Home / Back

P - Alphabetical Listing of Selected Important Terms and Concepts in Sustainable Development

Precautionary Principle OR Precautionary Approach
Article 15 of The Rio Declaration defines the Precautionary Approach as:
“·Where there are threats of serious of irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation.”

(2000). United Nations General Assembly A/ CONF.151/ 26 (Vol. I) - 12 August 1992: Report of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development - Rio Declaration on Environment and Development [online]. United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. Available from: http://www.un.org/documents/ga/conf151/aconf15126-1annex1.htm [Re-accessed: 06 March 2008].


“The precautionary approach/principle is a distinctive approach to managing threats of serious or irreversible harm where there is scientific uncertainty. It is not new - what is new is the increasing complexity of the science and the public debate about the ability of governments to respond to such situations. The precautionary approach/principle recognizes that the absence of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason to postpone decisions where there is a risk of serious or irreversible harm. Even though scientific information may be inconclusive, decisions have to be made to meet society's expectations that risks be addressed and living standards maintained.”

(2001). A Canadian Perspective on the Precautionary Approach / Principle [online]. Environment Canada. Available from: http://www.ec.gc.ca/econom/pamphlet_e.htm [Re-accessed: 07 March 2008].


(SEE ALSO: the NAFTA`s Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC), for a thorough academic / legal review on the precautionary principle / approach, as found at:

Commission for Environmental Cooperation (2003). “The Precautionary Principle in North American and International Law”. North American Environmental Law and Policy [online], vol. 10, pp.191-268. Available from: http://www.cec.org/files/PDF/LAWPOLICY/NAELP10_en.pdf [Re-accessed: 07 March 2008].