The Divestment Showdown that Inspired Steyer’s Climate Disaster Fund

A year ago, climate funder and firebrand Tom Steyer had a public feud with a U.S. senator over who is making how much from fossil fuel investments. Steyer and wife Kat Taylor just made good on a resulting pledge by turning past oil industry profits into a relief fund for climate disaster. 

Steyer, Taylor and their Tomkat Charitable Trust have emerged as leading funders for clean energy work. Most of this support has gone to policy, politics and research, but the couple is really covering the bases, having just established a $2 million fund to aid victims of disaster associated with climate change. 

The fund is followthrough on a feud Steyer had with Louisiana Sen. David Vitter, who accused the hedge-fund-billionaire-turned-climate-activist of hypocrisy for profiting from Kinder Morgan, an oil pipeline company. Steyer didn’t like that, announcing he was divesting his portfolio from fossil fuel companies and would give such past profits to climate victims, challenging the senator to make a similar move with his oil and gas campaign donations. No movement there.

The resulting $2 million Climate Disaster Relief Fund will be administered by The San Francisco Foundation, and initially go to victims of wildfires in the western United States. Future funds may aid recovery from floods, droughts and oil spills.

The donation is not to be confused with other high-profile donations from Steyer, Taylor and their foundation. Separate, for example, is the NextGen Climate Action super PAC, which aims to spend $100 million in support of candidates taking action on climate change (and opposing rival, climate-change-denying billionaires like the Koch brothers). They’ve come out strong against the Keystone Pipeline, the seed of the smackdown with Vitter.

Then there’s the $40 million the couple gave to Stanford and $25 million to Yale for research on energy sustainability. And Tomkat Charitable Trust gives millions annually to sustainable agriculture, environmental public education, energy coalition building, and support for green jobs.  

Steyer and Taylor, who also happen to run a grassfed cattle ranch in the Bay Area that runs on solar power, are not shy about their funding for clean energy in the United States and show no signs of slowing down. And while there are many climate funders out there, it’s particularly interesting to see the Tomkat team branch out across different strategies and channels of giving—political, educational, market-based, and now humanitarian aid.  

Read more about the couple below.

Tomkat Serves Steak With a Side of Sustainability

Thomas Steyer

Tomkat Charitable Trust: Grants for Climate & Energy