“No progress has been made towards achieving net zero targets in the built environment.” It’s a pretty damning statement on the government’s lack of action from the group of MPs behind the Environment Audit Committee (EAC) report in May.

As a specialist in this area, I know “no progress” is far from the truth when it comes to the real estate industry, which has markedly upped its game on decarbonisation over recent years, accelerated by end user demands, investor expectations and a sense of societal duty more than by legislation. There is plenty more to be done, and an urgency to act fast, but we are making headway.

A more legitimate, albeit perhaps less headline-grabbing, omission is the need for consistent assessment methods with cross-sector targets for both operational and embodied carbon in real estate. This would help with carbon reporting, which is of growing importance to investors seeking to prioritise environmental, alongside financial, performance in their decision-making, as the impact of their investments generates similar levels of scrutiny as the monetary returns.

The EAC report called for mandatory whole-life-carbon assessments to be introduced by December 2023 for all buildings above a gross internal area of 10,764 sq ft. If such swift legislation were to materialise (although we know that pace and politics are not often happy bedfellows), by using a unified methodology for measuring carbon the industry would be in a position to act with confidence.

With this in mind, and before the EAC report was even published, a group of industry peers came together to kickstart the development of a standard for assessing net zero pathways at building level across the UK. It is still in its infancy and needs the buy-in of the industry at large if it is to work in reality.

Let’s hope real estate can continue to lead the way and show the politicians how much more than “nothing” the industry continues to do as it moves towards the net zero target dates on the horizon.

Hedley Jones, partner, Workman