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Precautionary Principle
The Precautionary Principle basically says that if a practice seems likely to harm the environment, even if proof is not definitive, actions should be taken to eliminate or control the practice. At the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, Principle 15 of the Rio Declaration stated:

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 not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation.

Image of the United Nations Environment Programme icon.For years, the cause of the depletion of ozone in the stratosphere was uncertain. Although most scientists in the late 1970s and early 1980s agreed that CFCs were responsible for ozone destruction, the opinion was not unanimous. There was also considerable disagreement as to how severe human-caused damage would be.

Even though, twenty nations signed the Vienna Convention for the Protection for the Ozone Layer 1985, the consensus emerged which held that, although a problem existed, any major consequences were well in the future. As a result, no one was required to take any action. If the Precautionary Principle had been in place, their decision might have been different.

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