As a follow-up to the discussion forum on the draft Charter for the environment that the French President would like to include in the French Constitution, Olivier Godard provides us with a more detailed analysis of one of the most controversial aspects of the Charter, set out in article 5: the application of the precautionary principle. Godard is an acknowledged expert on this matter who has often written for us in the past. Here he examines the arguments of those who are opposed to the application of the principle as envisaged in the current version of the Charter - i.e. in a proportionate manner which can be altered over time as knowledge of the issues increases - and shows why their objections are not valid.
In the first place, according to Olivier Godard, the precautionary principle is the outcome of a perfectly rational approach, as he shows by taking the example of the epidemic of bird 'flu earlier this year. Moreover, including the principle in the Constitution does not detract from its relevance in any way: just because a norm may have accidental effects or be misused - and the risk that will happen cannot be ruled out completely - is no reason for it to be invalidated. Lastly, Godard demonstrates that the principle of proportionate precaution does well on the "reflexivity test", in other words, when applied to itself, the precautionary principle remains a guarantee of a balanced decision over the longer term.
In conclusion and in order to clarify certain controversial points, Olivier Godard proposes several amendments to article 5 of the Charter, as well as a detailed reformulation of the article.