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Environment Magazine September/October 2008


September-October 2017

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Strengthening the Precautionary Principle in the Post-Paris Climate Regime

This article explores the capacity of the precautionary principle to reposition the international climate regime specifically for the singular mission of urgently preventing catastrophic climate change. The focus here is deliberately narrowly centered on the precautionary principle as a legal and policy tool for prevention of catastrophic climate change. International climate law currently fails to be preventive, or precautionary, as evidenced by its inability to drive emission reductions quickly, or in significant quantity, despite conclusive scientific evidence that this is extremely urgent in the powerful analyses of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 5th Assessment Report (IPCC 5AR).1 The perspective here is largely around interpretations of international law, and how it can be recast for maximal preventive international action on climate change consistent with the science.


Andrew Boswell is an independent environmental consultant in Norwich, United Kingdom. He has worked in biophysics, electronics, computing, and environmental activism. His doctorate in 1981 was in protein molecular structure, after which he worked on design software for very-large-scale integrated (VLSI) circuits, then a decade in parallel computing at the University of East Anglia, Norwich, followed by 12 years as an elected Green Party councillor in Norfolk in the United Kingdom, challenging high carbon infrastructure.

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