Austria defends use of precautionary principle

Environment agency disputes US business criticisms of EU's precautionary approach

The Austrian environment agency has defended use of the precautionary principle in environmental policy making as "useful and necessary" following an attack on it by American businesses operating in Europe. In a position paper released last month, the EU Committee of the American Chamber of Commerce reported "grave concern" among its members over the way the EU was developing the precautionary principle and called for emphasis to be placed instead on developing a "broader risk analysis process" (ENDS Daily 15 October). But the Austrian environment agency has accused the organisation of "misunderstanding" the principle. The arguments for it are "well-founded," it says, and its use is "not just one small part of the wider process of risk assessment" as the EU Committee says, but a "logic supplement to a risk assessment approach". Risk assessment "requires comprehensive knowledge; if this knowledge is not available at a proper time, no action is taken," the agency goes on. The precautionary principle, on the other hand, "takes account of possible gaps in knowledge".

Follow Up:
Austrian environment agency, tel: +43 1 31304.

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