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Virginia Environmental Law Journal

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This Article suggests criteria to refine the precautionary principle, to remove the present uncertainty, and to provide a measure of needed predictability that presently does not exist. The Article presents a process framework through which states may refine the content of the precautionary principle in a consistent and predictable way. Part II sets out a brief contextual background for the precautionary principle as an emerging term of art in international environmental law. Part III analyzes the present uncertainty in a representative cross section of existing statements of the precautionary principle. Part IV proposes that states adopt an agreed set of criteria for drafting statements of the precautionary principle in future international agreements. If the criteria proposed here are uniformly applied, every articulation of the precautionary principle would contain: (1) a reasonably precise statement of the desired environmental goal and the environmental condition that justifies invoking the 'precautionary principle;, (2) an identification of the jurisdictional scope of the agreed precautionary obligations under the principle; (3) a specification of those human activities for which precautionary measures are required; and (4) a clear statement of the precautionary measures that must be undertaken before engaging in a covered activity.