Lord Major of London’s Coffee Colloquy: Space – Avoiding an Environmental Disaster

Posted January 15th, 2024 Posted in Blog ,

On 5th December 2023 in Central London, Astroscale UK, along with the Lord Mayor of the City of London, hosted ten expert speakers to discuss the opportunity for developing novel finance and insurance products to support the development of next-generation space technology and in-orbit servicing, addressing the critical challenge of space debris. 

 The event at Mansion House was the first in a series for the 695th Lord Mayor of the City of London, Alderman Professor Michael Mainelli, looking to demonstrate “knowledge miles” through expert speakers and a Q&A session, linking Coffee Colloquy themes to the UN Sustainable Development Goals.   

Attendees talking to one another at the event.

Each speaker gave a short presentation on their area of expertise associated with the theme of avoiding an environmental disaster in space.  

The speakers included: 

  • Pat Mathewson, Head of Business Strategy & Analysis, Astroscale Ltd. 
  • Dominique Rora, Head of Space Underwriting, AXA XL 
  • Mark Dickinson, VP Space Systems, Viasat 
  • Lord David Willetts, Chair, UK Space Agency, Resolution Foundation 
  • Mark Boggett, CEO, Seraphim 
  • Joanne Wheeler MBE, Managing Partner, Alden Legal 
  • Suneel Bakhshi, President & CEO, Mizuho International plc 
  • Nikolai Khlystov, Lead Future of Space, World Economic Forum 
  • Martyn Ward, Managing Director, Tokio Marine HCC 
  • Charles Vermont, Chair and Space Debris Removal Insurance Bond Lead, Lloyd’s of London Market 

 Space debris removal insurance bonds (SDRIBs)were a central topic of discussion, as a key financial mechanism and insurance opportunity. Also discussed were the related issues of long-term financial support for those focused on sustainability, leveraging national expertise, ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) frameworks and the development of space law and broader policy agendas.

Joanne Wheeler MBE talking on the panel.

Joanne Wheeler MBE said during her presentation, “We’re at a critical junction, and we must act to ensure that space is sustainable, safe, and accessible for future missions and across nations and generations. We need to be future-looking, innovative, and anticipatory whilst being cognisant of the heritage and experience we have in the UK around finance, insurance, law, regulation, and standards setting. Leveraging experience also from adjacent industries to solve this multifaceted, multidisciplinary issue in an international way.” 

Lord Willets said, “Space law is far less developed than maritime law and that creates a more difficult environment. Events like this will help us crack those wider issues and enable us to fit into a wider policy agenda.”  

Lord Willets speaking during his presentation

Speaking on the future of space investment, Mark Boggett of Seraphim said, “Does your company have the potential to create space debris? And the follow-up question is, how are you mitigating that? … Insurance and space bonds have their place in addressing that and giving investors the confidence to continue investing in this market because they know that the space debris issue is something that can be resolved.”  

On the issue of international cooperation, Nikolai Khlystov said, “Space is a critical domain. Insurance will play a critical role in remediation measures. We need to come together to create something more and leverage the tools we already have. If space is to continue to grow and push our boundaries, we need to address the issue of space debris. This conversation in the area of financial mechanisms and insurance opportunities and options is absolutely critical.”  

Finally, speaking of Astroscale, Suneel Bakhshi of Mizuho said, “We believe it is our goal to help identify, incubate and to list the most promising of tech start-ups. We have a focus on sustainability and Astroscale is a good example of this alignment. It’s important to provide long-term financial support for companies that have selected to focus on sustainability.”  

The Colloquy was a significant event that brought together experts from diverse fields to discuss the critical challenge of the changing space environment and explore opportunities for developing innovative finance and insurance products. The event underscored the need for international cooperation and innovative approaches to ensure the sustainability, safety, and accessibility of space for future generations.  

For a more detailed discussion of Space Debris Removal Insurance Bonds, please see the following paper co-authored by the Lord Mayor and Astroscale for the 2023 International Astronautical Congress. Available here.