Decoupling IT

The Chinese state pursues sustainable and clean growth through the development of data technologies and ambitious climate change mitigation plans, but its initiatives face uncertainties in local implementation and long-term effectiveness (Engels 2018). The Shanghai-based Qingyue (, which began in 2012 as an environmental protection initiative by IT engineers, is a social enterprise monitoring environmental data disclosure in different Chinese provinces and advocating for green finance. Qingyue’s work exemplifies how climate data, while celebrated by the state for their role in decoupling via innovation and ‘clean growth’ (World Bank 2020), concurrently are used against both state and financial actors by monitoring their emissions and environmental behaviour.  

The study investigates the perspectives and roles of Qingyue’s software developers and data scientists in their reinvention of data analytics to criticise the narrative of data-driven economic decoupling promoted by the state; an initiative building on a growing distrust of western models of progress (Lindtner 2020), while still contingent on navigation within the wider IT sector and its different actors including the state, local bureaucracies, financial corporations, local communities and the university sector.  

Overall, the study will address this emerging climate data ‘activism’ as a civic harnessing of the capacities of data to promote climate justice, and as an alternative way that IT can address the climate crisis. In particular, it explores how locally positioned IT professionals can mobilise agency within state-dominated climate change mitigation 

Author: Cancan Wang