Precautionary Approach

A precautionary approach to addressing threats to the environment can be traced back to domestic German law in the 1970s.  It was first used in an international agreement in 1980.  However, it was at the1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development that it received broad  international recognition in the  Rio Declaration on Environment and Development of 1992.  “In order to protect the environment, the precautionary approach shall be widely applied by States according to their capabilities. Where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall be not used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation.” Principle 15, Rio Declaration.  The precautionary approach has been incorporated into several international treaties to which the United States is party, including:

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 Last updated December 11, 2017