and the Brighton Downs Estate
We want to ensure that the Whole Estate Plan contains significant and measurable climate action as a core element of the functioning of the plan. The government is advising its own departments to prepare for 4 degrees C of warming this century, so most of the precious downland features we value now will either be gone or unrecognisably changed unless we take urgent action on greenhouse gases.
The Whole Esate Plan for Brighton Downs Estate must contain mandatory climate action requirements, especially for carbon sequestration, which are quantitative and set in a manner that is measurable against target and timelines.
We acknowledge that we are data deficient right now, as we lack proper information on carbon budgeting based on land use, and most critically we lack sufficient data on carbon capture by chalk grassland. However, a number of people/ organisations are working hard on this now (Rewilding UK/ University of Sussex/ South Downs National Park Authority/ The Living Coast). In advance of this information being obtained, it is essential we set ambitious targets within the Whole Estate Plan for carbon capture locally. We must not expect others to deal with this elsewhere. There is a danger of the issue being lost in well-meaning but essentially meaningless words within the plan and lacking any actual direction or significant value.
Priority must be given within the Whole Estate Plan to more carbon-neutral forms of agriculture, and enhancing/ extending/ connecting up semi-natural habitats which capture carbon, buffer temperature extremes and assist with water management in a chaotic climate.
Setting our downland within a wider Nature Recovery Network and following natural processes wherever possible in managing our precious semi-natural downland sites will be very important as this is likely to result in biodiversity benefit as well as helping to meet these climate action objectives.
Read the British Ecological Society's 2021 report on on nature-based solutions for climate change in the UK
“Restoring permanent grassland via reversion from improved grassland or arable land, including the restoration of wet or chalk grasslands as part of a varied mosaic style landscape, can positively impact biodiversity and reduce GHG emissions. For example, figures from the UK Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) GHG inventory indicate that conversion of arable land to grassland has the potential for removing 8.72 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2 ) per hectare per year (t.CO2 /ha/yr) across the UK.1 In contrast, conversion of grassland to arable land can result in net emissions of 14.29 megatons (Mt.CO2 e/ha/yr)1”