Precaution and Fairness: A Framework for Distributing Costs of Protection from Environmental Risks

  • Espen Dyrnes StabellEmail author
  • Daniel Steel


While there is an extensive literature on how the precautionary principle should be interpreted and when precautions should be taken, relatively little discussion exists about the fair distribution of costs of taking precautions. We address this issue by proposing a general framework for deciding how costs of precautions should be shared, which consists of a series of default principles that are triggered according to desert, rights, and ability to pay. The framework is developed with close attention to the pragmatics of how distributions will affect actual behaviours. It is intended to help decision-makers think more systematically about distributional consequences of taking precautionary measures, thereby to improve decision-making. Two case studies—one about a ban on turtle fishing in Costa Rica, and one about a deep-sea mining project in Papua New Guinea—are given to show how the framework can be applied.


The precautionary principle Fair distribution Environment Deep-sea mining Endangered sea-turtles 


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Philosophy and Religious StudiesNorwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)TrondheimNorway
  2. 2.School of Population and Public Health, Maurice Young Centre for Applied EthicsUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada

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