The principle of common but differentiated responsibilities (CBDRs) imputes common responsibility for global problems to all States, while recognizing that variegated levels of responsibility exist for different groups of countries. While the principle of CBDRs is explicitly recognized in international environmental law, it is a staple of sustainable development law that may also be implicitly contained in treaties that establish identical treatment for all parties, while allowing for divergences in the application of their key principles for different States.
The present article wishes to initiate a discussion on the question of whether the fundamental principles of international space law may be interpreted as an implicit codification of the principle of CBDRs. In particular, it aims to determine the relation between the concept of variegated levels of responsibility as a core component of CBDRs and the reciprocally phrased limits to the freedom to use outer space ‘on a basis of equality’ for the benefit of all countries, ‘irrespective of their economic and scientific development’, all the while avoiding potentially harmful interference in their activities.
Further, the article aims to assess the basis on which different levels of responsibility may be attributed to different groups of States in space law. In so doing, it will identify a number of indicators in the relevant UN and International Telecommunication Union (ITU) conventions that appear to support a flexible system of variegated responsibilities, in line with the pragmatic approach to CBDRs in the 2015 Paris Agreement. These indicators will focus on possible applications of the CBDRs principle in the areas of resource exploitation and space debris, specifically.Air and Space Law