Evergreen Explains: How to Build The Civilian Climate Corps

With the support of President Biden, now is the moment to create a new national Civilian Climate Corps (CCC). Evergreen has mapped out a detailed pathway to build a modern CCC and put Americans to work building a just and sustainable future in their communities. Congress should harness the ambition of the New Deal era and reinvigorate the American people’s faith in their government.

Corps programs are historic and proven — the idea for a modern CCC draws inspiration from the success of FDR’s Civilian Conservation Corps and local corps programs across the country. And a new CCC has been gaining momentum. In 2009, then-Representative Jay Inslee successfully included a Clean Energy Service Corps in a national service bill. Then 10 years later, Inslee became the first presidential candidate to propose a nationwide climate corps. When Evergreen Action launched to take up the mantle of Governor Inslee’s “gold standard” climate plan, we worked to include a modern CCC in President Biden’s campaign platform.

Now, this plan is poised to jumpstart a climate jobs revolution. President Biden included a CCC in his infrastructure proposal, and climate leaders on Capitol Hill are working to make an expansive and impactful climate corps a reality. They have the wind at their backs: polling shows a new CCC is wildly popular. This is President Biden’s FDR moment and the Civilian Climate Corps will help him seize it.

A Comprehensive Plan to Build the CCC

Evergreen’s Building the Civilian Climate Corps lays out a plan to put 1.5 million Americans to work and give them the tools they need to build successful careers in the clean energy economy. It recommends that Congress build the Civilian Climate Corps in three segments:

  1. Funding a new grant program to support climate-related projects in local corp organizations.
  2. Creating a new federal employment initiative that is centralized and highly visible, similar to FDR’s Civilian Conservation Corps.
  3. Supporting and re-orienting existing federal corps programs, many of which already tackle climate-related projects, with additional resources for their members.

The report details mechanisms to ensure that all programs receiving federal climate corps funding would provide living wages and substantial benefits for corpsmembers, ensure equitable recruitment practices, conduct training for good-paying careers, ensure that frontline communities and historically underserved populations are prioritized, and offer a pathway to union membership wherever possible. We also recommend the establishment of a Green Careers Network to build pathways to long-term careers in climate-related fields, and a Climate Workforce Council to oversee these programs.

A CCC Is Overwhelmingly Popular — Even With Republicans

Not only is the CCC poised to help our nation recover and rebuild from the overlapping crises of the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, racial injustice, and income inequality, it’s also remarkably popular. Data for Progress found that 77% of voters support creating a Climate Corps, including 87% of Democrats and 65% of Republicans, making it one of the most popular climate policies in recent memory.

After decades of erosion of public trust in our institutions, we can return to bold, ambitious governance with broad bipartisan support.

Building More Resilient Communities

The Civilian Climate Corps is designed to empower climate action in every corner of the country. As the CCC corpsmembers gain skills, experience, and connections, the benefits of the Corps will also extend far beyond the 1.5 million Americans employed in the program by strengthening local communities in every corner of America and building a clean economy for everyone.

The CCC would tackle a wide range of projects building local resilience, mitigating carbon pollution, and more. Corpsmembers in coastal communities might restore wetlands to buffer against hurricanes, while others out west clear dead brush and fight wildfires. Corpsmembers could organize their own neighbors to develop a community solar program, then install the panels that would cut utility bills for dozens of households. Corpsmembers in cities could build out bike lanes for sustainable transit, remediate toxic pollution in disinvested neighborhoods, plant street trees to keep city blocks cool in the summer, and handle a host of other projects that would build safer, more resilient communities.

Americans are ready to build our clean energy future, and a modern CCC that invests in our workforce and our communities can help them get it done. With widespread public support and the pathway to get it done, a modern Civilian Climate Corps can help Joe Biden lead an equitable workforce mobilization at a scale unseen in 90 years.

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