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White House launches Climate Corps to train thousands for clean energy jobs

The American Climate Corps will prioritize disadvantaged communities affected by climate change.

By Oliver Willis - September 22, 2023
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American Conservation Corps press conference
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) speaks at a press conference, alongside Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA), outside the U.S. Capitol, Sept. 20, 2023. (Photo by Allison Bailey/NurPhoto via AP)

The Biden administration on Wednesday launched the American Climate Corps, an initiative that will train more than 20,000 young people for careers in the areas of clean energy and industries that address the effects of climate change.

“All American Climate Corps programs will be paid experiences that adhere to a common set of programmatic standards, and provide pathways to high-quality employment opportunities in the public and private sectors,” the White House said in a release.

The departments of Labor, Interior, Agriculture, and Energy, along with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and AmeriCorps, will be jointly coordinating to recruit people for the corps.

The administration said that the program will focus on equity and environmental justice as part of Biden’s Justice40 initiative, which directs federal resources to historically disadvantaged communities, particularly those affected by systemic racism.

The launch of the program follows the passage of major legislation that President Joe Biden has signed into law as part of his “Investing in America” agenda with major investments in clean energy and climate resilience. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is funding the creation of a national network of electric car charging stations, while the Inflation Reduction Act provides tax incentives for companies working on clean energy and solutions related to climate change.

The American Climate Corps is modeled after the Civilian Conservation Corps put in place by President Franklin D. Roosevelt during the Great Depression. That program employed young men in jobs at national parks and other public lands as a strategy to combat high unemployment from 1933 to 1942.

Environmental advocacy groups praised the creation of the corps.

The Sunrise Movement, an organization of young people that advocates for climate action and the Green New Deal, has been critical of the administration’s speed and scope in addressing climate issues. But the group welcomed Wednesday’s announcement.

“After years of demonstrating and fighting for a Climate Corps, we turned a generational rallying cry into a real jobs program that will put a new generation to work stopping the climate crisis,” executive director Varshini Prakash said in a statement. “We’re often asked how President Biden can win the support and enthusiasm of young people. He’s gotten our attention. Keep going.”

Sierra Club executive director Ben Jealous described the American Climate Corps as a “historic effort to meet this moment” in a release, adding, “The Sierra Club celebrates the Biden-Harris Administration for scaling up clean energy, increasing well-paid union jobs, and fostering environmental stewardship — exactly the path we must take to protect people and the planet.”

The Natural Resources Defense Council said the corps was a “visionary bet on the country’s future,” while the Environmental Defense Fund said it would “unleash critical talent into the workforce to help advance environmental goals.”

Democrats in Congress have been pushing for a Civilian Climate and Conservation Corps that would be able to train as much as 1.5 million people.

On Monday, a group led by Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and supported by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer introduced the Civilian Climate Corps for Jobs and Justice Act to finance the program. The legislation was first introduced in 2021 but failed to secure passage.

At a press conference on Wednesday, the lawmakers hailed the American Climate Corps as a positive step toward the goal of their legislation.

“Today we can say that we are starting to turn the green dream into a green reality,” Ocasio-Cortez said.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.


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