Following the launch of the UK’s Net Zero Strategy, it has been a busy year for consultants in this space, with more than 3,500 companies now signed up to the Science-Based Targets initiative.

Paul Parker

Paul Parker

The property industry has taken on the challenge with admirable relish, but the recent High Court ruling on government non-compliance with its own strategy led to uncertainty about putting net zero measures into practice.

A deeper understanding of net zero pathways has highlighted decarbonisation of heat as one of the most difficult sources of carbon to abate. Key commitments include: phasing out gas boilers; installing 600,000 heat pumps a year by 2028; developing heat networks; and improving energy efficiency in buildings.

So, how can the industry prioritise these commitments? Near-term targets are critical to a net zero pathway, and rapid progress is vital. However, according to the Climate

Change Committee’s 2022 report, significant emissions reductions are at risk in all areas, including buildings.

Taking the heat-pump installation commitments as an example, a market-based approach would place an obligation on boiler manufacturers to sell more heat pumps. However, this policy is yet to be published.

In 2021, there were only 55,000 installations.

On the demand side, the government’s target is for most homes to achieve EPC ‘C’ ratings by 2035, but there are not yet firm policies on how this will be achieved. Some 150,000 homes were upgraded in 2021 – up 12% from 2020. However, this needs to increase to one million a year by 2030.

The Net Zero Strategy provided an excellent framework for mapping out the UK’s decarbonisation pathway for the property industry, but limiting global warming to well below 1.5°C requires deep decarbonisation by 2030.

What is urgently needed is tangible progress on the policies, and the political will to make this happen.

Paul Parker is a carbon specialist at engineering company Ramboll