COVID-19: The Omicron Variant

The Omicron variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19, has been found across the world since it was first detected in early November 2021. This article describes the characteristics of the variant, why scientists are concerned, and the possible impact that it might have on the course of the pandemic.

  • POSTnote

    Advances in vaccine technologies

    This POSTnote provides an overview of vaccine development and technologies. It also covers opportunities and challenges to vaccine discovery and manufacture, as well as policy approaches to stimulate vaccine research and development (R&D) in the UK.

  • POSTbrief

    Sustainable land management: managing land better for environmental benefits

    England is at a historical crossroad for the governance of land and the natural environment. Actions for addressing and adapting to climate change, achieving food security and tackling the biodiversity crisis are all embedded in and depend on how land is managed. Existing Government policy and targets have so far failed to address many of these complexities of land, farming and the natural environment.

  • POSTnote

    Smart Cities

    “Smart cities” describes places that incorporate a range of technologies (especially those that collect and use data) to address economic, social, and environmental challenges. Projects usually take place in urban areas, but are also deployed in rural settings. This POSTnote looks at smart city innovation in the UK and the technologies involved. It considers the factors driving the adoption of smart city technologies, and the potential benefits, barriers and risks associated with their implementation.

  • POSTbrief

    Pesticides and health

    This POSTbrief summarises the evidence on routes of human exposure to pesticides and potential impacts on human health. It outlines the regulations and surveillance programmes in place to track exposures and minimise risk. Finally, it comments on how regulatory changes after EU withdrawal could affect trade, industry and consumers.

  • POSTnote

    Energy sector digitalisation

    The incorporation of digital technologies in the energy sector can support progress towards key UK objectives such as achieving Net Zero emissions targets. It can also transform current methods of energy generation, transmission, regulation, and trading. This POSTnote presents an overview of key digital technologies and their main applications in the energy sector. It provides an overview of the potential benefits to using these technologies, and recent developments in this area. It describes the role of data in underpinning digital technologies in the sector, and some of the issues raised by its use. It also discusses broader challenges associated with energy sector digitalisation and measures that could help address them, including issues related to technology, regulation, and impact on consumers.

  • POSTnote

    Defence of space-based assets

    Space-based assets (satellites and the terrestrial ground stations that communicate with them) provide critical support to military and civilian operations. They are vulnerable to unintentional damage and disruption, and to deliberate attack. This POSTnote outlines how the UK uses and accesses satellites, potential risks to satellites, and approaches to mitigation.

  • POSTnote

    Children’s Mental Health and the COVID-19 Pandemic

    A POSTnote describing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on children’s mental health. This briefing summarises the latest understanding from research about the effects on children throughout the pandemic, and the factors that increase vulnerability to poor mental health. It also reviews policy approaches that seek to protect children’s mental health, with particular focus on recent initiatives to address this.

  • POSTnote

    Local nature recovery strategies

    The UK Government is introducing Local Nature Recovery Strategies (LNRS) from April 2022 to map where local habitat improvement and restoration could address national-scale environmental objectives. This POSTnote summarises the LNRS approach, including mapping ecological networks, the opportunities for LNRSs to deliver wider benefits to nature and people, and the likely challenges associated with the strategies and their delivery.

  • POSTnote

    Blue carbon

    Marine ecosystems around the UK can both increase and decrease atmospheric carbon dioxide levels. Carbon loss and gain globally by these ecosystems has the potential to influence climate change. This POSTnote summarises the marine ecosystems in the UK that contribute to these processes, their current and potential future extent, and pressures on them.

  • POSTnote

    Environmental housing standards

    Buildings have varied impacts on the environment, arising from energy, water and land use as well as the release of pollutants. Residential buildings also affect occupants’ health and wellbeing through their design and placement within the wider environment. This POSTnote summarises the factors affecting a building’s environmental performance, the existing governance framework and the potential opportunities for delivering wider social benefits through relevant standards.

  • POSTnote

    Early Childhood Education and Care

    Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) refers to education and childcare provided in regulated settings from birth to the start of primary school. This POSTnote summarises the evidence on the association between ECEC and children’s development in England and the key factors that affect this. It also covers the impact of government-funded ECEC places on families and the sector, and stakeholder perspectives on public policy priorities.