Reducing Uncertainty: The Need to Clarify the Key Elements of the Precautionary Principle

Holdway, Aaron

In the past two decades, the precautionary principle has appeared ever more widely in national and international law and policy concerned with the environment and public health. A general lack of clarity in these policy instruments about how the precautionary principle should be operationalized, however, has undermined the principle’s potential as a valuable tool for public policy-makers and decision-makers. This paper builds on the existing literature on the precautionary principle by identifying four key elements that require particular attention if the precautionary principle is to be effectively operationalized. Key considerations for policy-makers are outlined for each of these elements. The paper situates these ideas in the context of the overlapping spheres of science and politics, addressing common misunderstandings about the relationship between expert knowledge and public value choices.


Also Published In

Consilience: The Journal of Sustainable Development

More About This Work

Academic Units
Earth Institute
Published Here
November 24, 2015