Establishment of Ireland’s projected reference level for Forest Management for the period 2013-2020 under Article 3.4 of the Kyoto Protocol.

  • Kevin Black FERS Ltd, 117 East Courtyard, Tullyvale, Cabinteely, Dublin 18.
  • Eugene Hendrick Forest Sector Development and COFORD Division, Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Food, Kildare Street, Dublin 2.
  • Gerhardt Gallagher 53 Upper Beachwood Avenue, Ranelagh, Dublin 6.
  • Pat Farrington Forest Service, Johnstown Castle, Co. Wexford.
Keywords: Forest carbon sinks, carbon accounting, age-class legacy


There is increasing evidence that the extent to which managed forests can sequester carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere is influenced by changes in forest area, age class structure and management practice. Signatory parties to the Kyoto Protocol can elect to account for CO2 removals associated with Forest Management (confined to pre-1990 forest) under Article 3.4. A premise in formulating accounting rules under the Protocol was that forest sinks should be directly linked to direct human-induced activities. However, carbon (C) stock change in forests is also due to indirect human-induced activities. Indirect factors include increases in atmospheric CO2 concentration, nitrogen deposition, and age class legacy effects resulting from historic forest management and afforestation activities. Current accounting frameworks attempt to factor out indirect human induced activities by setting a limit (cap) on accountable CO2 removals or by setting a historic time series baseline (reference level), from which accountable annual removals/emissions can be derived. However, it is argued that these proxies do not factor out historic Forest Management effects (age-class legacies), which disincentivise parties from electing article 3.4 accounting. It is proposed that the use of a projected reference level, which considers age-class structure, can factor out dynamic age-class effects. Effects of indirect human induced activities are considered to be approximately the same in the projected reference level period and in the estimated period (i.e. the commitment period), and therefore they can be assumed to be factored out. However, election of Forest Management under article 3.4 using these newly proposed accounting rules requires development of national systems for forecasting future forest emissions and removals, as well as a methodology to characterise the effects of age class structure on the C balance of managed forests. In this paper, we outline methodologies used to derive a national C stock change reference level for Forest Management activity under Article 3.4 of the Kyoto Protocol for the period 1990 to 2020. We characterise the effects of age class and management legacy on C stock change over historic and projected time series. Different accounting frameworks are compared in relation to compliance with the Marrakesh Accords and ability to provide incentives to enhance sink capacity through Forest Management. We suggest that a projected reference level is best suited to accounting, factoring out legacy effects, and for providing an incentive framework to encourage additional mitigation activities under the Forest Management activity of Article 3.4 of the Kyoto Protocol. It is suggested that the projected reference level approach also factors out indirect human induced effects provided, that the same methodological approaches are used for both the projected reference level and the reported time series
How to Cite
Black, K., Hendrick, E., Gallagher, G. and Farrington, P. (2012) “Establishment of Ireland’s projected reference level for Forest Management for the period 2013-2020 under Article 3.4 of the Kyoto Protocol.”, Irish Forestry, pp. 7-32. Available at: (Accessed: 15August2022).