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 5: Precautionary Policy Assessment for Sustainability

Stephen Dovers


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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