For those of us who have studied the Brundtland Report 1987, we know that the heart of sustainable development is real estate and the planning system.


Emma Tait


Alistair Watson

The framework for delivery of net zero carbon relies on energy production, infrastructure provision and land use. We need to understand how net zero objectives can be achieved.

The major question in the recent case of Friends of the Earth v BEIS is whether the government failed to comply with requirements as to the quantitative and qualitative analysis of policies designed to bring about a more challenging carbon reduction target.

The court’s judgment was yes, and it requires the government to provide a quantitative assessment of contributions that are expected to be made by individual policies for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions; analysis of the shortfall against reductions required by the carbon budget; and details of how that shortfall is to be met.

This case highlights that achieving ambitious net zero targets requires policies for seven real-estate-heavy sectors, including power, industry, heating buildings and transport.

Permissions are required to operate new and existing built assets, and as an island nation we are short of space. There is a complex mix of competing land uses where the planning balance has to be played out in line with a carbon budget.

Adaptation of areas where tangible progress towards net zero has not been achieved – transport, electricity supply, buildings, manufacturing, construction and agriculture – requires reform of planning law, policy and guidance.

The new government has the vision of boosting economic growth by way of the 1980s Heseltine classic of Enterprise Zones, now to be known as Investment Zones.

It is fair to say that the new prime minister must swiftly engage with the real estate sector to understand how net zero can be achieved and what changes the private sector knows it can work with to produce the future we all want.

Emma Tait is partner and Alistair Watson is partner and UK head of planning and environment at law firm Taylor Wessing