Implementing the Precautionary Principle
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Implementing the Precautionary Principle

Perspectives and Prospects

Edited by Elizabeth Fisher, Judith Jones and René von Schomberg

This challenging book takes a broad and thought-provoking look at the precautionary principle and its implementation, or potential implementation, in a number of fields. In particular, it explores the challenges faced by public decision-making processes when applying the precautionary principle, including its role in risk management and risk assessment. Frameworks for improved decision-making are considered, followed by a detailed analysis of prospective applications of the precautionary principle in a number of emerging fields including: nanotechnology, climate change, natural resource management and public health policy. The analysis is both coherent and interdisciplinary, employing perspectives from law, the social sciences and public policy with a view to improving both the legitimacy and effectiveness of public policy at national and international levels.
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Chapter 2: The Precautionary Principle and its Normative Challenges

René von Schomberg


René von Schomberg1 1. INTRODUCTION: THE PRECAUTIONARY PRINCIPLE AND DELIBERATION This chapter aims to provide a comprehensive overview of the normative dimensions which need to be addressed while invoking the precautionary principle, implementing it under particular regulatory frameworks and applying it by taking particular measures. It is written from the perspective of a policy analyst, and informed by an EU practice which is still evolving. In the second section, I will give an overview of the normative challenges the precautionary principle faces in terms of deliberation at the levels of politics, policy making and the science-policy interface. In the third section, I will elaborate more specifically on one of the normative considerations which can trigger the precautionary principle, namely ‘reasonable grounds for concern’, which refers to the seriousness of particular threats under circumstances of scientific uncertainty. In the fourth section, I will elaborate on the normative standards for the acceptability of a particular level of protection of the environment or human health. I conclude with an operational definition of the precautionary principle on which all EU policy can and should be based. The precautionary principle is a deliberative principle. Its application involves deliberation on a range of normative dimensions which need to be taken into account while making the principle operational in the public policy context. The term ‘normative’ refers here to all the prescriptive statements and/or value judgements in contrast to factual scientific statements. In this chapter, I will identify and describe all these normative...

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