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California revs up for Paris climate-change summit

In the wonky world of climate change, California’s presence at the United Nations summit in Paris next month is expected to be a star-studded affair.

There will be an actual movie star, former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who jump-started some of the state’s most ambitious efforts to slow global warming. Also in the mix is Tom Steyer, the billionaire Bay Area environmental activist who has bankrolled political campaigns around the country.

And there is the official state delegation led by Gov. Jerry Brown, who has sought to make the battle against climate change a central part of his legacy.

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Accompanying the governor will be other administration officials and eight Democratic lawmakers. Senate leader Kevin de León of Los Angeles will attend, as will outgoing Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins of San Diego and her chosen replacement, Anthony Rendon of Lakewood, who will take over the post next year.

Much of the summit will concern a new international agreement to combat climate change. California — a state, not a nation — is not a part of those negotiations. But there will be opportunities to swap ideas and form partnerships with politicians, businesses and activists from all over the world, and to tout proposals for stopping global warming.

“It’s kind of a candy shop for science and policy wonks,” said Gary Gero, president of the Climate Action Reserve, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit that is helping to organize California’s delegation and pay for the trip.

Many details have not been finalized, but Brown and Steyer have been circulating a letter on the governor’s stationery asking people to join them in Paris, to “share California’s success stories with world leaders and to urge other business leaders to support similar efforts.”

“Government and business can come together to confront the singular challenge of our time — combating climate change,” the letter says.

Neither Steyer nor Brown’s office would disclose any addressees. Deborah Hoffman, a spokeswoman for the governor, said most of the invited businesses are involved in energy and technology, but others work in the healthcare, banking and consumer product sectors.

Steyer said business leaders’ presence at the conference would help show how the fight against global warming “is an integral part of our economy.”

Brown has been working to widen an international pact among cities, states and provinces pledging strict limits on greenhouse gas emissions. The agreement, initiated by California and the German state of Baden-Württemberg earlier this year, now has more than 50 participants representing more than 500 million people.

“There’s a lot of things we can do if we put our mind to it,” Brown said Monday at a San Francisco forum on global business that was organized by Fortune magazine. “Paris is getting people mobilized in a very serious way.” 

The Climate Action Reserve has been raising money to fund the trip. So far, donors have included Pacific Gas & Electric, the Nature Conservancy, BMW and the Rockefeller Bros. Fund.

“It’s a group of people who want to help the California delegation tell its story,” Gero said.

He declined to say how much money each donor provided.

Asked why public money would not be used to fund travel by the official delegation, Hoffman said, “We try to limit the use of tax dollars on these trips.”

Given California’s track record on climate change, Gero expects state officials to be in demand during the Paris conference. 

“People are very interested in what California is doing,” he said. “They know it’s been a success story.”

De León said he hopes to bring back new ideas.

“It’s an opportunity for us to listen and see what works and doesn’t work," he said.

The Times is going to Paris to cover California's role at the United Nations summit. See full coverage leading up to, and during, the conference at www.latimes.com/politics. 

Follow @chrismegerian for more updates from Sacramento.

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Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times

UPDATED

2:47 p.m. -- More detail added on types of businesses that have been invited to Paris. 

This story was first posted at 1:52 p.m.

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