Solar powered electric vehicles in Anyang, China. Photo by V.T. Polywoda, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Data-Driven Lab will begin a new research project mapping city, province, and company climate efforts in China, the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter and energy consumer. The organization recently received a Chinese Research Programme grant from the Tan Chin Tuan Chinese Culture & Civilization Programme, which funds research activities related to China and Chinese culture. This award will enable Dr. Angel Hsu, Director of Data-Driven Lab, along with Dr. Thomas Hale, Associate Professor at the University of Oxford Blavatnik School of Government, and Dr. Sander Chan, Senior Researcher at the German Development Institute, to describe and quantify the impacts of local government and private sector climate actions in China.  

Their research will fill critical data gaps in the existing knowledge of bottom-up climate action efforts in China. Many researchers hypothesize that these actors could be crucial to helping implement China’s national climate goals – and to giving them the tools and confidence to increase the ambition of these targets. But very little data captures the contributions of Chinese cities, regions, companies and civil society actors to climate mitigation, adaptation, and financing activities.

The project will gather and analyze detailed, granular data on city, province, and company-level climate commitments in China. This information will enable researchers to trace how “vertical” ties – with top-down national policies – and “horizontal” links – with peers and networks of other city, region, and company actors – shape these efforts. It will also identify future opportunities to enhance national climate policy, by leveraging local government and the private sector’s contributions.  

This proposal extends the work of the Climate South Initiative, which describes, maps, and quantifies the impacts of local government and private sector climate actions in the global South. Many of these regions face particularly high risks from climate change, and generate carbon emissions that will soon overtake emissions from industrialized countries. Bottom-up climate efforts could help address these challenges — yet very little data tracks these efforts, or explores the ways the role they play within different government contexts.

This project’s focus on climate action in China joins similar ongoing efforts to understand non-national climate action within Kenya and India. During the fall semester, Dr. Hsu led a team of research assistants in adapting the Climate South framework for recording these activities to the Chinese context, during her time as a British Academy Visiting Fellow at Oxford University’s Blavatnik School of Government. A workshop at Yale-NUS College will bring participants together to exchange findings, compare data-gathering strategies, and deepen the understanding of the different forms that climate action takes across a variety of contexts in the global South. The workshop will also convene many different stakeholders with expertise in Chinese climate action – including Chinese NGOs, officials from all levels of government, and researchers – to gather feedback on the project’s findings and potential applications.

Please stay tuned for more details, or contact us to learn about ways to get involved.