President Joe Biden’s administration is launching the first-ever American Climate Corps Wednesday, the White House said, a workforce training and service initiative aimed at preparing American youth for jobs in clean energy and climate resilience.
“The American Climate Corps, just in its first year of recruitment, will put to work a new diverse generation of more than 20,000 Americans doing the important task of conserving and restoring our lands and waters, bolstering community resilience, deploying clean energy – in many cases, distributed and community based – implementing energy efficiency technologies that will cut consumer costs for the American people, and advancing environmental justice so long overdue in so many places,” White House national climate adviser Ali Zaidi told reporters on a call previewing the announcement Tuesday.
The new corps will support a wide range of jobs, including restoring coastal wetlands, forest management to help fight wildfires, and building out clean energy projects.
The corps was an idea first introduced as part of “unity” campaign task forces between Biden’s 2020 campaign and representatives of former Democratic presidential contender and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders – task forces that had a big hand in crafting policy Biden ultimately implemented as president.
Sunrise co-founder Varshini Prakash and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a New York Democrat, were members of the climate task force, as well as Biden’s first White House climate adviser Gina McCarthy and current US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry.
“A lot of the impetus and inspiration came from early proposals Sunrise shared on the Bernie/Biden task force,” Prakash told CNN in an interview Tuesday.
But the road to making the corps a reality was long and fraught. Initially proposed as part of Biden’s Build Back Better agenda and bill, the program was stripped out of the Inflation Reduction Act, crafted by Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia. Prakash told CNN the idea then moved to the White House to be implemented.
Prakash said the new corps is an important part of Biden’s reelection argument to young people, but added much more needs to be done to cut fossil fuel use and combat the impacts of the climate crisis.
“I think this represents a significant step forward,” Prakash said. “Young people need to see actions like this and more of it in the leadup to the 2024 election. There’s more to be done on the climate crisis.”
Five states – California, Colorado, Maine, Michigan and Washington – have already launched successful Climate Corps programs, with an additional five – Arizona, Utah, Minnesota, North Carolina and Maryland – announcing their own state programs Wednesday, Zaidi said.
Six agencies – the Department of Labor, Department of the Interior, Department of Agriculture, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Department of Energy and AmeriCorps – will sign a memorandum of understanding establishing the new program, with AmeriCorps standing up a new “American Climate Corps hub” to support the initiative, building on investments from the bipartisan infrastructure law and the Inflation Reduction Act aimed at climate resilience and conservation, an official told reporters Tuesday.
Signups for the new program launch Wednesday at whitehouse.gov/climatecorps, while the recruitment cycle will follow over the coming year, the official added.