relationships where environmental risks affect key elements of UK COVID-19 recovery over a short time horizon. We will focus on three important cases: i) Biosecurity- improving resilience to COVID-19 and a second zoonotic emergence; ii) Improving respiratory health of the UK population; iii) Food security- ensuring resilience of home and international supply chains. We will integrate outputs into current Defra-Cabinet Office interactions to ensure that UK strategies for recovery adequately address systemic risks and, more generally, raise the profile of the need to explicitly appraise and mitigate for complex risk in UK governance, especially in the context of rebuilding the nation during COVID-19.


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