New ‘Climate Corps’ Will Serve as Green Jobs Training Program
WASHINGTON — In a bid to further kick-start the green economy that is key to both his climate and economic plan, President Joe Biden on Wednesday used his executive powers to create the American Climate Corps, the nation’s first large-scale job training program.
According to a fact sheet distributed by the White House, the program will employ a diverse group of more than 20,000 young adults who will work on a multitude of projects “conserving and restoring our lands and waters, bolstering community resilience, deploying clean energy, implementing energy efficient technologies and advancing environmental justice.”
The goal, the White House said, is to ensure more young people have access to the skills-based training necessary to get good-paying, high-quality clean energy related jobs once they complete the paid training program.
Anyone interested in joining or supporting the new federal initiative can sign up to learn more at www.whitehouse.gov/climatecorps.
The concept, of course, is not new. Federal job training programs were used extensively by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to help pull the nation out of the Great Depression, and “climate corps” themselves began to proliferate in 2020, after Gov. Gavin Newsom launched the California Climate Action Corps in his home state.
Since then, nine states have created their own programs, including five that announced their new initiatives on Wednesday, as part of their observance of Climate Week.
The new states adopting programs were Arizona, Maryland, Minnesota, North Carolina and Utah.
In each, the climate corps is being supported by private funding with additional financial support coming from AmeriCorps, an independent agency of the federal government established during the Clinton administration.
Participating fellows will earn up to $30,000 by serving their communities, engaging volunteers, educating the public and participating in urban greening, wildfire resiliency, organic waste and edible food recovery activities.
Biden has been a long-time fan of the California model.
On a recent visit he said, “When I think of climate, I think of jobs. When I think of climate, I think of innovation. When I think of climate, I think of turning peril into progress.”
A version of the federal climate corps launched Wednesday was actually included in early versions of the Inflation Reduction Act last year, but was eventually dropped due to opposition from Republicans in Congress.
In a call with reporters previewing the announcement, Varshini Prakash, executive director of the Sunrise Movement, a Washington-based environmental group, said despite that defeat, advocacy groups and many Democrats, including Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., continued to urge Biden to issue an executive order authorizing the jobs program.
On Monday, 50 Democratic lawmakers sent a letter to the president, stepping up their call for him to revisit the climate corps concept.
Citing the deadly and devastating wildfires on the island of Maui in Hawaii, and other recent climate-related disasters, the lawmakers said a federal climate corps would “prepare a whole generation of workers for good-paying union jobs in the clean economy.”
Now that that’s come to pass, Prakash said, “the path towards a Green New Deal is beginning to become visible.”
White House Climate Adviser Ali Zaidi, who was also on the call with reporters, said the administration will work with at least six federal agencies to create the climate corps and will partner with the states already having such programs.
The agencies — Agriculture, Energy, Labor and Interior Departments, joined by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and AmeriCorps itself — are expected to sign a memorandum of understanding formalizing their partnership in the new initiative in the coming days.
In addition, AmeriCorps will set up a new “American Climate Corps hub,” which will support the American Climate Corps and the collaboration with the states.
In addition to states already mentioned, Colorado, Maine, Michigan and Washington have also launched their own climate corps.
Biden said Wednesday that he will also encourage AmeriCorps to consider expanding access to its Segal AmeriCorps Education Awards to Climate Corps members doing national service work.
Segal AmeriCorps Education Awards can be used by AmeriCorps members after completing their service to pay for post-secondary education and training or to reduce their student debt.
Finally, the Office of Personnel Management has issued a proposed rulemaking that could, if finalized, create a streamlined pathway into federal service for federally supported national, state, local or tribal service programs, including American Climate Corps programs.