by Kathryn Carley, Commonwealth News Service
A new federal jobs program aims to mobilize tens of thousands of young Americans to address the growing threats of climate change.
The American Climate Corps is modeled after public works programs created during the Great Depression, with a new focus on building green energy and climate resilience.
U.S. Sen. Ed Markey – D-MA – called it ambitious, just and pro-union.
“The tens of thousands of American Climate Corps members will not just help us save the world from climate threats,” said Markey, “they will help us build a world worth saving.”
President Joe Biden created the program through an executive order after the effort was thwarted by Republicans in Congress, who questioned its cost.
American Climate Corps members can sign up online for paid training opportunities in land and water restoration, energy-efficiency technologies and more.
U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez – D-NY – said the program is an important part of the Green New Deal, a legislative proposal backed by climate activists.
“We are starting to turn the green dream into a green reality,” said Ocasio Cortez. “You all are changing the world.”
Ocasio-Cortez said the American Climate Corps will focus on equity and environmental justice, prioritizing communities that have been disproportionately affected by climate change.
Lawmakers credited young environmental activists for pressuring the White House to create the jobs training program. College student John Paul Mejia – an organizer with the Sunrise Movement – thanked President Biden for listening.
“Thousands of young people were out on the streets asking for more,” said Mejia. “You got young people’s attention. You decide what you do with it.”
They’re now circulating a petition, calling on the president to declare climate change a national emergency.
And five states also announced the creation of their own Climate Corps, bringing the total number of state-level programs to ten.