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Kopylov S.M. Whether “the Precaution” Is Needed by International Environmental Law: and if Yes, Than in What Capacity?

Stanislav Mikhaylovich Kopylov
Candidate of Juridical Sciences, Associate Professor,
Department of International Law,
Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia
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Miklukho-Maklaya St., 6, 117198 Moscow, Russian Federation


Abstract. The article deals with the legal category of “precaution” in relation to a set of international legal norms, referred to in the doctrine as international environmental law. The need to make such deep analysis has arisen in connection with the continuing discussions among legal scholars regarding the recognition or non-recognition of international environmental law as an independent branch of international law. The weakest link in the chain of shortcomings of international environmental law today is the lack of its recognition by all states’ special principles to become the basic regulatory instruments of international environmental relations.
At the same time there are categories that can be found in works of all or almost all lawyers who try to compile a list of special principles of international environmental law. Such categories include “precaution” that with some modifications is present in such lists.
The present research is conducted on the basis of the doctrine of international environmental law of different countries of the world, environmental law of the European Union, and shows that the origin of “precaution” and its interference in international environmental law was due to German national legislation, and that the “precaution” or “precautionary approach” is mainly recognized as a principle in Europe. In other parts of the world it is more often referred to as an international legal custom.

Key words: international environmental law, principle, precaution, precautionary approach, international custom, the European Union, the Declaration on Environment and Development.

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