Perspectives and Prospects
Edited by Elizabeth Fisher, Judith Jones and René von Schomberg
Chapter 5: Precautionary Policy Assessment for Sustainability
Stephen Dovers INTRODUCTION The precautionary principle (PP) is one of several principles expressed in policy and legal statements of sustainability (or sustainable development internationally, or ecologically sustainable development (ESD) in Australia). It is the most tractable in the sense of policy and legal interpretation and has received the most focused attention. However, sustainability is an integrated agenda, and the PP should not be taken in isolation from other principles. In this chapter, the PP is not the sole focus but is considered in terms of its interpretation and implementation in policy-making contexts alongside other principles and imperatives. The sustainability agenda is signiﬁcantly diﬀerent, and more diﬃcult, than the more traditional environmental policy agenda, and the past decade has been characterized by halting steps to address sustainability, but also by a growing acceptance that environmental issues can only be properly resolved through proactive, long-term strategies that address social and economic dimensions as well as environmental. The standard Australian version of sustainability principles, enunciated in its 1992 National Strategy for ESD, are representative, with the exception of the peculiar weighting in Guiding Principles 4 and 6 toward neoliberal economic policy approaches (Australia 1992), and the expression of the PP (in italics) as Principle 2 is typical enough: Goal: Development that improves the total quality of life, both now and in the future, in a way that maintains the ecological processes on which life depends. Core objectives: 1. To enhance individual and community well-being and welfare by following a path...
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