By Judi Storer, PhD candidate 

In my Bachelor of Laws with Honours degree, I was privileged to be able to select elective topics from the Masters of International Law degree. One of these topics introduced me to the International Law principles of sustainable development, first enshrined in the Stockholm Declaration in 1972, then reiterated in the 1992 Rio Declaration. Fifty years on from the Stockholm Declaration, it is apparent these principles have the potential to play a major role in the development of effective climate change mitigation policy. However, I was aware that in Australia, climate change law and policy had generally failed to incorporate these principles. I wondered then if other nations had been more proactive in adopting these principles to develop effective climate change law and policy. Therefore, my doctoral research will evaluate laws and policies of three countries, Australia, India, and Brazil, to determine the effectiveness of diffusion of the principles of sustainable development into their domestic climate change law and policy. 

My research will employ a combination of doctrinal legal research methodology with qualitative social sciences research methodology. Rather than seeking to confirm any particular theory or theories of diffusion already advanced by scholars, I am hoping to develop a novel theory of diffusion, by using an inductive approach that borrows from grounded theory methodology. Triangulation, and therefore, research rigour, will be achieved by comparing responses from semi-structured interviews with politicians, public servants, and non-governmental organisation personnel, involved in national climate change law and policy development, with actual climate change law and policy enacted by each nation between 2011 and 2021. The case study countries have been carefully selected according to certain criteria including; their contribution to climate change (high), their vulnerability to climate change impacts (high), their economic circumstances (high per capita GDP (Australia) through to very low per capita GDP (India)), and their global ranking for effectiveness of climate change law and policy (from very high (India) to very low (Australia)). This will enable the results to be generalised to other nations with similar geodemographic factors. 

My proposal for this research was presented to students and the College of Business, Government and Law HDR panel in November last year for my Confirmation of Candidature. The feedback I received from panel members and students was very encouraging, and reinforced my view that this is very important and topical research. I will be beginning my fieldwork for my research later in 2022 and am very excited to see what I find.