Inderscience Publishers

Implementing the precautionary principle: incorporating science, technology, fairness and accountability in environmental, health and safety decisions

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The precautionary principle is in sharp political focus today because firstly the nature of scientific uncertainty is changing, and secondly there is increasing pressure to base governmental action on allegedly more 'rational' schemes, such as cost-benefit analysis and quantitative risk assessment. The precautionary principle has been criticised as being both too vague and too arbitrary to form a basis for rational decision making. Contesting that view, this paper makes explicit the rational tenets of the precautionary principle within an analytical framework as rigorous as uncertainties permit, and one that mirrors democratic values embodied in regulatory, compensatory, and common law, based on equity and justice, to replace the economic paradigm of utilitarian cost-benefit analysis.

Keywords: cost-benefit analysis, environmental decision making, precautionary principle, regulation, tradeoff analysis, health and safety, risk assessment, uncertainty

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