Jonathan B. Wiener

in The Oxford Handbook of International Environmental Law

Published in print August 2008 | ISBN: 9780199552153
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Law


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Precaution is a strategy for addressing risk. Risk of future harm is always uncertain. At its essence, precaution entails thinking ahead and taking anticipatory action to avoid uncertain future risks. The astute exercise of precaution requires far more than an earnest commitment to protecting health, safety, and the environment. Intelligent precaution requires careful consideration of facts, values, consequences, and trade offs. The precautionary principle (PP) is an attempt to codify the concept of precaution in law. It is the most prominent – and perhaps the most controversial – development in international environmental law in the last two decades. This article examines PP and its three versions: uncertainty does not justify inaction, uncertainty justifies action, and hifting the burden of proof. It also presents a normative analysis of PP and considers its future.

Keywords: precaution; precautionary principle; international environmental law; uncertainty; action; burden of proof

Article.  7429 words. 

Subjects: Law ; International Law ; Environment and Energy Law

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