Inspired by the Civilian Conservation Corps of the 1930s, the Climate Corps would put people to work in short-term jobs or training programs focused on renewable technologies and building resilience against the climate crisis.
“The CCC is about saving the planet, but it’s also about making the planet a place where people think it’s really worth saving,” Democratic Senator Ed Markey told CNN. from Massachusetts, who is leading the Civilian Climate Corps campaign in the Senate. “We want good jobs with good wages, but our goal is to unleash the idealism of young people in our country and empower them to work on solving this climate crisis.”
âThis has been at the forefront of our demands from the Biden administration,â said Sunrise co-founder Varshini Prakash, who served on a task force on climate policy during Biden’s presidential campaign. “It has given us a certain symbolism of the kind of future that we are also looking towards.”
Back to the 1930s
The idea of ââa Civilian Climate Corps was largely inspired by Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps, which was created to combat the devastating unemployment of the Great Depression.
From 1933 to 1942, FDR’s Civilian Conservation Corps put around 3 million men to work building hiking trails and shelters, roads, bridges, and telephone lines.
Remnants of the old program remain in buildings and trails, including at Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater in Colorado or in cabins that can be rented at Linn Run State Park in Pennsylvania.
Joe Neguse, a Democratic Congressman from Colorado, recently visited Red Rocks in his home state, which has also been besieged by wildfires in recent years. It was inspired by the idea of ââtaking a page from the FDR manual to tackle the challenges of the 21st century, particularly climate change.
But, he said, it would take critical modernization.
During a press briefing in July, Neguse, who is black, said he could not have joined the corps in the 1930s – the program excluded women and blacks. Although some conservation corps camps allowed men of color, program officials ended up separating them at another duty station.
“We are working very hard to ensure that we improve the CCC so that it, unlike its predecessor program, ultimately reflects the rich diversity of our country as it should,” Neguse told CNN. âWe’re putting a real, focused effort into trying to make sure, for example, that we recruit from the frontline communities so that we ultimately have a fair and diverse body composition. “
Work with the Climate Corps
Early estimates from progressive lawmakers showed the body could employ around 1.5 million Americans over five years in jobs such as forest management, fire mitigation, building climate resilience and projects. conservation.
In addition to jobs, Civilian Climate Corps supporters in Congress want generous scholarship opportunities and easy pathways for corps members to move into long-term careers when they are finished serving.
How many jobs this would create, how much people would be paid and what they would do depends on how much money the House and Senate allocate to the Climate Corps, and how Congress structures it. Congressional funding decisions could have a big impact on the body’s reach – and ambition.
State-run programs could be a model
âThe climate is very real for California,â Fryday told CNN, noting the severe wildfire season of 2021 and the persistent drought. âThe idea is that we need the members of our bodies to focus on what is going to have a significant impact on climate change, which is going to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. People want to feel that they are. are not helpless in a situation. “
The California program is run by the federally supported AmeriCorps community service program, providing a good overview of what a national body program might look like: much of its work has involved tree planting, programs composting and food waste reduction, urban forestry and fire mitigation. .
But Fryday said the salary needs to improve to attract more members.
âWe have to make sure that people are earning a living wage while they are doing this essential work,â Fryday said.
Short-term jobs or workforce training?
Some lawmakers are advocating for the body to be run by AmeriCorps, arguing the program made more sense to employ young people in short-term service jobs, plant trees or build climate resilience.
âThe CCC will leverage our existing AmeriCorps network to provide Americans with well-paying opportunities to help tackle climate emergencies like drought, wildfires or rising sea levels that threaten low-lying states. altitude like Delaware, âsaid Democratic Senator Chris Coons of Delaware, another big supporter of the body in the Senate.
House Education and Labor chairman Bobby Scott, whose committee is charged with drafting legislation for a body part (and which also has House jurisdiction over AmeriCorps), envisions the Climate Corps as a training program for the workforce managed by the long-standing Ministry of Labor. programs.
“We’re talking about projects, solar panels, flood walls, a lot of things that require a lot of highly skilled workers,” the Virginia Democrat told CNN. “And the AmeriCorps model, where people come in and go out for a year of service, really doesn’t produce that kind of workforce.”
RaÃºl Grijalva, chairman of the House natural resources committee, told CNN that while he agrees with Scott, he also supports the AmeriCorps vision for the Senate as long as it truly tackles climate change.
âI don’t just want a bunch of college students to set up charity boxes,â the Arizona Democrat told CNN. “I want this huge investment to go to the issue of climate change in the South West, to the issue of extreme heat, to the issue of clean water and clean air. We can’t lose sight of that. , otherwise it will not have the impact. “