Sep 20, 2023 - Energy & Environment

Biden's new "American Climate Corps" aims to enlist 20,000 young people

Illustration of a high-top sneaker with the Earth as the logo.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

The White House is cobbling together a program under existing powers to bring young people into low-carbon energy and climate resilience jobs.

Driving the news: Officials just unveiled the "American Climate Corps." It's an executive branch stab at the New Deal-inspired "Civilian Climate Corps" idea, which the White House unsuccessfully urged Congress to create and fund with billions of dollars in what became the Inflation Reduction Act.

The big picture: Unveiled during Climate Week, the corps is a paid training program that aims to provide "pathways to high-quality employment opportunities in the public and private sectors," according to the White House.

  • It envisions training in areas like wetlands restoration, low-carbon energy deployment, forest management, and more.
  • The goal is to move 20,000 people through the program in the first year.

What we don't know: Details about funding and operation, even as the federal website for interested parties goes live today.

  • White House climate adviser Ali Zaidi told reporters that more about the structure and governance would arrive in coming weeks.

What's next: He said there will be a formal agreement among six agencies, including the Labor and Energy Departments. Each will bring existing authorities and resources, he said.

  • Zaidi said the launch will spur interest among states, local governments, philanthropies, and the private sector.
  • "We are very keen to harness that energy through this coordinated initiative," Zaidi told reporters. Getting people into "good paying union jobs" is a priority, he adds.

Zoom in : The White House provided a few initial specifics.

  • For example, AmeriCorps and U.S. Forest Service are launching "Forest Corps" — a five-year, $15 million initiative that's the "first major interagency partnership" under the American Climate Corps.

What we're watching: The politics, of course, as President Biden's 2024 campaign looks to energize young voters.

  • A jobs corps is a years-long priority for youth activists — some of the same people bummed by other White House moves like approving ConocoPhillips' Willow oil project in Alaska.

Of note: Varshini Prakash, executive director of the youth-focused Sunrise Movement, praised the program on a White House press call. The group has long pushed for creating a climate corps.

The bottom line: The White House said the corps will help develop the workforce needed to meet U.S. climate goals. But lots of blanks need filling in.

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