WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden on Wednesday is taking executive action to establish the American Climate Corps, a workforce training and service initiative that seeks to take inspiration from the New Deal to address the impacts of climate change.
Without additional funding from Congress, the White House said the program will focus on “leveraging and enhancing existing programs” such as AmeriCorps, the federal agency for service and volunteering, to help reach the administration’s climate goals.
National Climate Advisor Ali Zaidi said the administration hopes to put 20,000 people to work in the first year on projects that include deploying renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies and making communities more resilient to the effects of climate change.
“And we’ll do all of this while creating pathways to high quality good paying clean energy and climate resilience jobs in the public sector and in the private, all of which we are focused and committed to making sure will be high road jobs – jobs with good wages, good benefits and the right to organize,” Zaidi said Tuesday in a call with reporters.
The Climate Corps will offer paid opportunities and most of the positions will require no prior experience. Biden will also encourage AmeriCorps CEO Michael D. Smith to make Climate Corps members eligible for education awards currently available to AmeriCorps members.
The Office of Personnel Management is issuing a proposed rule-making to allow participants to have a streamlined pathway into civil service jobs.
Biden endorsed the idea of a corps modeled after the New Deal’s Civilian Conservation Corps during his 2020 campaign for president.
The idea, along with $30 billion to fund it, was included in the reconciliation bill known as the “Build Back Better Act” that passed the House in November 2021.
But lawmakers dropped it during the negotiations for the reconciliation bill that became the Inflation Reduction Act.
Sen. Edward J. Markey, D-Mass., and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., on Monday led a letter signed by more than 50 Democrats calling for executive action as they “continue to fight for additional resources from Congress.”
“By leveraging the historic climate funding secured during your Administration, using existing authorities, and coordinating across AmeriCorps and other relevant federal agencies, your Administration can create a federal Civilian Climate Corps that unites its members in an effort to fight climate change, build community resilience, support environmental justice, and develop career pathways to good-paying union jobs focused on climate resilience and a clean economy,” the members wrote.
Five states – Michigan, California, Colorado, Maine and Washington – have already launched climate corps programs. The White House said another five – Arizona, Utah, Minnesota, North Carolina and Maryland – were slated to launch programs, also on Wednesday.