The Times - UK (2020-10-14)

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12 1GM Wednesday October 14 2020 | the times


It’s one small treaty for man, one giant

leap for lawyerkind.

Britain’s space agency has joined an

international group led by Nasa in sign-

ing new accords governing the explora-

tion of the moon. It has done so, how-

ever, despite the notable absence of

Russia and China and amid accusations

that it is engaging in a lunar land grab.

When Neil Armstrong slipped the

surly bonds of Earth to walk on the

moon in 1969, it briefly united the world

in a single romantic, transcendent mo-

ment. Or, almost all the world. Because,

some have long lamented, it’s all well

and good being transcendent but to

make the moon a genuinely viable

commercial destination, what was

really needed was bureaucracy.

Outer space required, they argued, a

framework for the interoperability of

standards, resource extraction proto-

Western powers sign moon accords

Tom Whipple Science Editor
cols and some understanding of terri-
torial rights. That is what the Artemis
accords, signed yesterday by the US,
UK, Japan, Australia, Canada, Italy and
the UAE, are intended to partially
As Nasa plans to return to the moon
this decade, and ultimately set up per-
manent bases, the accords provide a
framework for the civil exploration of
space — dictating that signatories keep
each other informed of activities, use
compatible systems, provide emer-
gency assistance to each other, and also
allowing them to mine for resources.
But the accords were signed without
the endorsement of two of the nations
most likely to engage in that explora-
tion. They also, some legal experts have
claimed, risk overriding a fragile con-
sensus governing activities in space, in
an attempt to make money from it.
Russia, although a partner of Nasa on
the International Space Station, did not

sign. The US Congress banned Nasa
from working with China in 2011.
Song Zhongping, a Chinese aero-
space expert, told the state-owned
Global Times newspaper that the
accords were like a modern version of
Britain’s enclosures movement, when
aristocrats made a land grab on com-
mon holdings. The US was “claiming
sovereignty over the moon” and pursu-
ing its “colonisation”, he said.
Most of the rules governing the use of
space are based on a document signed
in the 1960s known as the Outer Space
Treaty. Created at the height of the
Cold War, its chief purpose was to pre-
vent the militarisation of space. It is
now viewed as dangerously out of date,
but it has been impossible to gain a con-
sensus to update it. The Artemis ac-
cords are in one sense an attempt to do
so unilaterally.
Arfan Chaudhry, head of inter-
national policy at the UK Space Agen-

cy, described the accords as “almost like
rules for the road”, adding: “These are
key principles for devising a sustainable
presence on the moon while preparing
for onward human missions to Mars.
“What we are talking about is a safe,
transparent and prosperous route for
developing outer space. It’s about the
practical aspects: ensuring the safety of
operations, reducing uncertainty, pro-
viding clarity.”
Of particular concern to China, how-
ever, are the articles allowing for
resource extraction and those creating
“safety zones”. These are defined as
areas around national moon bases that
other nations are asked to “respect” in
order to “prevent harmful interfer-
Joanne Gabrynowicz, editor-in-chief
emerita of the Journal of Space Law, said
that other countries were right to con-
sider these a bit dubious. “The Outer
Space Treaty says you can’t appropriate

land by claim, use, occupation or any
other means. A safety zone is appropri-
ation by other means.”
She added that one of the frustrating
aspects of the accords is they have still
not been released in full for legal scruti-
ny, making it hard to make an assess-
ment. Whether or not the accords do
contradict the Outer Space Treaty is
less important than it might seem,
though, because international law is
not rigidly codified.
“Japan is a major spacefaring nation,”
she said. “If Japan signs the accords it
gives the agreement weight it wouldn’t
otherwise have. If others are on board
it’s also going to give the agreement
weight — that’s how international law
develops. It’s what nations do and say.
“This is the challenge of inter-
national law in general, whether space,
maritime or high seas. We have a lot of
piracy on the high seas, although it is
meant to be a commons.”

Police target

Starkey over

remarks on

black people

Mark Bridge History Correspondent

The historian David Starkey is being
investigated by the police over remarks
he made about black people in an inter-
view with the conservative activist
Darren Grimes.
Dr Starkey was widely criticised and
stripped of academic honours this sum-
mer after he said in the interview for Mr
Grimes’s YouTube channel that slavery
was not genocide because there were
still “so many damn blacks”.
This weekend it emerged that Mr
Grimes faced investigation by the
Metropolitan Police for an offence of
stirring up racial hatred, which carries a
maximum penalty of seven years’ jail.
In a statement yesterday Dr Starkey
defended Mr Grimes, saying that his
unintended delay in responding to an
email from the police force had had the
“unfortunate and grossly unfair” effect
of “throw[ing] the focus of the police
investigation wholly on Mr Grimes”.
Dr Starkey, who is known for his
books and TV series on the Tudors, said
that the Met had sought to contact him
by email on the day that it notified Mr
Grimes about the investigation.
However, he said that he had not
received the email until yesterday
morning as it had been sent to the Bow
Group, a think tank of which he is vice-
chairman, and it had assumed that the
message was a hoax. He said that he
would “of course” co-operate with the
police and would defend himself
“robustly” against any allegation of
criminal wrongdoing. Mr Grimes also
denies the charge.
Dr Starkey, 75, said in a statement:
“Mr Grimes is a young, aspiring jour-
nalist and his role in the affair is — at
most — secondary. I have apologised
unreservedly for the words used and I
do so again today. It was a serious error
for which I have already paid a signifi-
cant price. I did not, however, intend to
stir up racial hatred and there was noth-
ing about the circumstances of the
broadcast which made it likely to do so.”
In the interview with Mr Grimes, 27,
this summer, Dr Starkey said: “Slavery
was not genocide, otherwise there
wouldn’t be so many damn blacks in
Africa or in Britain, would there? An
awful lot of them survived.”

A council has dropped plans for a clean

air zone, claiming a rapid shift to clean-

er vehicles means it is not necessary to

charge polluting ones to enter the city.

Leeds city council had planned to

deter older lorries, buses and taxis with

entry fees from next year but said air

pollution had fallen below the legal

limit in the pandemic and was unlikely

to exceed it even when traffic returned

to normal levels.

It said nearly half the city’s taxis were

hybrid or electric and with 90 per cent

of buses and 80 per cent of heavy goods

vehicles having Euro VI engines, which

produce minimal emissions, they

would have been exempt from charges.

But some observers are sceptical. An-

drea Lee, of Client Earth, the environ-

mental law charity, said: “Leeds is not

out of the woods yet with its toxic air

pollution problem, but it’s abandoning

the one measure guaranteed to protect

people in the shortest possible time.

“While the promise of a clean air

zone has prompted drivers and busi-

nesses to switch to cleaner vehicles, the

latest reported air pollution measure-

ments from the council still show that

parts of the city are over national air

quality standards.”

She added: “With Covid-19 endan-

gering people’s respiratory health, row-

ing back on a measure that has been

proven to reduce pollution seems not

only illogical but reckless — leaving

Leeds unprotected as other cities

implement their own clean air zones.”

Towns and cities have been reluctant

to introduce clean air zones because

they fear a loss of trade, despite

evidence that charging zones are the

fastest way of reducing air pollution to

within legal limits.

Coventry, Nottingham and South-

ampton have dropped plans for clean

air zones and campaigners are con-

cerned that Bristol and Sheffield will

also abandon their plans.

Birmingham said last week its zone

would start in June next year and one in

Bath is due to commence in March.

The Clean Air for All campaign,

launched by The Times last year, is

calling for clean air zones in cities

targeting the most polluting vehicles.

Clean air plan

up in smoke

as pollution

hits legal level

Ben Webster Environment Editor

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