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Polycentric Governance of Space Debris

Space debris is a growing impediment to the sustainable use of low-earth orbit. From a political economy perspective, it is a straightforward problem of managing a common-pool resources in areas beyond national jurisdiction. However, while the problem is well-known, the current system of outer space governance is badly equipped to come up with workable solutions.

In a working paper, Luca Wesel and I apply insights from Elinor Ostrom’s work on the commons and polycentric governance to the space debris problem. Being political scientists, we couldn’t help but focus on the political obstacles rather than the technical, economic, and legal ones – which are also considerable. We present our findings and recommendations at this week’s Commons in Space conference organized by the International Association for the Study of the Commons.

Presentations are made through pre-recorded videos and sessions are devoted to discussions among and with panelists, giving the event a „flipped conference“ character. But while the other talks are only accessible to conference attendees, I have uploaded a recording of my talk on my Youtube channel.

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