SCIENCE AND RISK REGULATION IN INTERNATIONAL LAW by Jacqueline Peel

Review by Masahiro Matsuura, University of Tokyo

Reviewing approaches to the use of scientific evidence in regulatory governance, this book provides a new perspective on the role of science in global environmental policies.


Science and Risk Regulation in International Law, by Jacqueline Peel, Cambridge University Press, 416pp

In recent policy-making processes, ‘science’ is often a crucial element of controversy that has to be resolved by decision-makers and stakeholders, not just by scientific experts. For instance, environmental policy problems are subject to controversy over the interpretation of scientific analysis; Ozawa and Susskind (1985) characterized them as “science-intensive policy disputes.” Nowadays, the significance of science in public policy has increased as strategic actors in policy processes submit ‘scientific evidence’ in order to promote their own preferred policy choices.

The trend of stressing the need for evidence before implementing new policies and regulations, which started in the field of medicine, has extended to a wide range of policy areas.International law is not an exception. Science and Risk Regulation in International Law, a recent publication by Jacqueline Peel, raises a question about the appropriate use of scientific information in risk governance on the global scale. The first half of the book provides a thorough review of approaches to regulatory governance and the use of science. Instead of simply criticizing strategic uses of sound science by industries and political parties, the author characterizes sound science and precautionary principle as competing risk regulatory paradigms.

By applying this framework to the analysis of disputes over World Trade Organization’s Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures Agreement, and other controversies in the field of international law, the author reframes the issue from these competing paradigms to the democratization of science. Both sound science and precautionary principle rely on scientific information. The problem lies in how such information is produced and used. By drawing on literature in science, technology and society studies (STS), the author argues for different ways of incorporating scientific information in global regulatory governance. While its conclusion could be a little more empirical by drawing on practices of environmental policy in North America, such as joint fact-finding and negotiated rulemaking, the book provides a new perspective on the role of science in global environmental and regulatory governance.


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