Democrats say a civilian climate body will create jobs. Here is how it might work.


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.”

“This has been at the forefront of our demands from the Biden administration,” 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 ​​a 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 ​​taking 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. “We’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

A Civilian Climate Corps could potentially tackle two of America’s crises: climate change and an economic crisis fueled by a pandemic. With millions of people still unemployed, economists are increasingly worried about the path to recovery.

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.

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Corps members could help make areas ravaged by climate disasters more resilient. For example, they could be used for forest management in fire-prone states, maintaining trails across the country, restoring wetlands and habitats, and planting trees. Agencies like the National Park Service, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and the US Forest Service could be in charge of the body’s implementation and help determine what body members are doing.

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

A team of firefighters during their deployment to the chimney blaze in San Luis Obispo County, Calif., In 2016. California officials, facing a drop in the number of firefighters during major fires, are turning more in addition to civilian environmental bodies.
Part of California’s response to the impact of climate change was to create a state 2020 Climate Action Corps. The program has around 300 members, and they expect to add several hundred more, said chief of state services Josh Fryday.

“The climate is very real for California,” Fryday told CNN, noting the severe wildfire season of 2021 and the persistent drought. “The 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. .

Members of the Wyoming Conservation Corps rebuild a stone retaining wall in June 2013, in Casper, Wyoming.  A team of 8 spent 10 days making improvements and repairs to the Bridle Trail at Casper Mountain.
Wyoming had a Conservation body since 2006. Based at the University of Wyoming, this program is also run by AmeriCorps; students help restore habitats on public lands and maintain trails for academic credit.
A full-time AmeriCorps member earns a minimum stipend of $ 16,000 per year, but according to Natasha Dabrowski, AmeriCorps press officer, many AmeriCorps beneficiaries pay more than that amount. Full-time members also have access to health care, childcare and training, as well as $ 6,000 in scholarships once they complete their terms of service, she told CNN.

But Fryday said the salary needs to improve to attract more members.

“We have to make sure that people are earning a living wage while they are doing this essential work,” 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.

The AmeriCorps program focuses on community work after disasters, providing academic tutors for students in elementary through high school, building and repairing sustainable homes, and more. In 2017, approximately 73,000 AmeriCorps members from more than 20,000 locations across the United States have worked in community service, including rebuilding homes in the aftermath of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.

“The 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, ”said Democratic Senator Chris Coons of Delaware, another big supporter of the body in the Senate.

The summer of wildfires in the northern hemisphere caused record carbon emissions

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.”

Raúl 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.

“I don’t just want a bunch of college students to set up charity boxes,” 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. “


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