Capitol Alert

Tom Steyer makes his climate pitch in Paris

Billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer addresses a crowd in Saint-Denis, Paris on Dec. 8, 2015.
Billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer addresses a crowd in Saint-Denis, Paris on Dec. 8, 2015. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

Tom Steyer, the billionaire environmentalist, was about to go on stage in an auditorium at France’s national stadium, and Nick Henry, founder of the London-based group Climate Action, was doling out praise.

People like Steyer, Henry said Tuesday, can push the green technology industry forward and help counteract climate change.

“It’s got to be driven by the private sector,” Henry said. “If it’s left to government, then nothing’s going to happen.”

Steyer is known less for his private sector work these days than for his efforts related to government.

The former hedge fund manager, a potential candidate for governor in 2018, has spent tens of millions of dollars on climate-related ballot initiatives in California in recent years and even more in an effort to elect politicians sympathetic to climate issues in other states. Nationally, his results have been mixed, including flops in elections in Colorado, Iowa, Florida and Maine.

But ballot measure he has supported in California have been more successful.

He told about 200 people in a blue-lit room that there exists a “diverse and inclusive coalition” pushing for policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the state.

Henry said he didn’t follow Steyer’s politics. He was sitting in a lobby at the Stade de France, a location imprinted in the news for the bombing outside that was part of the terrorist attacks in France last month.

George Ferguson, the mayor of Bristol, in the United Kingdom, sat down, and the conversation turned to his city’s appetite for climate policies.

Is the issue as divisive as it is in the U.S.?

“I just do it,” Ferguson said. “I’ll tell you in May when I come up for re-election.”

David Siders: 916-321-1215, @davidsiders

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