Net Zero with Nature/Carbon Offsetting Site
- What is the mechanism?
The UK government has set a legally binding target to achieve ‘net zero’ greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050.
This will require major changes in the way land is managed alongside decarbonisation of energy, transport and other sectors.
The natural environment can play a vital role in tackling the climate crisis as healthy ecosystems take up and store a significant amount of carbon in soils, sediments and vegetation.
By restoring natural systems, carbon can be stored (sequestration) as well as providing multiple benefits by supporting and enhancing biodiversity, improving soil health and improving water management.
This is an emerging mechanism for supporting nature recovery at the same time as sequestering carbon.
- Site location
Net zero with nature can be achieved in a range of locations depending on the natural systems to be restored.
Habitat creation should ideally support the delivery of the Lawton principles i.e. bigger (newly created/expanded) habitat, better quality habitat and joined up connected habitat.
a. Sites that have the potential to buffer or expand core existing habitats. For example, connecting woodland blocks, and buffering ancient woodland.
b. Sites that can facilitate connectivity e.g. connecting woodland blocks
c. Sites located in strategic areas identified as important for wildlife e.g. Biodiversity Opportunity Areas, People & Nature Network, and forthcoming Local Nature Recovery Strategies.
- Site size
No minimum or maximum site area.
- Current land use
All except private gardens or sites already designated for wildlife value i.e. SSSI, Local Wildlife Site.
Net Zero with Nature / Carbon Offsetting sites need to demonstrate additionality in terms of the carbon that will be stored through the habitat creation/enhancement.
- Landscape considerations
Any habitat created needs to be consistent with the landscape character in order to achieve the best outcomes for biodiversity.
The management approach should also work with soil conditions and the underlying geology.
The SDNPA has prepared guidance to summarise the different landscape character types, the actions that can be taken for nature or to be more nature friendly and the key sensitivities to consider in the area.
- Land Management duration
As carbon offsetting is an emerging area, there are not set duration periods although 100 years is taken as the typical lifetime of trees for mitigation purposes.
- Land Management options
Carbon offsetting can be achieved through a wide range of land management options to restore / improve existing habitats or to create new habitat whilst sequestering carbon into the soil and vegetation.
- Woodland, tree and hedgerows – native woodland stores carbon over many centuries, although the rate varies with tree species and age and is influenced by soils and climate
- Heathland – includes Wet Heath, Lowland bog and Mire habitat which are very good at sequestering and locking up carbon. Examples in the National Park are Graffham, Stedham and Iping Common. These are our local equivalent of upland peatlands which are the largest carbon stores of all habitats. There is also a small area of peat soils in the Arun Valley in West Sussex.
- Open habitat such as improved grassland, pasture and semi natural grasslands sequester more carbon than modern agricultural landscapes but typically store less than established peatlands, saltmarsh and established woodlands
- Agricultural land – where arable land is reverted to species rich grassland or pasture additional carbon can be stored in the soils.
- Wetland habitats – standing waters such as lakes, can act as carbon sinks, storing carbon within the sediments long-term, but nutrient inputs from neighbouring land can tip these systems from sinks to sources
- Saltmarshes are large carbon stores, although these are affected by rising sea levels