31 March 2010. The international regulatory efforts regarding space debris need new impetus. This issue of "ESPI Perspectives" provides a new approach in linking the issue with principles from the sustainable development debate.
Since several years, the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNCOPUOS) and its Subcommittees have considered and still consider the issue of space debris from different perspectives but always with a focus on how space activities can be carried on without further degrading the outer space environment. Apart from that, the deliberations in COPUOS and its Subcommittees were broadened by discussing the pollution of outer space with orbital debris from an equity perspective, namely in the context of the ‘common but differentiated responsibilities’ principle. Since this principle belongs to the multifaceted concept of sustainable development which aims at integrating environmental protection and economic development, such references raise the question as to the interrelation between debris pollution and environmental protection from a legal perspective. A closer look into international environmental law and into the legal substance behind its principles in fact allows to identify certain legal implications with regard to the pollution of outer space with man-made debris. Such considerations, however, should not be used as a pretext for deferring the adoption of space debris mitigation measures.
Peter Stubbe the author of "ESPI Perspectives 31"
Peter Stubbe, works in the German Aerospace Center (DLR) at Bonn. In 2008 he was a Research Intern at ESPI.