To ask His Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the role that (1) sea kelp, and (2) sea grasses, can play in capturing carbon and meeting the UK's net zero targets; and what steps they are taking to identify and preserve these marine sites for the future.
The UK Net Zero Strategy recognised that protecting, restoring, and sustainably managing blue carbon habitats like saltmarsh and seagrass can provide benefits for biodiversity and climate adaptation, as well as for carbon sequestration. However, the potential contribution of coastal blue carbon habitats to total annual UK emissions reductions is modest due to their relatively small area.
The marine arm of the Government’s Natural Capital and Ecosystem Assessment programme is supporting the UK’s commitments towards net zero through monitoring and mapping carbon storage and cycling capacity across England’s coastal and marine ecosystems, such as saltmarshes, kelp forests and the seabed. This will inform better management of our natural carbon sources and sinks, including the protection of key habitats for carbon storage. Furthermore, through the UK Blue Carbon Evidence Partnership, Defra is working with the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero, alongside other UK Administrations, to address key research questions relating to blue carbon.
We are also working to protect these habitats, including through the Marine Protected Areas network, which already contains the majority of saltmarsh and seagrass habitats in the UK. A number of estuarine and coastal habitat restoration initiatives are also underway including the Environment Agency’s Restoring Meadow, Marsh and Reef (ReMeMaRe) initiative, which aims to reverse centuries of coastal habitat decline by restoring seagrass meadows and saltmarsh.