Capitol Alert

California’s political center shifts to France for a week

The site of an international climate summit in Le Bourget, France, on Dec. 3, 2015
The site of an international climate summit in Le Bourget, France, on Dec. 3, 2015 The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins registered for the international climate summit underway outside of Paris on Thursday and posted a photograph on Twitter of the first person she ran into.

“Amazingly,” she wrote, it was California’s billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer.

It shouldn’t be that big a surprise. No one will have a hard time finding a Californian in France this week.

Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, is on the ground. Gov. Jerry Brown arrives later this week. So does former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. In addition to Atkins and de León, six other Democratic lawmakers are making the trip.

“I want to learn a lot about what other folks are doing,” said Assemblyman Anthony Rendon, D-Lakewood. “But I also want to kind of spread the gospel about what we’re doing in California.”

The state has enacted some of the world’s most aggressive greenhouse gas reduction programs, and the size of California’s economy lends it weight internationally. But the negotiating parties there are countries – not states – and California’s role will largely be at the periphery.

“You have a few hundred people who are negotiating, and you have 30,000 people who are standing around, talking, networking and having a good time,” said Daniel Sperling, an Air Resources Board member and director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at UC Davis.

Sperling, who is not attending the summit, said the reason for Brown to attend is “to be inspirational and share experiences.”

Numerous companies with an interest both in green technology and policymaking in Sacramento will also be in force in France, including Bank of America, Calpine and Kaiser Permanente.

The nonprofit Climate Action Reserve raised money to pay for the public officials’ travel. Donors include Pacific Gas & Electric Co., the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and BMW, among others, said Gary Gero, president of the group.

He said California will benefit not only from promoting its own policies, but from learning about others.

“California doesn’t go there filled with hubris and say, ‘We’re the one and only way to solve climate change,’ ” he said. “California goes as much to share its experiences as to learn.”

David Siders: 916-321-1215, @davidsiders