Tanja Masson-Zwaan: Climate agreement for space not realistic
During a working visit to a company that cleans up space debris, the British Prince Charles suggested that a climate agreement specifically for space might be a good idea. Experts, including Leiden Law School’s Tanja Masson-Zwaan, say the idea is wishful thinking.
It’s a good plan, but it won’t happen, Masson-Zwaan said on Dutch current affairs radio programme EenVandaag. She believes that states are reluctant to sign binding agreements that would require them to surrender sovereignty.
Space is becoming increasingly crowded – besides countries, commercial parties like SpaceX and Virgin Galactic are also active. There are already nearly 4,000 obsolete satellites, in addition to the many millions of pieces of debris that are racing around the Earth at high speed which could destroy space shuttles.
'So it’s important that we do our best to keep it clean. In the long run, we’ll also need traffic rules and a space traffic control centre. We can’t have a situation where a country wants to have its satellites travel in one direction, while SpaceX decides the opposite', says Masson-Zwaan.
Coming to agreements about space is complicated. Following ten years of negotiations, twenty guidelines on the sustainable use of space were issued in 2019. 'These are not binding, not enforceable, but at this time they are the best we can achieve. However, at the national level the guidelines do often becoming binding law because countries make it a condition of permits’, says Masson-Zwaan.