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12. The precaution principle in environmental management
Precaution and "industrial metabolism"
Precaution: A case-study
History of the precaution principle
The precaution principle in international agreements
Precaution on the European stage
Precaution as a science-politics game
Precaution on the global stage
13. Transfer of clean(er) technologies to developing countries
Environmentally sound technology, clean(er) technology
Knowledge and technology transfer
Crucial elements of endogenous capacity-building
International cooperation for clean(er) technologies
14. A plethora of paradigms: Outlining an information system on physical exchanges between the economy and nature
Distinguishing between "harmful" and "harmless" characteristics of socio-economic metabolism with its natural environment
Outline of an information system for the metabolism of the socio-economic system with its natural environment
An empirical example for esis: Material balances and intensities for the Austrian economy
Purposive interventions into life processes (pils)
The principle of precaution in environmental management implies committing human activity to investments where the benefits of action cannot, at the time of expenditure, be justified by conclusive scientific evidence. Other grounds for legitimation need to be present political, ethical, legal, and moral - in the sense of playing by the same rules as others in protecting the environment. Accordingly, the rationale has to be accounted for in forms that are more overtly judgmental.
Precaution therefore tests science in the realms where it is most vulnerable, namely, where adequate data do not exist or time series cannot yet be modelled, or where the processes being examined operate in such a manner that they are not susceptible to the conventions of prediction and verification.
Precaution also tests political institutions in that they are forced to regulate public and private affairs without recourse to the authority of formal science for their justification. This permits entry into political decision-making by both national and international pressure groups who seek to exploit scientific uncertainty or political indecisiveness.
The global dimension to environmental change places a special burden on the application of the precaution principle, for three reasons. First, there is the fact of pervasiveness across the whole earth; there is no hiding-place, even for the wealthy. Second, there is the potential for irreversibility, at least in terms of the length of time humans would be able to endure before the earth put itself to rights. (The earth itself may recover from the consequences of environmental alteration, but it may not do so in time for humans to survive without much discomfort and possibly economic stress.)
Even if irreversibility is not proven, there is a third point, namely the capacity of human intervention to upset natural processes of dynamic equilibria in particular regions to the point where the disruption to soil, water supply, vegetation, and human health exceeds the capacity of local and national governments, and social and economic adjustment processes, to cope. Combined environmental degradation and socio-economic debilitation is sometimes referred to as environmental criticality.
Global environmental issues therefore involve major ethical implications. They demand a form of sovereignty that is transnational and binding for all states. They raise issues of justice over who should act first and fastest in ensuring equitable compliance. They introduce a new time dimension: we cannot guarantee that our descendants will enjoy the benefits of present economic growth in the same way that previous generations enjoyed the benefits of past progress. And they carry with them important redefinitions of self-interest and sacrifice, and not just for the betterment of the human race: these factors apply to the very ecosystems and geo-biochemical cycles upon which the viability of the earth itself depends.
Precaution therefore becomes more prominent in the lexicon of modern environmental management as science is tested, as problems transcend spatial and temporal boundaries, and as questions of ethics and justice dominate over the more traditional rationales of the natural and social sciences. It is debatable whether there is an appropriate calculus of risk/benefit for precaution. It is also debatable whether there exist appropriate political and legal institutions for the transcendental qualities of managing global environmental change. Wrapped up in the debate over precaution are powerful new ideas, however, that should eventually transform the fundamentals of human knowledge and management.
This book is concerned with directing industrial metabolism towards a closer integration with natural cycles and assimilative capacities. In chapter 1 Robert U. Ayres points out that the state of disruption of these cycles is large and growing, but that the demand on environmental services is falling mainly on common property systems. Ayres also argues that industrial transformations generally promote the cause of efficiency of energy and materials use, but that trends towards more integrated assemblies and blends of natural and artificial substances put limits on substitution and recyclability.
The precautionary principle, as it is discussed in this chapter, will place emphasis on the following:
1. Prevention at source to reduce the discharge of residues that are toxic or environmentally hazardous.
2. Emphasis on a transition from fossil-fuel-based energy sources to energy efficiency, renewable sources (involving cogeneration and much technological inventiveness), and "appropriate-scale" nuclear sources.
3. Promotion of deposit-refund schemes in advance of technological innovation on product development. These schemes would provide cash for conservation where victims cannot otherwise get indemnity from environmental disruption that causes suffering.
All these points are developed below. Suffice it to say here that the precautionary principle is likely to become a significant factor in altering the pattern of industrial activity and pricing. Because the principle is as much political as it is scientific, industry would be wise to anticipate its role and work with non-governmental organizations and governments to define the appropriate response. Such an approach would be novel in its mode of operation, but not in its function. Industry has always tried to anticipate the future and to help shape its influence on the evolution of regulation. Nowadays, however, that will be more of a partnership effort.
In the southern North Sea algal blooms are common. The water is shallow, currents carry nutrient-rich water over great distances, and in the coastal margins the hydrographical conditions for phytoplanktonic proliferation are very favourable. Along the eastern coastal regions of the Netherlands, Germany, and Denmark nutrient enrichment is particularly noticeable, caused primarily by insufficient removal of phosphorus from municipal sewagetreatment plants, and run-off from agricultural lands, where nitrates are the culprit.
There is controversy over how much of this is anthropogenic. Obviously this is important in the sense that if algal productivity is caused primarily by humans, regulations or investments aimed at reducing the nutrient burden would be nominally worth while. The economic argument would then be essentially one of identifying the point where the pay-off of nutrient removal matches the marginal gains in reduction of algal productivity.
It is not as simple as this, unfortunately. At the heart of this issue is the relationship between authoritative science and political action in an international commons.
From a purely scientific viewpoint, there is reasonable evidence that exceptional algal blooms predate the growth in municipal wastewater treatment and may be linked to nutrient-rich current inflows from the north-east Atlantic (see ISQR, 1990). This interpretation, however, is not conclusive because the necessary time-series data are simply not available. There is also good scientific monitoring to suggest that nutrient build-up is concentrated in the north-eastern parts of the southern North Sea, and is confined largely to the coast.
For example, in the German Bight of Heligoland, plankton biomass has increased fourfold between 1962 and 1985, and an occurrence of a bloom of Ceratiumfurca in September 1981 depleted oxygen to the point of disrupting a vast area of benthiccommunities. Exceptional blooms apply to occurrences of algal productivity that are sufficiently intense to be noticeable and to have adverse effects on tourism, fishfarming, and inshore fishing. These may now be more dramatic owing to more extensive data-collection, greater media coverage, wider distribution of vulnerable economic activity, and heightened public sensitivity to environmental change. In addition, unrelated events, such as the 60 per cent mortality of seals in the southern North Sea in July 1989, attracted speculation on a link between chemicals generally and environmental catastrophe.
In the public mind, the seal became a symbol like the canary in the coal mine, the national "barometer of ecological stress" that could eventually cause environmental catastrophe. To the scientific mind, the algal bloom is primarily an object for study, not for instant reaction as to cause and effect.
A particularly prominent bloom of Chrysochromulina polylepis occurred in the Skagerrak in May-June 1988. Subsequent investigation suggested that meteorological factors coupled to current movement had advected Atlantic water into the area. This column of water contained high concentrations of nitrogen, phosphorus, and silicates, but was stabilized by higher than average rainfall and the outflow of fresh water from the rivers. This stability led to a high nutrient density in subsurface levels, which was aggravated by further columnar stability due to the presence of a higher than normal outflow of cold fresh water from the Baltic. A spring diatom bloom removed much of the silicate and phosphorus, leaving a high nitrogen to phosphorus ratio in the column.
The rapid bloom of Chrysochromulina was probably limited by a lack of phosphorus, a condition which turned the species toxic and affected the shellfish industry across a wide area. A bloom of Prymnesium parva, another species of alga with toxic properties, caused $5 million worth of damage to Norwegian fish farms (IQSR, 1990).
At issue here are three interconnected themes. First, the scientific evidence of primarily natural causes is persuasive but not complete. The actual conditions that lead to bloom build-up and to associated toxicity are either unknown or cannot readily be modelled. Second, the damage to commercial interests is serious but not crippling. It is the greater extent of vulnerable economic activity in areas with algal bloom histories that contributes to the demand for action. Third, there is genuine anxiety about the possibility of a catastrophic spread of algal activity across a wide area that may not correlate with meteorological and marine conditions, hence a perceived need to stop the increase of nutrients from waste-water treatment plants and agricultural run-off.
The cost of nutrient removal, of course, will be high. In Germany and the Netherlands, the aim is to remove phosphorus and nitrogen from over three-quarters of municipal treatment plants by 1995 (ICPNS, 1990). This will reduce inputs between 25 and 50 per cent for these nutrients. In addition, Germany intends to tax industry on its nitrogen and phosphorus emissions, and the Netherlands has embarked on a strict ammonia control programme over unprocessed animal manure (Dietz et al., 1992). (Ammonia translates into nitrogen-rich aerosols that are deposited in the open North Sea.)
The British position is that the current level of scientific knowledge does not require the United Kingdom to take such drastic measures. It is said that there is no evidence of significant variation in algal bloom off the UK coast, riverine inputs are estimated as being less than a tenth of total N and P inputs, and though air emissions are considerable they are spread over 525,000 kmē of ocean surface. Yet the British do concede that the "scientific picture is incomplete and important areas of research are now being addressed, particularly the relationship between gross inputs of nutrients via rivers and the estuarial processes which determine net inputs to the seas" (ICPNS, 1990).
In its declaration on nutrient removal of inputs into the North Sea, the International Conference on the Protection of the North Sea (ICPNS), composed of the Environment Ministers of the eight basin states, agreed in 1990 that each would commit funds for a substantial reduction of nutrients, up to 50 per cent, by 1995. In addition, the European Community, which covers all the eight states except Norway and Sweden, has proposed new directives on both municipal waste water and nitrogen removal in fresh waters that may add further to the costs of environmental protection. The United Kingdom government is, however, resisting the linkage of precaution to these policies.
Nevertheless, as a signatory to the Paris Commission, which deals with pollution from land-based sources, and as a participant in the 1990 ministerial conference, the United Kingdom has committed itself to a $2.5 billion sewage-treatment programme to bring its coastal outfalls up to at least primary levels of treatment. This is in line with the declaration that waste-water treatments plants must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, and that primary levels of treatment should only be provided where "comprehensive scientific studies demonstrate to the satisfaction of the competent international authorities that this discharge will not adversely affect the North Sea environment at the local or regional level."
The point of this case-study is to show that the kind of argument proffered by the United Kingdom is no longer tolerable where a "commons" resource is perceived to be degraded. A "commons" resource in this case is the assimilative capability of the North Sea to absorb nutrients yet still remain ecologically viable and diverse. Where a group of nations believes that they collectively are responsible for that assimilative capacity, they will tend to support the principle of "equivalence of burden." This is also a part of the precautionary principle. Put simply, it means that each responsible party to a commons regime must share its commitment to the collective wellbeing of the resource and of its other partners. This means that, to a point, and irrespective of the scientific evidence, the United Kingdom must simply play its part.
In fact this was the outcome of the 1990 North Sea Conference, and the United Kingdom is committed to reducing nitrogen and phosphorus from its waste discharges into the North Sea, even though the government still protests that the benefits of nutrient removal are not justified, on grounds of scientific evidence, given the costs involved.
It is true that the ICPNS has limited the precaution principle to the narrow area of avoiding potentially damaging impacts of substances "that are persistent, toxic and liable to big-accumulate." In its guidance note, the UK government comments as follows:
The UK government . . . will take action to minimise inputs of such substances wherever there is reasonable evidence to suggest a causal link between emissions and effects even though such a link cannot be proven. The UK government...also considers that account should be taken of the costs of a measure in relation to its benefits. (Department of the Environment, 1990)
What is interesting in the nutrient case is a relaxation of the non-precautionary approach in a case where it would normally be justified, in favour of a shift towards a precautionary investment to meet international obligations and to be seen to be "pulling weight" on the costs of reducing coastal eutrophication. In short, the United Kingdom was forced to modify its purist stance in favour of recognizing that at least an element of precaution can be justified on political and moral grounds.
This shift may not look like much, but it shows that the politics of precaution are powerful, enduring, and progressive. In the 1990 International North Sea Conference, the United Kingdom agreed not to allow the dumping of sewage sludge in the southern North Sea, even though the government and its advisers claimed there was no scientific case to warrant such a move. The argument was that the sludge contains less than 2 per cent of any of the heavy metals that constitute the European Community "Black List." As regards eutrophication, the British view is that the sludge is disposed of in a region that is actually nutrient-poor. Yet the United Kingdom will now embark on a $600 million programme of sludge repatriation in order to play its part in the protection of the North Sea.
To gain leverage on other issues, notably the nutrient issue, the British government, as it saw the matter, "gave way" on the sludge-dumping controversy. This shows that precaution cannot and should not be divorced from politics and the tortuous tactics of international environmental diplomacy; the politics of precaution are in the ascendant in managing a common property environmental resource such as the North Sea.
The notion of foresight, or Vorsorge, first appeared in the public debate in the Federal Republic of Germany in the early 1970s. This was a period of social democratic consensus over both a social market economy and social welfare policy. It was marked by a desire to create corporatist relations between government, industry, and the trade unions (Weale and O'Riordan, 1991). In developing its environmental programme, the Social Democrat-Free Democrat coalition government propounded four basic principles of environmental policy:
- The polluter pays.
- A common burden where it is impossible to identify the cause of damage.
- Cooperation between the main parties concerned. International cooperation for transboundary problems.
In establishing these four principles, the then Interior Minister in charge of environmental policy argued that the protection of the environment ought not to react to manifest damage. Rather, it should seek to prevent future damage by means of planning and precaution. In promoting this concept, the government was linking environmental protection to the efficient and prudent management of an economy and a society in which pro-active planning was a key ingredient.
There were three additional aspects to the original German interpretation of precaution. These were the application of the state of the art of technology (Stand der Technik) to protect environmental systems as a whole from harmful effects. So the German concept carried with it both a technology-forcing component and a belief that proactive planning should be geared to the maintenance of ecological health, not just human health. The third characteristic of precaution was the inclined shift of the burden of proof onto the would-be damager, rather than the putative victim. Precaution means in effect, then, that one is guilty until proven innocent when tampering with the environment in manifestly risky ways.
Precaution thus carried both a technical efficiency element and a bioethic, the protection of the intrinsic rights of natural systems to be allowed to operate with the minimum of molestation. Two distinguished German lawyers have expanded further on the meanings of precaution (Rehbinder, 1988; Von Moltke, 1988). Rehbinder cites five main themes within which the precautionary principle may be applied:
1. Prevention of future damage, even when it may arise indirectly from certain sources. Prevention becomes an objective in its own right.
2. Avoidance of conflict that would arise if stressful conditions were knowingly allowed to continue. Avoidance becomes a strategic management tool.
3. Minimization of risk where causes and consequences are unknown or where valued environmental resources or assets are in potential danger. Risk is a metaphor for unknowable but potential danger.
4. Protection of the assimilative capacity of natural systems for absorption, assimilation, or restoration, thereby ensuring that there is a cost-effective "natural" way of managing environments in the longer term. This is akin to the notion of a buffer, or hedge against uncertainty.
5. Best practice integrated management to create the least-cost environmental outcomes across all sectors of emissions - land, air and water- and by sound management "up the pipe," or just at the point of emission. Precaution thus takes on the role of environmental and social auditor.
Explicit in Rehbinder's interpretation of precaution, therefore, is a fundamentally fresh approach to environmental management. It should be based on holistic views of the functioning of natural processes. It should address integrated approaches to planning and assessment. It should demand comprehensive auditing in industrial management, product design, and wasterecovery practices, so that the least-damage outcome is pursued throughout the complete management envelope. And it should be sensitive to future needs, that is, to the capacity of natural systems and human societies to absorb and cope with unacceptable environmental stress under almost any condition of an economy or social setting.
These points were made clear in the 1986 Guidelines on Environmental Precaution published by the German Federal Government. These guidelines emphasize the justification for state (or public) intervention in a social market economy in the cause of environmental safety. The three overruling principles are:
1. Protection from manifest danger.
2. Avoiding risks to the environment even when they cannot be fully demonstrated.
3. Prospective management of both economy and environment in order to retain the integrity of the natural basis of life for the future.
What is evident here is that even best practice is insufficient. There has to be a spur for even greater effort. That comes in the form of strict environmental quality standards for air, water, and land, and ultimately for whole regions. On this basis the complementary principie of critical load has become established. This is a calculation of the tolerance of the most vulnerable ecosystem to any mix of pollutants so as to create a natural limit to the interference with the functioning of ecosystems.
How far the critical load principle can be taken, however, remains a matter of some speculation. It relies on intensive monitoring, scientific prediction and verification, and modelling of tolerance, vulnerability, and sensitivity of systems that in general are still very poorly understood. Taken to its logical limits, critical load would set a punishing limitation on emissions and environmental alteration. In principle, critical load even sets a requirement that damage should be zero.
According to a review of the critical load principle by Ramchandani and Pearce (1991), this is not applied to any economic calculus or willingness-to-pay function: it is assumed as a given. Thus for critical load to have operational meaning it should be related to perceptions about possible damage and precaution. This in turn relates to how far judgements are made about the resilience or vulnerability of natural systems and human coping strategies. Hence the significance of the criticality arguments raised at the outset. Depending on these judgements, any assessment of costs and benefits will vary greatly, and yet quite legitimately. It is this relationship that will give critical load its meaning in both scientific and policy terms and ultimately in economic analysis.
In this sense, therefore, critical load couples three powerful notions in contemporary environmental management into a unity. These are:
1. The environmental audit of policy, programme development, and individual projects, as well as of the sectors of economic activity and of industrial enterprises. The audit is a comprehensive account of the environmental "draw" of a proposed policy on economic activity from onset to completion. It would look at the implications for natural systems, resource availability, emissions reduction, waste recycling, and impact on vulnerable areas and sectors of society. No one has yet undertaken such a complete audit, but interest in the idea is growing.
2. The strict liability principle through which any agent altering environmental conditions in the future would be liable to pay compensation for any affected parties or natural systems, even if best practice and appropriate regulatory rules were being followed. This is a particularly burdensome requirement. It has already emerged in the field of waste management, and may well extend to other areas of environmental policy before long.
3. The public trust doctrine through which any agent causing minimal, but necessary, damage to environmental integrity or social well-being must compensate the losses by equivalent investments offsetting the damage. This could, for instance, apply to the planting of trees to absorb the carbon dioxide that a new fossil-fired power station would emit into the atmosphere.
So we see that underlying the principle of precaution are profound, and possibly radical, approaches to environmental accounting, auditing, and management that are as yet largely untried.
Having noted this, the application of the precautionary principle will create many difficulties for an industrial society seeking a more harmonious relationship with its natural environment. The critical load approach has been criticized for its scientific naively in the face of prevailing ignorance over the functioning and adaptability of ecosystems (Ramchandani and Pearce, 1991). As already mentioned, however, such a judgement rests on certain perceptions of resilience and criticality, perceptions which are by no means value-free.
The strategy of '`best available techniques not entailing excessive costs" (BATNEEC), now accepted practice in many European Community member states, avoids any coherent and consistent economic and technical rules as to what constitutes "excessive." Similar production functions for emission reductions are almost as unclear as the likely environmental gains from the increase in BAT. It is apparent that the economics of precaution are still at a very nascent stage. This is why more care will be needed, via industrial casestudies, to examine how far data gaps affect managerial decisions on the relative cost-effectiveness of environmental protection measures. This will be a tiresome yet necessary quest. The objective in harmonizing future industrial metabolism with environmental processes must be to ensure that the precaution principle operates through a phase of cost-effectiveness analysis allied to a substantially upgraded metascience of regional environmental functioning. Carefully thought-out examples from good industrial practice should be a higher priority for future research.
The precaution principle is not yet formally enshrined in international environmental law. But it has begun to appear in a number of national and international agreements and looks for further extension in formal law. For example, the US Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1972 contains a provision for zero discharges of pollutants, based on the best available technology. The Federal Insecticide Fungicide and Rodenticide Act of 1976 places the burden of proof on the manufacturer to show that a proposed formulation is safe. Other national legislation relating to toxic or potentially big-accumulative substances adopts similar positions (see Cameron and Abouchar, 1991, for a review).
In practice, the precautionary principle is being applied in various stages:
Stage 1: A ban on substances that are known or presumed to be toxic, or persistent, or big-accumulative in commons arenas (e.g. seas, space, atmosphere).
Stage 2: A strict control, using burden of proof on promoter and application of best available technology, on activities or substances where a causal link to possibly severe environmental damage is deemed likely.
Stage 3: The control of hazardous wastes, via the application of scientific and economic balancing, notably BATNEEC (see below), clean technology, company audits, and regulatory audits where the balance of probabilities favours action sooner rather than later.
Stage 4: The reduction in nutritive elements in common areas where accumulation could prove costly, and where staged action is consistent with a "least regrets" policy.
Stage 5: The coupling of more research and programmed preventative investments in global change issues, notably global warming, sealevel rise, and loss of biodiversity.
The prior statement of the precautionary principle came in the London Declaration of the Second North Sea Conference, 1990: "In order to protect the North Sea from possibly damaging effects of the most dangerous substances, a precautionary approach is necessary which may require action to control inputs of such substances even before a causal link has been established by absolutely clear scientific evidence."
This has been converted into programmes of action by the Oslo and Paris Commissions for controlling the deposition of toxic wastes to air and land respectively. Subsequently the Bergen Ministerial Declaration on Sustainable Development in the ECE region (May 1990) stated: "Where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty should not be used as a reason for postponing measures to prevent environmental degradation." Article 130R of the Single European Act of 1985 also refers to the principle of preventative action.
All these positions are not absolute. Coupled to them is a call for more research, so as to be sure that risky strategies of precaution are always advanced with the support of carefully judged scientific and economic appraisal. This is not a cop-out. It is a recognition that, under conditions of uncertainty, there could be serious inefficiencies of resource allocation in acting too expensively, too precipitously. Precaution thus is not an unfettered principle.
All this is having a profound effect on the character and structure of environmental regulation in Europe. To begin with, the European Commission was content to argue in favour of the "polluter pays" principle, by which it meant that a discharger would have to meet the costs of regulation as imposed, and the "prevention at source" principle, by which the aim was to reduce harm by controlling emissions at the point of occurrence (see Johnson and Corcelle, 1989). The First Environmental Action Programme of the EC Commission already included the statement that "any exploitation of natural resources or of nature which causes significant damage to the ecological balance must be avoided." These two principles, however, were a long way from the concept of precaution as it has evolved in the 1980s.
The first development was to create the notion of air and water quality targets, namely levels of environmental quality that would set yardsticks for individual emissions control. This was superseded by the principle of regional "bubbles" of environmental quality, in which cross-border cooperation would try to establish a common programme of emissions control. Latterly this has involved the application of cross-subsidy payments, allowing the poorer and less efficient plants to be cleaned up by wealthier nations who stand to gain by the improvement in overall environmental quality. (Example: Poland gets payments from West European countries to install desulphurization devices.)
All this is shifting regulation in Europe in three main ways:
1. Towards the concept of a common database and monitoring net work that should be the prime purpose of the future European Community's Environmental Protection Agency.
2. Towards a commitment to best available techniques not entailing excessive costs (BATNEEC), which will push the "state of the art of technology" anywhere on the globe to each industrial sector irrespective of its economic vulnerability, with safeguards for subsidies and providing time for adjustment. In this regard, the NEEC component of BATNEEC, which some regard as a watering-down of the "polluter pays" principle, will essentially lose its force. Because precaution is advancing as a concept in contemporary environmental management, so NEEC is weakening.
3. Towards an international environmental regulatory institution, together with "environmental inspectors," who will have powers to investigate any failure to comply at the national level on the basis of a reasonable complaint from an individual or a group of people.
In the European community the BATNEEC principle is now effectively in place, most particularly for toxic and hazardous substances and processes contained in the Black, Grey and Red Lists as defined by member states, but more generally for awkward industrial processes. The cost justification element is steadily being restricted. If the technology is available, or can be developed in a reasonable time, it should be deployed. This gives less room for manoeuvre for the regulatory agencies in negotiating compliance. Thus, precaution is beginning to standardize the regulatory process and provide a basis for uniform and comparative scrutiny. The degree to which interested parties have a right to know with regard to regulatory details, however, still varies from one member state to another. Even in the United Kingdom, where secrecy is officially decreed, there is now much more openness than there once was. Yet progress is slow and far from complete (Birkenshaw, 1992).
The "European Environmental Agency" at the time of writing is still stalled owing to political argument. Ostensibly the problem lies in the lack of agreement amongst member states as to the location of the new agency. But it has to be added that few countries, least of all the United Kingdom, have environmental monitoring and state-ofenvironment reports of sufficient quality and clarity to meet the needs of this new agency. The agency will, however, be created, and when it begins work it will help to standardize the state of environmental reporting in the member states, and generally upgrade the quality of monitoring and data interpretation. This is very much in line with the steadily evolving international application of the principle of precaution. By contrast, the introduction of some sort of environmental ombudsman in the Community, specifically aimed at upgrading compliance with regulating principles, is still some way off. But as the notion of a "European Social and Environmental Chapter" gains ground, so it is more than likely that developments in citizen environmental rights will follow.
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