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The prevention principle means that the EU should try to prevent environmental damage by acting before it has already occurred. It has long been known that prevention of environmental damage is to be preferred to restitution after the damage has occurred. This is partly because it is often impossible to repair damage to the environment and partly because even if it is possible to repair or in a way manage the damage, the costs of prevention are normally much lower than the costs when the damage is already a fact.
The principle became important in the Community through the Third Environment Action Programme. Today, it is in Article 191 (2) TFEU as one of the principles on which EU environmental policy is based. The EU has a number of tools to implement the principle. The usual ones are to establish emission limits, impose licensing requirements, and introduce economic instruments. The preventive approach has also led to the development of rules on, for example, environmental impact assessment and environmental audit. The objective of these instruments is to combine economic development and the desire to prevent environmental problems.
Article 192 says nothing about how prevention should take place, so the legal implications of the principle are not clear. A number of legal acts explicitly refer to a duty to take preventive measures. Among others, waste-related EU rules require that negative impacts of the generation and management of waste shall be prevented,        while the Industrial Emissions Directive requires that pollution shall be avoided through appropriate preventive measures.n7
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